Clara and I are both members of the Tribe Writers community. Until now we haven't connected directly due to the sheer number of writers in the group. Reading her submission made my heart flip flop between a deep ache over her experiences and the utmost respect and gratitude for her willingness to share. She has been through the wringer and to be honest, if I were in her shoes, I'd surely struggle with my belief in God.
You can connect with Clara in two places online:
Responses by Clara Hinton
This is a rather haphazard glimpse of my life of faith. I had a rock solid faith for most of my life, but the past few years have been crushing. Being a preacher's wife for 35 years and finding out he was a child molester about did me in.
I still believe in God, but my interactions are so different with God now. I mostly want to be alone with my thoughts and alone when I pray. Traditional church is very difficult for me and I'm not sure I'll ever return to that form of worship.
What do you believe, and why?
I believe in a higher power. I call that higher power God. I have had godly experiences that have no earthly explanations. I believe in the words written in the Bible, although I do think that many of those words are often taken out of context, made to fit man's own personal needs, or have been omitted along the road (when the Bible has been translated). I do not believe in miracles such as an arm growing back, or a leg growing back, but I do believe in the miraculous power of the mind.
"As a man thinketh so is he."
"If you believe you can remove that mountain..."
The mind is powerful; it is a gift from our higher power to use. We just haven't tapped into that source of energy and power yet -- not to the extent that we can begin to enjoy the many benefits of the mind.
I've had several experiences with death -- a 13-year-old sister, my mother (who died in my arms), a stillborn son (I held his lifeless body and knew his spirit had left him), and most recently the death of my 42-year-old son very unexpectedly to a massive heart attack. I believe that the spirit lives on.
I believe in a place of peace and bliss, and I call that place heaven. I believe that we are spiritual beings. However, I question hell as being that place of eternal hellfire and brimstone as was taught to me as a kid. I question that place; it's frightening to think about. I think hell is a separation eternally from loved ones. To me, that's what the Bible means by "hell."
How did you discover your beliefs?
I was very young when I began to have thoughts about a higher power. I believe with all of my heart that "the breath of life (from God) is indwelling." My parents were abusive and their terrible fights made me hide in fear, and not knowing anything at that time in my young life about a higher power, I prayed asking for help. My spirit was calmed when I prayed and those prayers were my first real encounters with God. As I grew older, my Grandmother was introduced to the Bible and she is responsible for my family going to church, reading from the bible and praying. I won't give details here, but due to having an alcoholic mother also addicted to drugs, a father who abandoned me and my sisters, and the death of my young sister, my faith grew stronger. I relied more heavily on the help I received from prayer and from God. I ended up attending a private Christian college where I met my husband.
Prayer was a huge part of my life!
How do you interact with your beliefs?
I have almost abandoned "traditional worship" per se due to a number of very difficult things for me to understand, the worst being the man I loved and adored and was married to for almost 40 years is now incarcerated for the remainder of his days on this earth. Four years ago, one of the children he molested (now an adult) came to me and told me what had happened to her. I went to the police, turned him in, and my life, the lives of my 11 children (yes, they are all his), and the lives of the people who worshipped at the church where he served as pastor for 35 years were turned upside down. Nobody saw the lies and deceit.
This man that I thought was an answer to prayer is a horrific molester serving time in prison for molesting 23 victims (and we know there are countless more who did not speak up). My faith/religion, whatever you want to call it, went through a shredding. For a long time I was unable to pray. What do you say to God when something like this happens?
My interaction with God has been limited of late. I still believe in God/a higher power. I believe in the principles of the Bible, but I have the same questions of anyone who has gone through major traumas: Why?
I pray daily. I am very thankful for the blessings I have. I love life. I adore my children and grandchildren. But I rarely walk into a "church building" -- my trust in people (especially church leaders) has been shattered. I talk directly with God. And, if I'm being honest, I used to read the Bible daily but I no longer do that. I read from the Bible occasionally but through a lens of doubt. I feel as though I'm on a faith testing ground right now, daily sifting through my beliefs.
What do you do when you doubt your beliefs?
I have doubted my belief more in the past five years than ever before. Why? I'm not sure what to think about prayer anymore, although I still do pray. I am no longer married; my entire married life was a lie. And I've now had two children die, a daughter diagnosed with cancer, and a lot more tragic things happen. I'm wondering why. I no longer buy it that these traumas make a stronger person out of us. I believe we can take these tragedies and learn from them, but I was quite content to learn from blessings, too.
When I doubt, I take long walks among nature. There are true miracles in nature.
When in doubt, I sit in silence. I love silence!
When in doubt I walk along the beach and take in the huge expanse and watch the rhythm of the waves rolling in and out. There is order and power in that.
When in doubt I say thanks. I speak my thanks. I write about thanks. And, I surround myself with family and friends. Love is an amazing salve for weak faith.
I give. Giving changes my heart. I love to give. I can't explain it, but when I give of both my time and my money, there is a deep inner personal satisfaction that says, "Girl, you're okay. I love you. Life is going to be okay. Your soul is okay. You are needed. You are a blessing to others."
That's when I am most aligned with God -- surrounded by nature, people close to me, and being able to give.
To read more My Discovery Process submissions, you can find them here.