Bridging the Faiths

Lachlan Gaul

All my life, I have believed that there is a higher power. I was born Catholic, as Irish people typically are. I took the holy sacrament of Communion and my Confirmation followed a few short years later. I went to mass most weeks to hear stories of Jesus and his unjust death which forgave the sins of the world. This sacrifice was not one I understood. How does a person dying two-thousand years ago save the souls of people born today?

I was told to worship and live for Christ. Honestly, it left me confused about who the son of God was. Was he but a man, or an equal to God? If He was the almighty creator of the universe, why would God have need for a son who he would eventually leave to die on a cross? That doesn’t sound like a sign of love. I love our Creator, but the story of Jesus’s love wasn’t one I connected to. And how can one be a Catholic if they don’t follow Jesus?

I sought after Confession before the parish priest, and I said my Hail Mary prayers until I was forgiven for my sins. The religious hierarchy became very apparent. If a priest didn’t like you, they’d let you know about it. If you didn’t go to church on Sunday, they’d ask you why you weren’t at mass if they caught you at the checkout in the supermarket. Everyone had to remember that at the top there were powerful people like the Pope, and above him? Jesus and God.

There was respect for the holy men and women, but people also felt like they were walking on eggshells. Why do we need people in power in Christianity? They say they speak for God. But if that’s the case, then why is Christianity split into so many sects? Why do so many priests hold different views? Who do we even listen to for guidance?

Overtime, I drained on my diligence towards the practice of my faith until I stopped going to church. I stopped connecting with members of my faith, and my time dedicated to reading the bible found its place in my schedule less and less. Attending an Anglican school didn’t help me strengthen my faith in Catholicism or Christianity. I just became more aware of the various schisms emerging after Jesus, and I believed the original meaning of Christianity had already been forgotten. Since then I knew that it was simply Christianity and its practices that I didn’t connect with.

The most connection I had to God in my life was praying once per day before bed, and that too came to a halt. I defiantly still believed in God, but my practice of worship for Him didn’t feel sufficient.

During these years at my Anglican school, I worked weekends at a small café. When having my lunch break by a lakeside, I was feeling particularly upset with my life. I suffered my first-ever break-up with a high school sweetheart, and I was working in a job that made me feel like I couldn’t do anything right. I felt so alone and lost that I wanted to ask God Himself for a sign that he was there. A fish surfaced from the lake with a splash, and I took that as a sign to stay strong. God was still out there no matter what.

I would go on to live an irreligious life for the next two-to-three years. Getting blind drunk and exploring my personal politics became a new focus. I discovered the LGBTQIA+ movement and pondered my position in it. I supported trans creators online and had a growing number of friends from the LGBTQIA+ community. As a result, I questioned my own sexuality and gender identity, and started to wonder if I had repressed feelings for members of my own gender. I had the opportunity to kiss a guy at a party, but I ultimately chose not to go ahead with it. I was straight, and I accepted that.

God was always in the background, whether I wanted to acknowledge that or not. My faith was whirring in the background like electricity, gathering momentum, and building towards a power surge. After experimenting and reflecting, I discovered my own sense of identity didn’t lie within the LGBTQIA+, and I moved on to explore new avenues at the end of 2021.

2022 was a terrible year. Covid was back for a time. I lost a close friend. My father was disabled for a month after an accident that badly injured his arms. Another close friend lost his father that same week. My girlfriend moved away to another city. I lost my job and several friends. I battled the worst depression and anxiety of my life, and my university grades plummeted. I heavily abused alcohol. I fell ill. I moved back in with my parents. It made me think about our short time on this Earth.

Islam came into my life extremely slowly. It was patient, and its patience paid off. I’m glad it did. It came in the form of music and art. I began to study Arabic and learnt about what Islam actually meant. I was pleasantly surprised to find—when learning about this religion—that it’s core focuses are on peace, forgiveness, charity, and fraternity. It is a faith focused on respect for others, and chartering self-improvement. I wondered why the world wasn’t talking about the preachings of it more.

The concept of Islamic belief is simple: “There is only one God (Allah) – and Mohammad (subhana wata’ala) is his prophet and messenger”. Announcing this before two or more witnesses, with conviction, is the first requirement of any Muslim. What follows is a life lived in dedication to God (subhana wata’ala). It’s important to know that the word Islam is the Arabic translation for ‘submission’ – as in submission to the almighty Allah. By living under the guidance of Islam and by following the teachings of the Quran, Muslims can know that at the end of their lives they will enter Jannah. Islam’s eternal paradise.

At 1.7 billion followers, Islam is among the world’s largest religions. It is also currently the fastest growing, with more people coming to Islam than any other faith. I am happy to now be among that growing number.

Islam has saved me. It harbours the answers to my many questions and skepticisms on organised religion that Christianity couldn’t provide me. Muslims are driven by the belief in a power that they can connect to by prayer, but never actually see with their eyes. I am healthier in my mind and my body because of my renewed faith.

The restriction of alcohol has freed me from the shackles of my drinking problem. The five daily prayers are meditative and help build appreciation for life, which is underrated in helping overcome depression and anxiety. I no longer feel anxious or depressed. My faith is strong and thus I will be rewarded after death.

I feel the best I’ve felt in years, and this is just the beginning. And I am improving daily. I am defiantly not perfect. I don’t think I’ll ever be perfect. But I always aim to improve myself and become a better, more capable person. And after years and years of waiting, I finally have the answer that works for me. Alhamdulillah.

Author: This is Lachlan. He has been taking his writing more seriously since he decided that writing was his life’s passion at the age of 15. Lachlan most enjoys learning about other cultures, and trying to understand the world’s people better so that he can try to connect with them. He has a love of sci-fi and surrealism, and likes to write his own.

Artist: Cyndra Galea (she/they) is in the third year of her Bachelor of Fine Art’s in Creative Writing with a minor in Professional Communications. When not found with her head in a book or three, Cyndra can be found radioactive antique hunting, fixing classic cars with her dad, drawing on her iPad, or writing and editing her manuscript. Cyndra aims to work as a structural editor when she finishes her Masters of Editing and Publishing, but also dreams of releasing novels of their own.

Editors: Kelly Rouzbehi and Euri Glenn