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It was never supposed to get personal.

Four years ago, I started studying religion. Had you asked me then, I would have told you my project was “learning how American women relate to God and the world differently in the context of their religious perspective.” Curious and scientific, afraid to ask (my own) big questions out-loud, instead I phrased them in journalistic parameters. I was safer that way.

My parents were in the Ministry throughout my childhood and young adulthood, and I naturally followed suit, finding myself spending more and more time in Christian service as I grew older. I knew the right answers. I could recite verses. But I never formed my own beliefs about God: it was simpler to just believe what I had been told. Life happened and I found myself after 30 years of conservative Christianity and the politics of church life craving a new experience of God and spirituality.

Packing my Christian belief system carefully into my carry-on (unwilling to abandon those beliefs just yet), I made a choice to allow myself to experience God through the lives and voices of women of other faiths. I began to ask them to tell me their stories, and their words painted pictures of love, devotion, pain, transformation, submission, freedom, purpose, and hope. They were not speaking of their beliefs; they were telling the story of their soul. Over the course of four years, fifteen religions, dozens of women, and thousands of words, it became very personal.

Day 10 - Loving GodWhat was the story of MY soul?

If I answered honestly, my journey was never about God or religion at all – it was about me: searching for my tribe, and in many ways, searching for myself. I love religion – the rituals and meaning, history, songs, and tradition. I do believe in God, as every woman I spoke to did.

But…I cannot say I am a Christian, at least not by the standards of Christianity that I know. I do believe that the Bible teaches excellent principles, but I don’t believe the Bible is literal. I do believe that the story of Jesus gave us a model to follow in love and in relationship with both God and our fellow humans, but I believe more in the idea of Jesus than the person of Jesus. I try to model my life to imitate the figure of Jesus sketched in the gospels.

I have come to terms with the fact that my own tribe is not likely to be found within the 4 walls of a church. My tribe is embracing spirituality through joyful self-expression, art, community, and connection. Their dance dazzles me.

I have not forsaken my roots, but in unpacking my baggage, I travel lighter. From Christianity, I choose love as my doctrine and compassion as my guide. Hope lights my path and makes my heart sing. I strive to “Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.” (Micah 6:8)

I pray to a God I believe exists apart from and within all of us. I believe that there is more to this world than my limited eyes can see. I believe there are mysteries everywhere we turn, and I DO believe real things exist that I cannot prove: fear, shame, love, trust, faith, courage, amazement, joy, to name a few.

interfaith combustionI don’t have all the answers… in fact, it seems the longer I live the fewer answers I have. I’m ok with that. What I do know is that I am forever in awe of the goodness I find in the world around me. I see beauty everywhere I look, in every story I hear, and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to give some of those voices a platform to share their journey. Marking this journey from a shelled life to spreading my wings, I started hatch*.

hatch* is about faith, community, spirituality, and how you define those things. hatch* is about becoming who you were meant to be, and how you got there. And someday, I hope you will tell me your story, I will hold it gently with my heart… and ours will be a sacred space.

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3 thoughts on “the story of my soul

  1. Joni- you wrote me on Facebook years ago when I was in Texas. I just saw the message today, and don’t know how to reach you.

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