Baha’i since January 2010
I was born on the south side of Chicago into a family that was by then, non-practicing in any particular faith. My mother was raised Episcopalian, but was no longer attending her church regularly. My Father was raised Methodist, but as he grew older, he had many misperceptions about his church and his minister’s perception of God. Ultimately both of them worried about a God who might be judging them, so over time they started to focus less and less on their churches.
From the time I was a little girl, I had a deep love for God. Being spiritual from day one meant that no one quite knew what to do with me. I was a very self-determined child. By third grade I started to get a bit overzealous, and my mother started to see by the way I was dressing and wearing my hair that Catholic school might be good for me, as it would keep me down “the straight path” and perhaps instill in me a sense of closeness to God and “make me be a good girl.”
This became an amazing experience for me, as it was the first time I had really engulfed myself in religion on a daily basis. My parents never supported me in my wanting to actually become a Catholic and I was unable to take sacraments or have a confirmation. But, I still went to church every Sunday and I fell in love with God. At that time, as well, various family members of mine were struggling with their health, so I found myself praying all the time. Eventually each one of them got better and I just knew that God had heard my prayers. He was my constant companion as I felt that I had gotten to know Him in a very deep and personal way.
By the time I graduated from eighth grade, I had considered seriously wanting to become a nun. But, again I was lacking the support I needed from my family and wasn’t able to get enrolled in the classes I would have needed to take in order to go down that path. And even though I graduated at the top of my class, because I was not “officially” a Catholic, I wasn’t accepted into any of the Catholic high schools. I thought this was really unfair and I started to feel disillusioned with the Catholic Church. This led me to start searching elsewhere.
I got accepted into a great high school; it was a math and science academy. It was at that point when I started meeting different people of different religious backgrounds. I would go to a different church with friends every Sunday. At first, I didn’t realize that learning about different Faiths would become a huge part of my life, but it did. I studied Buddhism, Judaism and Hinduism. And I also went to every Christian church I could go to from Methodist to Protestant to Presbyterian to more charismatic churches. I even spent some time at Trinity, which is the church that President Obama attended.
My search continued all though high school and college up until the time I got married. My husband was a Catholic, but by the time he had grown up, he was no longer a part of the Catholic Church. His mother, who was my best friend, was also a Catholic. She really wanted us to get married in a Catholic Church, but for various reasons, we ended up getting married by a Baptist minister.
For the first five years of our marriage, neither of us really participated in any specific faith. But, when we started having children, we talked about the importance of raising them in a religious setting. So, we decided to join the Unitarian Church. For me personally, I really needed a mixture of true, crazy love for God expressed in song and I felt that this church provided that. But, at the end of the day I felt I really struggled whenever a member of the clergy said something that I strongly disagreed with and I had a very difficult time reconciling myself with that. Again, I continued to search spiritually for a path that would work best for me.
My first experience with the Baha’i Faith was seeing the Temple in Wilmette, Ilinois while I was studying at Northwestern University in the late 70’s. I didn’t know any Baha’is at the time, and I never went inside, but I always thought the outside was so beautiful. It was not until more than twenty years later after the horrific tragedy of September 11th that I began to once again think about the Faith.
I was on a visit to see my friend, Marguerite, and she had just become a Baha’i. She started telling me all about it and, intrigued, I began reading a few things, studying some of the basic principles and teachings and going into the Temple to say prayers. I enjoyed what I learned, but didn’t yet feel the connection to join. But then when I started reading the Writings – from the Bab, Baha’u’llah, ‘Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi, that’s when I really started to fall in love with this Faith.
After Marguerite’s mother passed away last fall, she and I decided to take a visit to the House of Worship. I went to my favorite part of the Visitor’s Center, the bookstore, and it was there that I met a woman by the name of Eriko. She introduced herself to me and mentioned that she is a singer in the Baha’i House of Worship Choir. I shared with her that I have a son who lives in New York and that he is also a singer. She asked me if I sang and informed me that rehearsals had just started up again for the Choir and that I should consider auditioning.
Because of my love for music as a way of praising God, I attended the very next rehearsal, auditioned and was offered a space in the tenor section. I have made so many wonderful friends in the choir; they’ve become like family to me.
Not long after joining the choir, I was given the opportunity to join a Ruhi Book 1 study circle with Dr. William Roberts of the National Spiritual Assembly. While taking this study course, I realized that I really needed to change my life if I was going to commit to becoming a part of this Faith. In the past I had always been surrounded by people who said one thing, but did another. I wanted to truly live and put into practice what I would be learning and talking about with others.
I saw people in the Baha’i community living their lives according to the beliefs and values that they expressed and that really impressed me. It helped me to realize that I had a lot of work to do and I started by looking at every aspect of my life (my marriage, career path, etc.) and re-evaluated it. I wanted every part of my life to be about being a Baha’i.
I joined the Baha’i Faith in January of 2010. One huge leap of Faith that I have been embarking on is this idea of being obedient; to accept God’s Words and be obedient to His Will. This is really the first time in my life that I’ve embraced this concept.
I’ve learned that if you meet God, even just half way, He will meet you more than half way. This learning has had an amazing effect on my life. I have finally found a Faith that truly makes a difference in my life and makes a difference in the world.