I believe in God. I can't remember a time I didn't believe in God. I never had the cathartic experience, I didn't fall to the floor, I didn't start seeing and hearing things, but I believe in God.
I realise how alien that must sound, but it's hard to describe something that such a deeply ingrained part of my character, that I don't know where my faith ends and I begin. It's probably so woven in that it won't be extracted.
As a child, I can't remember a time when we weren't attending church. My earliest memories are of my parents buying us a packet of chips each if we managed to sit still for an entire sermon (we were in the Dutch Reformed Church, so luckily the sermons are concise). It was quite a thing for a three-or four-year-old to sit still for an entire hour, but I now see the method to that apparent madness. It taught me that even though I might not have entirely wanted to be there, I still absorbed a lot. It made me feel peaceful to be with the rest of the worshippers, even as such a small child, learning about God.
The other thing that was part of our lives, was involvement in the activities of our church. I remember helping my mother make what felt like 20 000 sandwiches, which I learnt afterwards were made for children my age, who didn't have anything to eat at school. My mom said she would butter a thousand loaves before she had to physically go and hand out the food, she was daunted by that. So, she did more than her share to make up for what she perceived as a weakness (I don't think it was). To this day I believe in helping people and being compassionate to people, especially those experiencing hard times, because that was the basics I was taught. You can preach from your platform all you want, Jesus sat with those in need. Put your millions where your mouth is.
My dad has a beautiful voice, and I loved listening to him reading from the Bible, and praying (even if the prayer made me sleepy, sorry Dad!). He has unwavering faith and acceptance, no matter what life throws at him.
That brings me to today: I attend church regularly, I teach a small Sunday School class, and I try to teach my children the same. I want my kids to experience the same thing I did. An anchor in tough times, hope, and compassion for others. I was lucky to have this experience, I am fully aware of that, but that doesn't make my experience "less than". I didn't have a painful time with religion other than dabbling in a church that believed in humiliating people, which I promptly left, without ever looking back.
I will continue to believe in God, and that he has a plan for my life. My faith is childlike and simple, I talk to God and wrestle Him sometimes, and I will teach my children the same.