Faith played a big role in my younger years. The same can’t be said for my past two decades. What happened that pointed me back in the right direction? Well, that’s a story that can’t easily be summarized…but here goes.
I was raised Catholic, pulled away from my beliefs, struggled to find my purpose, went through decades of dark times, found my amazing wife who pulled me out of the darkness, was introduced to faith (NOT religion), I found peace, and now I want to help you find yours.
You rarely experience true faith when you grow up in religious tradition. Instead, you are force-fed a series of religious laws and ideals. This strict structure is sure to make anyone feel unworthy. It’s also the exact structure I was born into.
Luckily, being born into a religious family and unwillingly baptized before you’re able to speak has no consequence on who you become.
Another important point to understand is that the influence of those you look up to doesn’t always have to control your life.
Do You Believe?
I still remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting in front of a rather large and undoubtedly slow desktop PC back in the days of dial-up internet. Behind me stood my older brother and, next to him, his friend. They asked me, “Do you believe in God?”
My answer was a very certain “Yes!”, though the reactive expression on their faces made me immediately doubt my certainty. This was a time that I went to God for guidance when uncertain. That was about to change.
No sooner did I give my response, my brother and this friend bombarded me with “WHY?!” Something that I was so sure of was suddenly pulled out from under me. I had no explanation for my belief. My upbringing hardly gave me a solid foundation in faith.
It really didn’t take much convincing on their part. My “faith” (really, religion) reassured me that breathing wrong will send me to hell. Pulling me away from THAT was like taking candy from a baby.
From that day forward, my answer quickly changed to “No, I don’t.” That decision controlled nearly two decades of anxiety.
My Life Without Faith
My “strength” in atheism couldn’t have been stronger. Certainly not for the religious affiliation, I ended up at Sacred Heart University – a Catholic University. My time there reassured me of how meaningless religion is.
It’s like Catholicism is a checklist. Everyone followed along with the rituals that impressed peers. Giving things up for lent, participating in Ash Wednesday, going to church – though, only on occasion.
It was hypocrisy at best. If they truly followed the bible, they wouldn’t be sleeping around, binge drinking on the weekends, and picking from a hat which sins they found unacceptable.
How was I wrong for following suit? After all, I was following the lead of all my “Christian” classmates.
The many meaningless relationships were a testament to the fact that I placed 0 value on myself. Instead of finding someone I truly cared about, I took it as a challenge to go for quantity over quality. My roommates reinforced this tactic, as they saw it as pathetic to avoid random sex with girls you just met.
If I got anything out of a relationship, I was in. It could have been sexual, financial, or otherwise. All about me. Unfortunately, that was to my detriment.
The sad part is, it seemed normal! Everything I did was selfish, but I was in like company. Nobody was stopping me. If anything, they encouraged me.
The Start of Something New
My same, unfortunate ways continued for a number of years. In 2012, that began to change.
My best friend from high school invited me to his wedding. I went there with the same intentions I always had – find a girl to start a meaningless relationship with.
While at the ceremony, I found a girl I couldn’t take my eyes off of. She was one of the bridesmaids. After the ceremony, my best friend introduced us. As it turns out, it was his sister.
Imagine my surprise. In my absence, his little sister grew into a beautiful woman. Then it hit me. We have a problem – their family is the most devout group of Christians I know.
What am I going to do? If I continue to pursue her, it will get really awkward with my friend, not to mention the rest of the family. The other option is to run and hide, but that’s not like me.
After much deliberation, I went for it. Some mild flirtation from both she and I at the reception lead to much more. First, it was an ongoing conversation through Facebook. Soon, that switched over to texting, which lead to phone calls, and eventually seeing each other in person.
I could very quickly turn this post into a “How I Met My Wife” blog so in the interest of time…
This woman I met at my friend’s wedding was Rose. Rose is now my wife of just over 2 years.
The Unexpected Change in Faith
To say the relationship between Rose and I was an uphill battle would be an understatement. As I was still an atheist, our relationship was looked down upon. Still, she and I pressed on through good times and bad.
Our marriage caused a big uproar. It ended friendships and damaged relationships. I must say, Rose’s faith in me was what pulled us through.
The next two years are where things got really interesting. Rose delighted in the fact that I supported her in her faith and accompanied her to church regularly. My thoughts on the gesture weren’t quite the same.
I used to despise going to church – the music was like nails on a chalkboard, the sermon was my time to zone out…the whole “faith” thing just wasn’t for me.
Then came September 2019. I found myself oddly curious about the merits of Christianity. By the following week, I was raising my hand during the altar call. By the end of that month, I repented and decided to get baptized. This time, it was by MY choice.
Faith Breaks Through
As I write this nearly 2 months later, I continue to question the change. Each week, my old ways tempt me to come back. Thankfully, my new found faith reassures me of my change.
For me, it feels like I finally found what I was looking for all these years. Through the meaningless relationships and other not-so-wise choices, I found nothing but solitude. Through faith, I found an indescribable peace.
I am discovering the difference between the religion of my upbringing and the faith I’ve found now. Had I known this difference earlier, I’d imagine things would have played out much differently.
However, what I went through brought me to where I am today. My hope is that with this website, I can help you avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made along the way.
My goal is to help you find your peace.
By Chris Rivera — November 30, 2019