Relationships are never easy, especially when half the world thinks that you’re not committed enough and the other half thinks that you are in love with someone who will never love you back. I’ve been in this relationship a long time — since I was 13 years old — but I’ve never been able to stand up for it until I came to the University. Like romantic relationships, maybe holding onto one’s faith is difficult because everyone on the outside feels like they have the right to judge you for who you love.
Even though I grew up in Grand Rapids, Mich. — where there is a church on every street corner — I was afraid to be open about my religion; I’m always cautious of stepping on other people’s toes. I was nervous that if I was open about my faith, people might receive it as an attempt to convert or condemn them. I’ve always prided myself on being an independent thinker, and I didn’t want people to think I had been brainwashed by Bible pushers, leaving me unable to think and reason for myself anymore.
This was a primary concern coming to the University, where every opinion and thought is voiced and heard. But I have found my voice here, too. In the heart of liberalism, I have been able to strengthen my own faith and the ability to express it.
Everyone I came in contact with thought for themselves and had solid positions on political and social issues that I had never thought about before, and I wanted to fit in. As I struggled with this, I was intent on joining a musical group upon my arrival. So, naturally I went to a cappella rush in the first few weeks of my first semester. When the Christian a cappella group began to sing, I was amazed at how frank they were about what, and who, they believe in. They brought up the name of Jesus Christ in the middle of a concert at a public university. Were they allowed to do that? I shifted uncomfortably in my seat, very aware of the fact that I was not nearly comfortable enough with myself to do anything like that.
I ended up joining that a cappella group — called Good News — but I was still uncomfortable telling people that I was in a Christian a cappella group. Gradually, however, I started to see how passionate other members of the group were about being in Good News. They were also proud of their faith and excited to celebrate it. Seeing this slowly encouraged me to be openly passionate about my personal relationship with God, and gave me the confidence to voice what I had known since I was young but what I had just come to understand.
Now when we sing, I’m the girl in front telling people that we’re there because of our shared belief in God. Though I’ve been judged more for being a Christian than I have for my piercings and tattoo, my relationship with God has surfaced as an integral part of who I am and how others identify me. I don’t feel the need to push my beliefs on others, and they shouldn’t feel the need to push theirs on me. We’re all free to love who we want to, without the fear of being judged because of the relationships we choose to enter into. We all have different ways of expressing religion, and mine is to love.