Just a warning: This is not my typical post. This piece is more reflective. Definitely not one of my usual topics. Definitely more narrative. Definitely a little more touchy than normal. A little more all over the place than my usual writing. But, I felt called to write it, and I can’t ignore the call!
A lot of people have noticed a change in me recently–including myself. I’ve been letting stress get to me less. I’ve been more positive. I’ve been more focused on what is truly important. I laugh more. I smile more. All around, I’ve just been happier. Well, when people notice you’re doing better, they want to know how you did it. I’ve been asked multiple times, in person, text, email, messenger, you name it, I’ve heard it over a dozen times: “You really seem happier… how’d you do it?”
Well, there is no easy answer to that question. Or, I should say there is no one step fix I can offer. It has been a process. It has taken time. It has taken work. I’ve fucked up multiple times along the way. This time, though, I didn’t give up or give in. And there is definitely something specific I have to thank for that resilience. There are lots of little pieces and lots of little facets to this new and endlessly improving person I’m becoming. But, there is one thing I know has helped every step of the way: Faith.
Now, I know some people just don’t believe in God. I feel you. It’s pretty hard to believe in this apparently non-existent being who pulls off some wild magic tricks. I mean, the dude pulled off the immaculate conception. (Funny fact: I remember imagining telling my family I was a virgin if I ever got pregnant and telling them I was the second immaculate conception. Yeah… not sure how well that would’ve gone over.) It was his power that resurrected his son after three days. My personal favorite is our homie, Jesus, turning water to wine. I wish I could do that! I would have SO much more money in my savings account. Although I know it’s hard for some to believe, I do truly think it was my faith that saved my personal journey this time around. Now, let me tell my story and then support my claim. Then, you can think whatever you want. Just let me get out what I need to get out.
I was raised Catholic. Church every Sunday. Prayer every night. I was the master of the procedures. I knew when to kneel, stand, and what words to utter at the right time. Hell, my first job was at the church rectory for $4 an hour. (Child labor laws clearly aren’t a thing in New Jersey!) I never felt connected to Catholicism, though. It was just how my mom raised me. Don’t get me wrong. I love the traditions that the Catholic church provided me with. The only connection I ever felt with my church, though, was communal. It was a super Polish church that many of my friends went to, so the community was pretty tight. Much of my family went there too, so many of us would use after church time to catch up on our week and stay connected. It was great. That being said, the most important of my church experience was missing–the spiritual connection. That is, until I went to college.
I went to college at Fordham University. Fordham is a Jesuit university. I genuinely did not know that when I accepted my spot at Fordham. But, this unknown Jesuit aspect of my university quickly became my favorite aspect of my undergrad alma mater. The Jesuit tenets quickly became my favorite words to live by and I finally began to feel more of that spiritual connection that I had always been missing. It was better, with its community service and understanding tenets… but, it still wasn’t enough.
My faith quickly slipped when I didn’t have campus ministry or my mom around to remind me to go to church and just believe. When I first moved to Vegas, church was not a thing. At all. I don’t think I went to church in Vegas any Sunday my first two years living here. I had researched some churches, but never followed through. Without that previous spiritual connection, I kinda felt like it was a waste to try yet another place.
That is, until this school year. At the start of the school year, I was yet again complaining about not having a church since that was such a huge part of my upbringing. Yet again, my school counselor and office manager suggested Central Christian. It was close to my house. They both loved it. I just had to go. (They had been suggesting Central to me since I started working at my school.) It still took me some time to go. I had no out when our office manager had me commit to a church date. I guess she got tired of me asking and complaining, so on the spot she called her daughter, asked for the experience times, and we made our game plan. I had no out or excuse this time. Plus, I love spending time with our office manager so I figured at the very least it’d be a new experience and time with her.
A new experience was putting it mildly. I had never been to a Christian church… but I had been to church and how different could it be? Oh, cute, naive Nicole. For those of you straight Catholics out there like me… Christianity is Catholicism’s super hippie cousin. I had no idea what I was walking into.
As I’m pulling up, my friend calls me and I’m already in awe because the place is HUGE. I had never seen any place of worship that big other than in Manhattan. My friend came to meet me in the front and we went to meet her daughter in our spots. I walked into the worship space and I shit you not, my first thoughts were, “Where the fuck am I?” (Classy for in church, I know.) The whole space was very dimly lit. There were two giant screens on either side of the front and a stage with a full band set up. There was a countdown to the start of experience going on the screens and people conversing all over the place. My traditional Catholic heart was not prepared.
