A crucial period of personal growth takes place for all humans between the ages of 17 and 22. This could mean leaving home for work, becoming a primary caretaker at home, or even becoming a parent. For me and my peers in the Fellowship, this period meant leaving for college and becoming more self-sufficient, among other things. For me, this period of time also coincided with the years I became the most connected with my faith.
As I described in one of my earlier blog posts, I had been a passive Christian for most of my life until my senior year of high school. At a time in my life when I felt overwhelmed and uncertain about the future, I decided to invest in my relationship with God and went on to have one of the best years of my life; everything seemed to be working out. This relationship with God would continue to grow when I came to Madison, and it was based more on my own reading and prayer than on my participation in the Church. I attended two or three congregations on campus but nothing seemed to fit. It wasn’t until experiences I’ve had over the last year and a half that I’ve been able to regain an authentic expression of my faith.
During winter break sophomore year, I traveled to Israel with a group of mostly strangers, an experience which ended up being immensely spiritual for me. On this trip, I enjoyed intersections of personal and spiritual growth: I made some of my closest friends, it awakened in me a passion for geopolitics, and I discovered that I feel a very deep connection with my own spirituality when experiencing new faith traditions with new faces. What better city to make this discovery than Jerusalem?
The second important event in my college faith journey was joining this Fellowship, which I was inspired to join in part because I was so enriched by my interfaith experience in Israel. But I don’t think I realized the extent to which I would continue to grow this year. In this Fellowship I’ve learned about new faith experiences, heard different points of view within various traditions, heard from brilliant minds about their experiences living the intersection of faith, race, and identity, and had my own faith experience put into question — all of which led me to grow ideologically and spiritually.
With only a month remaining in this fellowship, I have been reflecting upon its impact on my faith, and I keep coming back to how others’ voices have inspired in me deeper self-reflection. By hearing how others experience faith and the role it plays in their lives, I have become more open to adjusting the way I experience my own faith — be it praying more often, regularly reflecting on my week, or deliberately cutting out more time in my day for worship. In this sense, it has been a very communal experience but also deeply personal, an opportunity to reflect on my relationship with God and those around me. It is hard to put into words, but when I get to experience someone else feel a deep spiritual connection and reverence, I feel that I have grown in faith alongside them, and have been given a new window to view my faith and other aspects of life. I am grateful for the intersection of spiritual and interpersonal growth I have experienced this year.
What have your young adult years taught you about your spirituality?