This piece was originally submitted to the Golden Thread Contest, a literary competition launched to honour writers 35 and under on the occasion of Canada’s Sesquicentennial anniversary. The stories collected during this initiative continue to exist as a part of the Voice From the Crowd collection, an online space that gives voice to the countless stories of faith that enrich the Canadian landscape.
I grew up attending church and singing in the church choir. But, I wouldn’t consider myself or my family to be religious. As a child, I never really understood why I needed to go to church. I didn’t understand the importance that faith or religion can play in a person's life. I truly believe that my story of faith begins in 2012 because that year the dynamic of our family changed.
In May of 2012, my dad died suddenly from a heart attack. So, our family of four was now a family of three. His heart attack wasn't just a loss for our family, but a loss for the community as well. He was always volunteering, involved in committees, and the organization of community events.
For my mom and sister, they started to go to church more often directly after his death. As for me, I couldn't bring myself to go back to the church I grew up in because attending reminded me of my dad. During that time, my way of grieving was to pretend everything was normal when it wasn’t. I questioned why something like that would happen to us. Why was it possible for him to be here one day, and not the next? And, how could I believe in anything at a time when my world seemed to be falling apart? That year, it was as if I were sitting in a car, motionless, staring out at the moving world around me. I threw myself into my work and my schooling to avoid going home because, if I went home, I would be reminded of him and all I would feel like doing was hiding from the world and crying.
In August of 2013, I was asked if I wanted to attend a youth group. It was the wind-up for the year. I had to work that night, but decided to go anyways. I had a great time talking, laughing, and playing games with the rest of the youth there. After that night, I slowly began attending youth group events, followed by Sunday school, church services, and Saturday Bible studies. Some of the people that I met that night have now become great friends, and they have been constant encouragements and supports throughout my life.
In December, 2013, my grandfather died of prostate cancer. But this time my grieving process was a little different. My grandpa had died over a period of time rather than suddenly, and I had already been through a bit of the grieving process. I was also a year older and further mentally prepared to handle what I knew was coming. I had already been attending all the events, services, and groups listed above. Instead of giving in, I fought the urge to hide and continued going. I began realizing that the process of living – life and death – is never ending, and it happens to everyone in the world. At some point, all of us are going to experience or know someone who has been through the same thing as us, and instead of hiding we should be thankful that we have found someone who can mentor us, give us hope, and support us throughout life’s journey. The youth group and my friendships led me to join the youth on a mission’s trip to Jamaica in April of 2014.
I admit, I initially just signed up for the trip because I wanted to travel to another country, and did not expect the life changing experience I would feel. It is truly a beautiful feeling to experience: elementary school children dancing and singing loudly about their love of God before attending class, the enthusiasm during church services, or the thankfulness of the people we sang to at a hospice. Any amount of words or pictures could not describe the love of God I felt on that trip.
After my high school graduation, the past couple of years have been filled with experiences of trying to manage as an adult, while trying to continue to grow in my faith. My first two years of university were filled with academics, work, as well as experiences of parties, concerts, and clubs. Yet, I also attended church occasionally, prayed regularly, and was involved in a Bible study.
Particularly in my first year of university, I tended to focus on the common social aspects of university life and found I did not like the person I was becoming. I stopped wanting to attend classes, church services, Bible study, as well as other social events because I cared too much about what I thought other people would think of me; this had made me slightly depressed, claustrophobic in public, and I found myself once again slowly losing my faith.
I moved closer to home for my second year to continue my studies near family. I began attending Christian counseling frequently, home church services occasionally, and volunteering. By the end of my second year of university, I found I was not enjoying the courses I had been taking and was not as deeply passionate about the program I was studying, as I had been following high school graduation. Instead, I realized my faith is an important part of who I am as a person. I should be embracing my faith and how I personally view faith, not hiding it. I feel happy, and inspired by the people around me who are interested in helping others, have high aspirations, and deep beliefs in their faith, whether or not their faith is the same as mine.
I have currently changed paths from studying to become an elementary teacher into being accepted by a discipleship program. I am at the point in my life where I am willing to embrace my faith and am wanting to continue my journey of faith in God for myself. I am able to acknowledge that it is okay to make mistakes, and that I don't have all the answers to life because no person has all the answers to life.
One of the things I love about faith is that, as a person, you are learning to trust in something greater than yourself. You are learning to trust that everything will all work out how it is supposed to, particularly at moments when you struggle or don't have all the answers. Faith looks different for everybody and how each person acts in their faith looks different as well. It's all about accepting the differences, accepting yourself for who you are, and learning that every person comes into your life for a reason whether they end up staying or leaving. And, it’s a process. It doesn’t all happen overnight.
It has now been five years since my dad's death, and I'm now seeing his death, as well as the other personal obstacles I have encountered, in a new light. I'm seeing it as if it was something to help me be better, the beginning and process of my journey of faith, rather than him leaving me. And, I hope I am continuously learning from others, and inspiring others to never give up and to always strive to become better versions of themselves.