Stepping foot into a church has become a gunshot that marks the beginning of a racing heart. It makes no distinction between a small country house of thirty people and the large stone cathedral with stained glass windows in the midst of a bustling city. The hills and valleys of Baptist hymns, the unpredictable droning of Pentecostal tongues, caged or uncaged drums setting pace, whether correct or not; what was once as calming as a lullaby is now a cacophony of anxiety-inducing noise. Seasons of closed eyes and raised hands, swaying gently to the movement of the Holy Spirit through a unified congregation. Seasons of bouncing and jumping through dimly lit mock youth mosh pits. Seasons leaned towards the stand-up, sit-down, stand-up, sit-down liturgical glory. Seasons of quiet, kneeling reflection, silent and lonely struggles are just molehills in comparison to this isolated mountain that stands before me now.

I refuse to be a butterfly preserved behind a pane of glass. Those pins and nails are not mine to take. In seventeen long and short years, my faith has been both static and evolving into something entirely different. The base components have undergone chemical reactions, creating a new amalgam. Both a strong and malleable alloy, not silver or gold, it resembles more of a titanium or tungsten-like faith. Better yet, let’s veer towards biomechanical. I require an organic, growing, living, and breathing type of faith. It must allow itself to change and adapt as needed as it seeks Truth. My faith remained stationary yet deepened immensely. A cavernous underworld of three-dimensional tubes and tunnels, it separates and converges again in a dendritic branchwork. Large subterranean passages, rooms, and galleries left unexplored fully by even me, as most exploration was deemed too dangerous.

Warnings were given.

Don’t wander too far or too wide. You may never find your way home again. Stay here in the light, where it’s safe and dry. You’ll find nothing out there in the darkness. If you decide to dive that deep, you’ll be doing it alone. Even so, I hold firm to a solid, unmovable rock. I cling to it in the desperation of stormy days and seemingly endless nights. It is the unshakeable thing that makes up every floor, wall, stalactite, and stalagmite and while my leaves stretch up towards the heavens, soaking in warm rays of the suns light, I also have deep roots. They fix me here. They stretch and squirm and twist deep, grounding me, and subsequently nourish me with life-giving water.

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