I had been raised Catholic, but I wasn’t sure if that was where I fit in. I was (and still am) very open minded. I read Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, The Bhagavad Gita, Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu (Jane English and Gia-Fu Feng), Sacred and the Profane by Mircea Eliade, and The Idea of the Holy by Rudolf Otto. I should note here, that I do not like reading very much. I studied religious buildings, modern and ancient. I lived in Italy for several months and saw many houses of worship; St. Peters, Pantheon, and countless other Catholic Churches. I even went to see the Pope speak at the Vatican. Between the ages of 16 and 23 I tried to get the most information I possibly could about different religions.
I met an amazing married couple while playing intramural volleyball in college. They were so nice and sweet and I just felt like I wanted to get to know them. So how do you get to know people in the 21st century? I sent them Facebook friend requests.
Under the “About me” section I saw a link to www.bahai.org. I thought to myself, “What is this religion? I have never heard of it before!” As I read through the main principles I just kept nodding my head and asking, “Did someone read my mind and create a religion just for me?” Of course I messaged them inquiring about the Faith telling them I was interested in learning more about it.
After making these new Baha’i friends, I started going to devotionals with them and I ordered books about the history of the Faith and basic principles. I read Thief in the Night and Half-Inch Prophecy by William Sears, and Christ and Baha’u’llah by George Townsend. Everything made sense . . . . I read it with an open mind and never doubted or questioned the “proof” Sears was giving me. Throughout this time I had been attending devotionals with my friends. I also joined a [study group for] Ruhi book 1 [on “Reflections on the Ife of the Spirit”]; there I made more amazing Baha’i friends.
I had been searching to feel closer to God. I thought maybe I should practice Buddhism, or maybe Hinduism. It wasn’t until I learned about the Baha’i Faith (through Facebook, ha!) that I really felt like I had found my home. I am a Christian, I am a Buddhist, and I am a Hindu. I’m all of those things because I am a Baha’i.
It took me quite a while to declare. Coming from a Catholic family, I had struggles with my family because they did not and still do not understand the Baha’i Faith. It was a big, scary thing to them. I explained the main principles to my parents who were receptive and agreed “How could you disagree with any of those?” They were skeptical of everything beyond the main principles. They didn’t understand how I could still believe in Jesus when I believed in Baha’u’llah. Yet, they do understand that I am an adult and they can’t force their beliefs on me. I am sure this will be a struggle for a while, but I’m optimistic.
My biggest concern was that I didn’t understand what “declaring” meant and what the point of it was. I kept studying, reading, praying and was involved in some Baha’i activities, so what is this card for? I realized, I already am a Baha’i… ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said: “To be a Bahá’í simply means to love all the world; to love humanity and try to serve it; to work for universal peace and universal brotherhood.” How many Baha’is must there be that don’t know it yet? To register yourself as a Baha’i (at this time) you declare your belief in Baha’u’llah as the Manifestation of God for this age. I had believed in Baha’u’llah for over a year, and had been living a “mostly” Baha’i life for years. I realized to declare was in one sense a big deal but in another sense not a big deal at all because I already was Baha’i. I wanted to be more involved so for me it made sense to declare. While talking with a member of the [local spiritual assembly] I learned that it is okay to declare being a Baha’i without knowing all the “rules”. No one is perfect and we are all learning. If I waited until I was the “perfect Baha’i” to sign my card I would never sign it!
This part is silly, but I waited until 9/19 to sign my card so my Baha’i-versary would be 9/19. I figured I already waited this long to sign it, what is a few more days?
Next, Baha’u’llah sent me a sign. The same day I declared that I was a Baha’i, I was at an event through my work. A woman randomly sat down next to me and introduced herself. She looked like she has a similar cultural background to me, but her name was unusual, so I asked her about it and she told me she is Baha’i. I was thinking, “You have got to be kidding me!” What are the odds to meet a female Baha’i in the same (traditionally male industry), the DAY I declared! What a confirmation. Amen."