A couple of weeks ago I wrote my first A Level Religious Studies essay (no coursework, just practice for exams). I’m sorry to have to admit that I put very little effort into it. I did something different – I didn’t write about my own thoughts, about Christianity specifically (the topic was body and soul), I just wrote about philosophers that lived a long time ago and compared them with the Roman Catholic Church. I got a C.
This evening I spent a couple of hours writing my second Religious Studies essay for the A Level year. It won’t be marked until next week, but I’m feeling good about it. It’s substantially (and appropriately) longer than my first, and about philosophical and theological justifications for the belief in Heaven and hell.
I’ve put passion into it, written not simply about what we’ve discussed in lessons, but brought my own theology into it, my own opinions, and included my own knowledge, talking in this essay about Niebuhr’s take on what it is to have faith (see an old post of mine for a summary here).
Niebuhr believes that faith as fiducia, as trust, is the most important kind of faith.
In my second essay I’ve not tried to conform to the cardboard cut-out “this is how you should lay your essay out and this is how your paragraphs should format”. I’ve got my own style, and I know I need to stick to it. That’s what got me 97% in my first exam!
It’s tempting sometimes, to step back and conform to expectations. An examiner probably isn’t expecting me to start going on about Latin and Greek words and how they convey meaning alongside symbolic interpretations of scripture. But it’s that originality that gets the marks isn’t it? It’s tempting to comform in classtime, to blend a bit in everyday life, to be a bit more “normal”.
I don’t exactly fit into the stereotype for a 17-year old hmm?
I’ve not always found it easy to be myself. To be original. To be unique. To believe in myself. But I’ve learnt to (most of the time) now. And it’s changed my life. Like having two oxygen tanks instead of the one we all start off with. I continue to encourage others to be themselves, because when people are truly themselves and don’t hide behind anything, aren’t afraid, they’re always so beautiful.
One always finds it difficult to take their own advice. I know I’m different. And yes my friends, that has sometimes been hard. But truly I tell you, it was harder when I used to try to blend in. It was harder when I wasn’t being myself.
Be you. Be passionate. Don’t be afraid.
Niebuhr believes that faith as fiducia, as trust, is the most important kind of faith. Niebuhr’s talking about trusting in God. And yes. But today, I ask you to trust in yourself, as I continue to grow in trusting in myself. In trusting that each original soul, you, are truly amazing. Let your soul shine out, let your light shine out, and not only will you feel a release, a greater happiness, you’ll help others feel it too.
Maybe, if we simply aren’t afraid, if you and me are both crazy enough to believe that our love can change the world, it really will.