The first tenet of Big Ocean Women is “We believe in God and are women of faith.” We don’t, as an organization, have expectations of what faith tradition our members espouse. We only recognize that there is and has historically been a high percentage of women who identify with some faith, and we also find that having that foundation of faith leads to having a desire to improve the world we live in.
My personal faith can be broken down into what I believe are the two great commandments: 1. Love God, and 2. Love my neighbor. Therefore, everything I do, think, desire, and promote should align with this. If I find that I am outside of that – if my behavior isn’t loving toward God and my neighbor – then I have need to repent and work to improve.
Currently, I am finding that the best way I can show love to my neighbors is to be patient with them. Every time I overreact or jump to conclusions with my family members, who are my closest neighbors after all, I regret it and have to apologize. When I’m driving, I try to tell myself that I have been the slow car or have turned in front of people unintentionally before. When I’m discussing current events or politics, I try to see things from the perspective of the person with whom I disagree. And whatever happens, whatever the motives or actions of the people with whom I engage in any setting, I want to be civil and kind because that is what my faith teaches me to do.
My love for God helps me to be better at loving my neighbor. When I frame helping someone else as helping God, of course I want to do it! I want to be more giving, more charitable. When I look at someone who is somehow offending me and think to myself, “God loves them,” it is easier to let go of the offense.
I have also found that my faith is a source of safety, security, and hope. Throughout the world and throughout time, the church, or the mosque, or the temple, has been a place of refuge. Usually, this is figurative in our modern times. We gather to worship and take a break from the rigorous and roiling of daily living.
Recently, Duaa Ahmad led “about 100 students” who were running from her school after hearing a gunshot to the mosque she attends that is directly across the street. She entered the security code to open the door, ushered people inside, then called her dad to come help them. The gunshot was from a police officer who shot a 16-year-old student who had stabbed him. The students didn’t know what was going on, but their teacher had told them to run. For those students, that mosque became a refuge. Duaa was an example of a young woman of faith who was able to help friends and strangers to feel safe.
I’m always interested to learn about the faith that motivates other people. I feel that understanding other religions and beliefs helps me to grow in my own. I also feel that religious freedom or freedom of conscience must be protected where it has been established and championed where it has not. Because a majority of women in the world are religious, religious rights are women’s rights.
What does being a woman of faith lead you to do? Are there areas of your life that your faith has helped you improve? Are any of your New Year’s resolutions related to your spiritual life?