A spiritual journey filled with questions — and, thankfully, answers
A new believer tells her story
By Melanie Blair
My spiritual journey has had many twists and turns — like most people’s, I would assume. I’ll start by mentioning I’ve always been a Baha’i in my heart; I just didn’t know.
I grew up in Georgia in the 1980s. As a kid, I befriended people who were different from me, spoke other languages or had different beliefs. I found them interesting and I enjoyed learning about other cultures — even as early as 7 or 8 years old.
I had early exposure to diversity and I believe it helped shape who I am. My spiritual journey is interwoven with my knowledge that humans are all the same, no matter in what corner of the world we reside.
During my childhood, I attended various churches. I was never comfortable in any of them, yet I still felt a closeness to God. The people I met in those churches were wonderful, but the belief systems were not a good fit.
I was a critical thinker and the stories did not add up. I had a hard time wrapping my head around the stories in the Bible and I felt alone in my doubts. The exclusivity and motivation by fear — the threat of burning in hell for all eternity — also were not helpful or inspirational in any way. I thought all churches and religions must be that way and they were not for me.
Fast forward to high school, where I began to shy away from all religion. I did not enjoy Christian events that were so prevalent in my town and that all the other kids seemed to love. I just felt differently.
During high school I studied foreign language all four years. During that time, my family hosted two exchange students from Brazil. In turn, I had the opportunity to travel abroad a few times.
This was a pivotal time in my life as I began to realize that people are the same everywhere you go. Humans everywhere have the same desires, really: to love, to feed their families, to have purpose, to find connection to our Creator, to understand why we’re here and what happens after we die.
As a freshman in college I began to question everything. Science fascinated me and I didn’t understand why science and religion couldn’t coexist, why I had to choose one or the other. I rejected the idea that an all-loving God could favor one group of believers over another. It all seemed senseless.
One day in a friend’s apartment, I happened upon a book on atheism and I was cautiously intrigued. I knew I didn’t want to call myself an atheist, but I realized that it was OK to be inquisitive and that other people in the world had the same questions I had.
I distinctly remember thinking as a young 18-year-old (going against everything I’d been taught as a kid in a Christian society), “OK, let’s back up here. If there is a God and He/She/It is all-knowing and all-loving, and this God gave us these miraculous brains, then why would He not want us to use them to question and grow and understand?” It made no sense. However, in my world I was not allowed to ask those questions, so I researched but kept quiet.
Also in college, I took a course on ancient literature and religion. The professor had us compare and contrast the flood story of Noah with the flood story in the Epic of Gilgamesh. That was it; I had confirmation. The Bible stories were just that: stories, parables meant to give broader messages, not to be taken literally. Aha! Finally! It was the confirmation I needed. Still I kept quiet in my beliefs, as my circle of friends and family would have shunned any such talk.
After I married I spent a decade wrestling with those beliefs. I felt myself pulling away from God because the image I had of him no longer made sense with all the mixed messages over the years. The lack of spiritual nourishment in my life was taking a toll. I knew I wanted to be of service to humanity and that there had to be a greater purpose to life. I just wasn’t sure how to find it.
I began to study Buddhist philosophies, which I found helpful, but still there was something missing. Because none of the teachings of any religion made complete sense to me, I began to call myself agnostic. It was the only title I felt comfortable with. I knew there was a missing link, a missing piece of the puzzle.
In 2017 I took a trip to Chicago. A friend of mine (who is not a Baha’i) mentioned that I should check out the House of Worship in Wilmette if I had some downtime. She thought I would enjoy it. So I did. That was the start of my new journey as a Baha’i.
I loved being in that space. It was calm and tranquil. Walking through the Welcome Center and reading the teachings of the Faith posted there, I felt peace and happiness. And for the first time in my life I didn’t feel angst at the thought of religion. My mind and heart were in harmony. It all made sense and that was a great feeling!
In late 2018 I began studying the Baha’i Faith on my own. I had no idea at that time if there were even Baha’is in my area! That’s how out of the loop I was. So, I did what most people do when they’re curious: I did a Google search! I typed in “Baha’is in Georgia.”
It gave me several options and I just clicked on one. I browsed a while and finally found a contact name. I reached out and got in touch with the most wonderful lady, named Nooshi. She met with me and answered some of my questions. I already knew the Baha’i Faith was going to be my future, even knowing very little about it.
After some phone calls I got in touch with Baha’is closer to my home and began studying with them. I met and befriended the most wonderful man and his wife who took me under their wing, invited me into their home to study the Ruhi books and even called me their adopted daughter. They will never know how much their love and kindness meant to me. I hope someday I can find a way to thank them.
After just a few months of dedicated study, I declared as a Baha’i. It has been the most wonderful gift from God that I will cherish forever. God’s most gracious and perfect timing.
I cry at the thought that God was there with me all those years through my search. The ups and downs and rollercoaster ride of life — he was there. There through all the mixed messages that were just variations of the same truth. God had been and will always be changeless, inclusive and eternal. It was me who had to reconfigure how I thought of him. I had found the missing puzzle piece.
Some days I wish I could have been a Baha’i all my life. Then again, our experiences are what make us who we are, right? My path led me here and I’m so happy. I am just so thankful for my new journey and perspective as a servant of the most loving God. Ya Baha’u’l-Abha!