I am a hard person to catch off guard… ask anyone. As a self-proclaimed empath, I am ridiculously good at reading people and situations and my hot mess of a life has taught me to be prepared for pretty much anything. This place threw me wayyyyyy off. It was too late to cut and run. I love my friend, and the countdown was down to twenty seconds. That specific experience is a blur, but I do remember having the time of my freaking life. It was so different in all the right ways. This post has already derailed way off from where I thought I’d be taking it, so I won’t sit you through all the details of that experience, but it changed me. I finally felt something I hadn’t ever felt in twenty-something years worth of church going. I felt communally AND spiritually connected. I wanted to go back. Without my mom or aunt telling me to. Without a specific holiday looming over my shoulder. I just wanted to. I couldn’t wait for the next week!
I’ve been going back to Central on and off (more on than off) ever since then. I’ll never forget my second experience. I went alone this time and I literally cried. During the experience, Central Live sang a song and this was my breaking point. I gave it all in, right there and right then. I still remember the specific lyrics that hit me:
“I will call upon the Lord,
for he alone is strong enough to save.
Rise, your shackles are no more
for Jesus Christ has broken every chain.”
I felt called. I felt a weight lift off of me. I could write a whole other post about what shackles I needed to be freed from. Those details aren’t important. What is important is that I finally felt connected to something greater than me. And, I think back to any of the times I slipped back into my “dark places” and they were times I let myself slip away from my weekly Central experience. Times when I stopped feeling connected.
When we’re finally connected to something, we believe in it. More importantly, we hope in it. In my opinion, hope is one of the many keys to happiness. (Here we go, I’m finally getting back to the point where this all started.) I’m not saying you need to believe in God and Jesus Christ. What I am saying is you need to believe in something greater than yourself. It can be God. It can be Mother Nature. It can be the Universe. It can be the Spaghetti Monster. You can call it whatever the hell you want to call it, it just needs to be bigger than you. To me, faith is the belief that something larger than you and your life is at work and your trust in that something larger. No one should ever have dictated for them what that “something” is. Believe whatever the hell you wanna believe, but believe in something. I personally run on a solid mixture of Jesus and Vibes. I shit you not. My faith is currently rooted in the bible and the vibes you put in the universe. I don’t think faith needs to be solely rooted in one thing. We don’t have to be this or that. Do what works for you.
I do think faith needs to be present, though, for an ultimate happiness to be permanently present. When we put all of our faith into the worldly, our faith will be shattered. There is no doubt about that. With our faith goes our happiness. People let us down. Things let us down. Places let us down. I think having faith in something bigger and having the faith that this “something bigger” is working in our favor is huge. For me it has been at least.
Central closes each mass with a sentence from Romans Chapter 8… “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Substitute God with whatever you want and that statement remains just as powerful. If you believe in something bigger than yourself AND you believe that it’s working in your favor… how can you be shitty? If I put out good vibes and I truly believe that these good vibes are going to be returned to me, how can I waste my time with negativity? Faith is a powerful force. Where we put our faith is even more important.
Now, like I said, this isn’t an “I wanna convert you to Jesus lovin’ and make you drink drink the koolaid” post. This post isn’t like most of the others I’ve written. I still wanted to write it. My faith is a huge part of my life and my happiness now. I still laugh at people’s reactions when I tell them I go to church every Sunday. I get it… I cuss a lot. I drink a lot. And I do a lot of other things that my family probably wouldn’t be proud of and doesn’t wanna read about. I’m a sinner. Reality check: Who isn’t? With all of that, I still feel loved. I still feel secure because I have faith that something bigger than me is working in my favor. You don’t need to agree with this at all. It’s just what works for me. Happiness is composed of hundreds of little facets. This is just one of mine.
You might scoff at this. You may be incredulous. You may be curious. If there’s been something missing for you, I dare you… try it. Don’t know where to go or where to start? I’m here for you. If you wanna try Central, I’d love to go with you and watch you say “Where the fuck am I?”
Believe or not. Faith or not. That’s your choice. That’s really what happiness comes down to… a choice and a chase.