I just realize today what a hopeless failure I am at explaining my faith to others.

During lunch today, a co-worker spotted my Bible lying on the table next to me. I didn’t put there on purpose I swear. I have run out of books to read again and thought I’d read a few chapter of Romans during lunch yesterday. I forgot to put it back into the drawer and that was how it became a conversation topic. He started asking me questions about spirituality and religion and wanted to know if I am a staunch Christian. It is very refreshing to have someone interested enough to want to know I feel about spiritual matters. This is probably one of the very few rare encounters I have with someone who seems genuinely curious. Usually people either wanted to avoid the topic altogether or they try to undermine your beliefs in order to convert you to their views. Perhaps it’s because he admitted himself that he is a nonpracticing Muslim. This is what is refreshing about nonreligious people. They speak from their heart, without an agenda. While I truly enjoy such honest and open conversations because it is rare and because my faith is truly something very close to my heart, I also tend to feel helplessly inadequate expressing my thoughts. Every attempt I make just comes out as one big confusing mess to my listener. There is that familiar puzzled look on their faces. But in the eyes of my heart and mind, I can see these concepts clearly in a sort of a mind-map fashion. They are reasonable and coherent to me because I could see the big and small links that connect one thought to another. So it’s extremely frustrating when I couldn’t express them the way I wish them to be understood. How does one explain a mind-map anyway?? It’s just too overwhelming.

Spirituality and faith is complex enough in itself. What more when these words tend to mean different things to different people. Even worse is the assumptions that we attach to them. For example, my friend couldn’t see how I could be staunch but not religious. This why I am reluctant to call myself a staunch Christian because most people automatically assumes that I am also religious, which I certainly am not. To me, religion is more like a set of rules that I must follow in order to be good enough to reach God but my faith, Christianity per se, is not a religion in that sense because Christianity is about God reaching down to us out of His love for us and not because we are good enough. However to most people, religion means a kind of attempt towards spiritual connection with God or a higher power and they have a tendency to link it to attitudes of self-righteousness. It is not entirely their fault for thinking that way because a lot of religious people behave in self-righteous ways. The cause of that, I think, is because religion has to do with achieving holiness by our own efforts (via the do’s and don’ts) so people who are religious tend to see themselves as better or holier than someone who is not religious. You see the difference? When I say I am spiritual but not religious I simply mean, how I live my life and how I relate to people and situations is directly connected to what I believe about God and his creation. It has nothing to do with any attempt to attain holiness.

So we kept going round and round without making much progress because we both have different ideas about what spirituality and religion means. And I am just very lousy when it comes to explaining such things, or anything for that matter. Not teacher material definitely. Besides, there is this sense that there is just so much more that I still do not know about God, about His world and everything else in between.