I connected with Leah Janzen via Facebook. If I remember correctly it went something like this - or maybe not even close:
Me, to myself as I type: It's Friday so it's time to publish some of my words about how I'm writing a book on seeking God outside of Christianity. La la la. No big deal. (I hit publish and then share links via Twitter and Facebook.)
A friend of Leah's, on Facebook: Leah, check this out. This would be a great book to read based on our conversations.
Leah, after a few minutes goes by: Ooh. I can't wait to read her book! Agreed.
Me: Hello! Thanks for being excited about my future book! Also, what kinds of conversations are you two having? (Because I'm nosy.)
Leah: Oh my gosh you're a real person! (Because sometimes on the internet you never hear from the real people who publish things on said internet.)
The rest is history. We began chatting via email and soon after I invited her to be featured on my site.
Leah understands flow very well - as in, just letting it out. Her writing is a beautiful journal of her open processing. It's no wonder why she and I feel so connected.
The thing about discovery is that it's constantly shifting; as we uncover more information, we choose what to tie a knot of belief to. And the thing about choosing is that so many of us have lived a long time, not realizing we even had the option to change our minds. Every belief knot can be unraveled. Leah is in this very stage of her discovery, of choosing and changing, and I couldn't be more excited to see where the adventure takes her next.
You can read more from Leah here.
Responses by Leah Janzen
What do you believe, and why?
I’ll be honest, right now I’m not quite sure what I believe exactly. I’ve grown up with the mindset that belief and religion go hand-in-hand; that when you believe one thing about a certain religion, you have to believe the whole thing. I don’t believe that anymore, and with that has come a lot of relief. I finally let go of the labels I and others put on myself. It was, and still is, a painful process that has left me in a wilderness, but this wilderness is so very freeing. It’s dared me to ask the questions: What exactly is belief/believing? Who/What is God? Where/How does humanity and love fit in with religion? Have I come to the answers? No, not one bit. But I think believing in something, someone, and even yourself is an ongoing process; there isn’t stagnancy in a life of discovery. There isn’t anything hypocritical about changing one’s beliefs. I think it shows engagement, reflection, and honesty.
I do believe there is a God that created us and wants to connect with us. I believe in love, unity, kindness, and goodness. I believe humanity is beautiful and somehow everyone and everything will be redeemed, wholeness birthed.
How did you discover your beliefs?
I’d like to split this question into two parts.
First, how did I discover my beliefs then? I grew up in an evangelical missionary church so my beliefs came from others; people taught me their beliefs, I assumed they were right, and I took them as my own. Anything deemed "Christian" I believed in. No matter how absurd, degrading or illegitimate, I believed it. I didn’t know how, or that I was even able, to discover my own beliefs. I read the bible and took everything word for word. Every sermon I heard, I believe was a word from God. I didn’t actually know what I believed, I just knew what I was supposed to believe. Long story short, I eventually left church and dropped the label of "Christian".
Okay, so how do I discover my beliefs now? I think a main difference between how I used to discover my beliefs and how I discover them now is nurturing, and being sensitive to, my internal thoughts/spirit/heart. I am self-reflective; it can be such a pain in the ass sometimes but for the most part it treats me well. When I hear something from any belief that doesn’t sit right in me, I don’t force myself to believe it. It doesn’t make sense to force yourself to conform to something that your heart doesn’t fall in love with. I find my beliefs in things that bring me life; authentic conversations and people showing kindness. I find my beliefs in sunsets, celebration, love and fine wine, and laughter. All these things remind me there is goodness, and they lead my heart to believe there is something behind that goodness, stirring it all together.
How do you interact with your beliefs?
It’s been an interesting journey, from believing that to "interact with your beliefs" means attending church to now, where interacting with my beliefs is simply living in the moment and communing with God. It has made me question if I can actually commune with God by listening to some punk rock, loving on people, or biking along the water. I was used to believing that you had to be in a certain place physically or have a specific mindset to interact with God. It was hard and damaging when I quit church, and it got even harder when I no longer chose to define myself as a Christian. But now I believe God is all around, whether you are directly thinking or talking to Him or not, he is there always, always present. This has led me to discovering God in nature, conversations, humanity, music, and so much more. I am in an openness to commune with all beauty, not just ones categorized in a certain religion.
What do you do when you doubt your beliefs?
So often, I think we see doubting as a negative thing. I challenge to say it's not negative, because it’s productive. My doubting has led to questions which have led to discovery; maybe not discovery of answers but discovery of adventure, and it's helped me figure my heart out. This might be a sacrilegious thing to say, but I try to hold my beliefs with an open hand, allowing them to be molded and shaped. I do the same with doubts, I don’t hold onto them trying to prove God wrong but hold them loosely to see what God, and my heart, will do with them. Sometimes doubts scrap parts of my beliefs and I never see them again, but sometimes they make things even clearer and provide a stronger foundation of love. I’ve found that in openness and vulnerability, it somehow all leads back to love.
To read more My Discovery Process submissions, you can find them here.