“I grew up Catholic…but I did not find God in a church”

A guest post shared by Lyla.

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I grew up Catholic.

I went to church every Sunday with my parents at the butt crack of dawn because we just had to get a good seat…in the back…to make a quick exit after getting our Jesus wafer. I attended catechism (Sunday school), served as an altar girl, and even attended a Catholic HS. And no, there were no scandals in my parish.

I understood faith from an early age. The first incidence of using my religion as was taught was age 2 at one of my many doctors’ appointments. My cardiologist needed to draw blood and my mother told me I could scream as loud as I wanted but I couldn’t move or they would have to do it all over again. I did as was requested and when it was time for me to yell it out my choice of words was “Oh Jesus, Oh JESUS, OHHH JESUSSSS!!” The doctors all had quite a laugh and told my mother they had never seen a child get religion so quickly. But all joking aside, I’m pretty sure I knew exactly what I was saying and why.

Nine is the age I began to question Catholicism, and Christianity in general, though then it was here and there and not really contemplated upon. I remember how old I was because, again, my faith played a part in a medical procedure. This time I was in for a cardiac catheter. Catheters are outpatient procedures typically but require the patient to stay in the hospital for 8 to 12 hours to be sure there are no complications. I was the type of kid, and am the type of adult, that becomes deathly ill from anesthesia – we’re talking sick as in chemotherapy sick. I remember my dad napping in the chair beside my bed while I puked my stomach out. For hours. On end. Finally, exhausted and in pain, I looked at my dad and said “Whatever happened to only say the word and I shall be healed?” a line from The Apostles Creed. Followed by, “What word am I supposed to say?” He laughed but didn’t have an answer. I, on the other hand, was dead serious. I was miserable and if Jesus would make me stop puking and all I needed was a special word – HOOK ME UP!

When I entered private school it was mandatory that I take religion class. The principal of the school was the teacher and I’m surprised I wasn’t given detention every day because of the questions I asked. I particularly had an issue with the priest telling a room full of teenage girls that birth control was against our religion. How could someone tell high school girls who were admittedly sexually active not to use birth control in any form? Hadn’t this man heard of STD’s? Teen pregnancy? So, me being who I am, I raised my hand and questioned the priest… out loud. I think I caught him off guard because he really didn’t know what to say except “That’s why you should remain abstinent.” OK, yeah… but let’s be real folks…the majority of high school girls have sex. It’s just a fact. Advising them not to protect themselves is just asinine.

Fast forward to age 26. I had just gotten out of a physically abusive marriage, miscarried my daughter, and was diagnosed with stage 3 heart failure on a national heart failure scale that only goes to 4. I’ll give you a moment to let that all sink in.

I was literally staring my own mortality in the face at the ripe old age of 26. Heart failure is no picnic. You can’t walk from the car to the store without feeling winded. Stairs? Yeah – NO. Carrying in groceries? Not a good idea. Staying awake longer than 5 hours? In your dreams. Heart failure is like constantly doing aerobics only you’re not doing anything at all except sitting on your couch and watching TV. So WHERE THE HELL was God and/or Jesus for all this suffering I was having to endure? During this phase of my life I wondered if there was even such a thing as God or if it was an altogether myth.

I used to sit in church and wonder how so many people around me could be such hypocrites. Here they were cheating on their spouses, getting hammered every night, being abusive – and all the while preaching about the Bible and Jesus because they showed up every Sunday to church and felt they were absolved of wrong-doing just for attending. These people, these hypocrites, also seemed so connected to God/Jesus while I felt nothing at all. I didn’t feel this overwhelming connection (believe me I was really trying) to that which was greater than me – and that was a huge problem.

I made a decision that year to explore spirituality/faith on my own terms without organized religion. As a result, I learned a lot about myself and my personal beliefs. I started studying everything theological and philosophical. I studied the teachings of Buddha, the Tao, Pantheons of the old world, and generally everything that was not an Abrahamic religion. It felt so good to not have a prescribed brand of religion limiting my faith. During this time of exploration I actually fully connected to my version of God. My version of God isn’t an old man in the sky that moves people around like chess pieces for his own humor. My version of God has no gender. It would be easier to describe as the source of creative energy which affects and is within everything in the universe. If I had to use a label, I would say that I most closely identify as a Pantheist.

Pantheism as defined by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

At its most general, pantheism may be understood positively as the view that God is identical with the cosmos, the view that there exists nothing which is outside of God, or else negatively as the rejection of any view that considers God as distinct from the universe.

After everything I have endured in my short life, including escaping death four times, I definitely believe there is a God. I see God in everything and take solace in the natural world. I feel more connected walking through the woods or just drinking my coffee on my porch and listening to the birds sing. No, I did not find God in a church.

I really found out exactly what my core spiritual beliefs are during my quest: Hell doesn’t exist in its traditional fiery sense, there is reincarnation, we are all connected and nothing is separate, Karma is real, and God exists within and surrounds everyone and everything. I believe more in universal energies and less in personified deities and I don’t identify with organized religion although I respect those who choose it.


I have also learned to accept that my beliefs may evolve still – and that is OK with me.

If you’re questioning your own faith please know that it’s perfectly normal and it’s healthy to explore all the diverse options out there. You may find that you resonate with something completely different or you may find yourself right back where you started. God appears to everyone differently in the manner which is most easily understood to them. I often wonder how many people share a similar story to mine. If you have experienced something similar or are questioning your own beliefs, I would love to hear about it!

Shine on you crazy diamond!

xo Lyla xo


About the author

Survivor of CHD and lover of writing, reading, learning, teaching, helping, and creating.
Interested in deciphering the mysteries of life.
Lover of all that is metaphysical.
Eccentric, intellectual, spiritual and elusive.

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  1. What a moving read. Go on your heart!
    Apart from the heart and the marriage that is so similar to my own path although I was lucky enough to have parents that weren’t strict about our religious education and I was left to formulate my own beliefs from an early age. It was the Greek pantheon that fascinated me from an early age and I have moved on to others and I now have my own belief system. I am mainly a magpie, I pick the shiny bits of all the faith out there that sings to me.
    Thank you for sharing

  2. Em says:

    Yes! This is similar to my own path, though instead of heart failure my crisis was major depression disorder and suicidal impulses. I grew up in a very fundamentalist Christian environment and even attended a nationally (in)famous private Christian school from K5-12th grade, so I was pretty well marinated in it. And then everything started crashing down when I got out of the bubble world and went to a state university. That was thirteen years ago and I feel like the dust of my personal spiritual beliefs is only just starting to settle. I’ve arrived at a very similar viewpoint–I absolutely believe in a higher power, but my church is in nature. I feel so much more connected there than I ever did in a church built by human hands. It took years to get to that point, because I wasn’t taught how to spiritually connect with nature growing up (even though I was physically in it all the time, playing, working, etc.). And at times I really questioned myself and whether or not I was crazy for daring to explore new beliefs. But my depression is almost gone–it comes very infrequently now, and when it does, the episodes only last a day or two instead of six months or more.

  3. Tango says:

    This resonates in really, really tender spots; thank you.

    And that Tolle quote is perfect. I believe humanity is the consciousness of the universe getting to know [and love] itself.

  4. Thank you everyone! This piece is very near to my heart. It was pretty much written as a cathartic piece. I am so glad it has resonated with you all and maybe even helped. If you have any questions or would just like to chat with me – you can write me at dayslikethis@mommadidntsay.com or you can find me on our facebook page facebook.com/MommaDidntSay. Love and blessings to you all!

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