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Excerpted from A Woman's Journey to God by Joan Borysenko. Copyright © 1999 by Joan Borysenko. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Putnam, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"Have we arrived at our own faith and our own path or simply internalized the beliefs of parents, clergy, spouse, or friends?"

Joan Borysenko
A Woman's Journey to God
, Part 1

There is little use talking about a journey home to God if one is an atheist. Rare creatures these. Gallup polls indicate that only 5 percent of the United States population lacks a belief in God. Yet even for believers, faith is a complex palette. We may believe in a personified deity or one that is more abstract. Our faith may reside in a God somewhere out there, a transcendent force. Or we may orient to a God who dwells within, immanent in all creation. Our God may be omniscient and omnipotent, the Creator of a divine plan to which our duty is to surrender. May Thy will be my will. Or perhaps our duty, what Eastern religions call our dharma, or path, is more cocreative.

As we grow and change, tasting the bittersweet realities of life, our faith is likely to change as well. Faith in the God of childhood ripens with the challenges of life. Both victory and defeat temper faith, as do wisdom and love. Along the way it is healthy to undergo periods of questioning and reevaluation. Have we arrived at our own faith and our own path or simply internalized the beliefs of parents, clergy, spouse, or friends? Do our beliefs nourish us and give us the strength and guidance to be better people? Does our faith inspire us to serve life and to make a difference in the world, or is it based on the narcissistic hope that a Santa Claus God will fulfill our wish list if we are good?

Like the moon, faith can wax and wane as the events of life call our theology into question. A friend of mine named "Angela," who is a Methodist minister, underwent a crisis of faith when her four-year-old daughter, Jennifer, died of meningitis. She wondered how a loving God could allow such a beautiful child to die. It took several years for Angela to work through some of the vexing spiritual riddles that the death of a child can pose. How can a beneficent deity allow tragedy? Is it true that the sins of the parents are visited on the children? Was her daughter's death Angela's fault? Is there some larger divine plan in which Jennifer's death might make sense? If so, are we pawns of an omnipotent deity, or is there free will? What about karma and reincarnation?

Angela took a year off from the ministry to grieve and to live along into these questions—questions that we often puzzled about together, questions that are impossible to answer. When Angela returned to the pulpit, she began,

"I'm angry at God for Jennifer's death. But at least I still think there is a God, although I understand less than ever what God is. In a way you could say that I've lost faith. But what I've really lost is a simple, childish, black-and-white faith. I've always known that the guys in the white hats don't always win. But I'd never experienced that fact so personally before.

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