Monday, July 27, 2015

My Religion

I had a quiet Sunday afternoon in my house while the Gomashies were at church. I played a game with one of my neighbors and her kids in the sand. I read under the mango tree, and snapped photos of some of the children playing with a balloon I'd given them.

It was here, more than four years ago, that I had the turbulent realization I no longer wanted to practice Catholicism. In that sense, I suppose it would be accurate to say I lost my religion in Ghana.

It is also accurate to say that I renewed my faith here.

The change in my personal belief system, while difficult, never felt like a loss of faith to me. In contrast, although many of the external practices were falling away, my sense of connection to God and the world around me was becoming more and more real.

Even when I was still practicing a formal religion, I have never been comfortable in Ghanaian churches. The uninhibited, long-winded and noisy worship style that is so common here only seems to unsettle me. The harrowing experience of speeding through the Ghanaian countryside in a tro, on the other hand, never fails to instill me with an unspeakable awe at its wild beauty - and I am always reminded to say a word of gratitude for this place and its people.

Today, I did not sing any hymns or listen to a sermon or sit in front of an altar.
Today, my church had sand and rustling coconut palms and lizards darting up the walls.
And I found God in my neighbor's obvious joy and love for her children, even as she confessed to me that she is upset because she is three months pregnant and doesn't know how she can provide for another baby. I saw God in my host brothers, Samson and Sylva, when I scolded them for grabbing a struggling baby bird, only to find out they were trying to put it back in its nest. I saw God in four-year-old Catherine, who recently learned I am a source of kisses, and clambers into my lap and mashes her little face into mine every time she sees me. I felt God when I took my chilly bucket bath underneath the wide open African night sky.

Ghana reminds me daily to be grateful for the smallest of things, from the simple joy of eating a mango to one-year-old Richmond finally deciding today that he isn't scared of me anymore. It reminds me to be conscious of my decisions and the effect they have on the people around me. It reminids me to ask for help, to say thank you, and to say I'm sorry - both privately and to others.

Nothing about my day was religious. But it was sacred.

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