I’m Mexican, so naturally, I grew up Catholic. My grandmother was a firm believer in the Virgin Mary being there to offer her support at all times. I grew up going to Sunday school and talking to priests like they were my friends.
That all changed when I was eight and moved from Mexico to Texas. As soon as I arrived to the U.S. I was told by my older brother that we were no longer Catholic because he was no longer Catholic. He had recently converted to Christianity and attended an Evangelical church. I learned to just roll with it when my mom, sister, and I all switched over to his religion. It all made sense at the time. Plus, I liked that they played upbeat music at the beginning of the church service.
My family drifted from church, though. It happens. But when I turned fifteen, I returned, and got settled in nicely. I found friends and had had a huge crush on the pastor’s son, which played a big role on my sudden commitment to the organized religion. I spent most days at church, sang in the choir, got involved in all the youth events. I lived and breathed the church.
Things eventually went sour. I realized that the people in the church were not as perfect as I once saw them. They were hypocritical in their actions, and yet felt superior due to their constant attendance of church. I was caught in the middle of their gossip and was sort of kicked out of their little clique. A lot of it also had to do with people finding out my feelings for the pastor’s son and using it to mock me. In the end, I quit the church and the religion in general.
But I’ve never lost my faith. I have a strong faith in God that I cherish. It helps me in my darkest times, and it helps me feel less alone. I see God as my friend because he listens to me when I pray, when I just randomly talk to him. I love God with all my heart. When I lost my mom to cancer almost four years ago, my only comfort was my faith in God. I never got angry. I trusted in him.
I’ve realized, though, that as much as I love God, my views on religion are a big different. First of all, I don’t trust my old church anymore. I feel incredibly uncomfortable just stepping inside the building. I can’t speak to my old church friends anymore. I’ve tried to go back, make nice, but things turned so bad so quickly. I have decided to never attend another church again, because I can’t go through that again.
I do respect people who practice all types of religion. I think the freedom to do that in amazing. I’ve learned a lot about other religions, and it’s opened up my mind. But I do still hold a bit of stigma when it comes to Christianity. Part of me thinks that anyone who’s Christian will immediately try to exorcise me for being the gay that I am. I also really hate it when Christians say stuff like: “I don’t hate the sinner. I just hate the sin.” Like yeah, but you still hate that I’m gay and wish I wasn’t.
My point is, I have had many interesting interactions in my life. Random times when people come up to me and tell me to keep believing in God, no matter what. Or people telling me they see God working through me. My first reaction to these things is to run away from the person and not look back. But I don’t. I listen to what they’re saying, and I replay it in my mind.
Yesterday, while I was at work, a random guy looked at my necklace. I wear an essential oil diffuser necklace that’s round with a tree in the front. He said he loved the tree, in particular. And then, he looked me in the eye and said, “You know what part of the scripture it reminds me of? John 15:5. Look it up.”
And I laughed and said, “Oh, okay. I didn’t know that.” And the guy just repeated, “Yeah, it’s John 15:5.” Then he left.
My instinct was, of course, to completely disregard this guy. Who the hell did he think he was? Did he think I was Christian, too? But then, I thought about it. I thought that I do want to read and learn the Bible. I want to know more about God’s message. So I wrote it down on a sticky note and when I got home I looked up the verse. Here’s what it said:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
And I instantly realized what he meant when he said my tree reminded him of this. I have read this verse over and over today. It’s pretty simple, honestly. But the message speaks to me. I think it’s a message for me. From God. And look, I know it sounds a bit crazy, but I like to listen to the signs. I like to think that God just wants me to stick with him. He doesn’t want me to stray from him. Because if I’m with him, then I will achieve many great things.
I just wanted to share this because it’s been in my mind all day long.