Faith permeated my life as a child. I never doubted the existence of a loving God who was concerned about my life, and who answered prayer and helped me on a daily basis. I prayed from the time I could form words. I sang songs about Jesus and loved Him. He was a very real presence in my life. When my great uncles died, it wasn’t a grievous occasion but a celebration of their passing on to a better world.
But when I was a teenager, I began to question the principles of faith I had been taught as a child. I saw my parents and their faith in God and the Bible as fallible, and I began a quick slide from believer to doubter to agnostic. What I heard and saw in the world around me no longer made sense alongside the simple childlike faith I had been taught. As I emphatically stated my new belief system, my parents just smiled and told me that they were willing to listen, but they couldn’t be deterred from what they knew to be right.
My spiritual searching coincided with moving from a small town in the countryside to Boston, Massachusetts. One day, I was to take the train home for the holidays. I had called ahead and reserved my ticket, and I was confident that I could find my way to South Station by subway.
After some time in the tunnels of the “T,” as the Boston subway is known to locals, I exited at the right station according to my map, climbed a long flight of stairs, and was blinded by bright sunlight as I arrived at street level. I knew the station was supposed to be right there, but I looked around and couldn’t see it. I stepped into the shadow of a huge archway, but still I couldn’t find the station. I kept checking my watch and became nervous that I would miss my train. I asked a passerby, but he just looked at me oddly and rushed on.
Eventually I ended up on the other side of the street. Somewhat frantic by now, I glanced back to where I had been standing. In gigantic letters ten feet above street level were the words “South Station.” There, right where I had exited the subway, was the train station entrance—the same huge archway I had stepped into to let my eyes adjust a few minutes earlier. It was so enormous and encompassing that I couldn’t recognize it from my previous perspective. Only after I stepped away and looked up could I see that I had been where I belonged all along.
Shortly after that experience, I began to realize that I was different from my nonbeliever friends. For one thing, I enjoyed eating my lunch in a lovely old cemetery on Tremont Street, where gravestones dated from the 1600s. One day a friend joined me there and commented, “Don’t you think it’s a bit strange to come into a cemetery to relax? Doesn’t it make you think about death, and doesn’t that frighten you?”
I thought about that as I finished my sandwich. “Actually, I am not afraid at all,” I answered. “I believe that death is only a passageway from this world to the next, kind of like a rebirth. I believe that when I die I will find myself in a bigger, better world.” What made me different from my friends was that deep down inside, I still had faith—I still believed in God and Jesus.
A few days later I wrote my parents about my South Station experience and related it to my recent trek into agnosticism and back. From my new vantage point, I had no doubts about what I really believed. I thanked them for having imparted their faith to me, as well as for their patience and understanding. They had known all along that all I needed to do was “cross the road and look up.”
I eventually became a mother of eight, and as my children have grown, I have watched some of them have doubts about their faith and step back. I have tried to follow my parents’ example of understanding by picturing my children standing under one of the arches of South Station, searching for it. I pray for them and know it is there, whether they believe it or not, and I pray that they will look up and realize where they are standing.
Sometimes we all feel lost and wonder where God is. We search around for faith and meaning in life, only to find that it is right in front of us, larger than life. Like South Station, we are standing right in front of it and only need to move to a different vantage point to realize that we are right where we belong.