“This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”
I wrote that down and stuck it to my bedroom wall about six months ago. Shakespeare’s words helped me before, so I thought they would serve as a good reminder while I was having a bit of an identity crisis.
I’d met the girl of my dreams and life was better than ever; It felt like we were made for each other. Except for one tiny detail: She was Christian and I was not. We tried our best to ignore the elephant in the room. I was never pressured or made to feel bad, but we ultimately couldn’t dodge the fact that we were building a world together on two different foundations.
I was devastated by the idea of losing someone so wonderful, but I couldn’t just change myself to please her. I knew well enough that pretending would hurt us both. Then the unexpected happened: My parents said I should give this Christianity thing a try. What? I love my parents dearly, but this was the last piece of advice I expected from them. I was used to being told to move on or let it go. Words that, while out of love, reaffirmed my ego. But this time I was asked to reach beyond myself and I felt strangely enthusiastic about exploring the Christian faith. I realized that I hadn’t even considered trying to expand my point of view.
Before Alpha, I was extremely prejudiced towards Christianity. While my immediate family isn’t religious, my extended family is Catholic and I’d gone through the motions of obligatory church visits to please relatives. I went through Catechism as a teenager because I was curious. I even considered myself an actual Catholic for a couple years. But all this was because I was afraid of missing out, and I latched onto faith without any real thought on the matter. It didn’t stick.
When I started Alpha, I was extremely nervous. I promised myself I would consider the ideas honestly even if I heard some crazy stuff and met aggressive people. But nobody was delusional and nobody was pushy. Several times I caught myself thinking These people are so reasonable.
Then this realization hit home: I was projecting the years of negative stigma. I was the ignorant one. The Alpha experience was nothing like I imagined it— we ate together, learned together, and asked big questions together. Little by little, I was able to peel back my inherited view of Christianity and look for truth. What I found was people putting words to our innately human experience. God’s love took on tangible form in His community. We’ve always had a need for God, we’ve always fallen short, and we’ve always felt God’s love. Now I was connecting the dots.
What I found in Alpha and am continuing to find at St. Peter’s is a faith in God that is truly mine. Now I can be true to others too (Thanks, Shakespeare). I’m baffled to be honest. Just six months ago I would not have seen this coming, but here I am: I’ve found my home in God’s community. Jesus is very good news indeed.