My high-school motto, â€ścui service est regnareâ€ť can be translated in two ways- he who serves reigns and to serve is to reign. During high school, we were encouraged to delve deeper and deeper into this phrase and to discern the personal meaning that it holds within our lives. For me, I interpreted the saying as one that strictly applies to the community. I understood it to mean that a person serving others is empowered by making a difference. I am about to enter my third year of college and to be honest, in the last two years since leaving high school I have not given the phrase much more thought. Last night I had a very interesting discussion with my roommate here in Costa Rica, Carla, who is devoutly and passionately religious.
As I mentioned this Latin phrase to her, she immediately began to share with me stories of Jesus, Caesar, and most importantly, the Kingdom of God. I am the type of person who hates to have other peopleâ€™s beliefs pushed on me, but Carla presented all of this in a very open-minded, inviting, conversational way. As a result, I have found myself provoked to think about what religion means to me, what role I play in the Kingdom of God, and who serves and who reigns.
Cui Service Est Regnare. What does this statement mean to you? If in fact this statement applies to God, what is the grand meaning and purpose? Is it trying to tell us that an individual who lives a life in service to God will be empowered? Or is it implying that God serves us by reigning and watching over us? I prefer to believe the latter as I do not yet know where I stand in relation to God and to religion as a whole.
This is something which I have struggled with for a long time now: the development of a religious identity. My parents have worked hard to expose me to a variety of religious backgrounds through holiday celebrations, sacred texts courses, and Sunday school. Religious institutions have also played a large role in the development of my religious identity. For example, my high school is Episcopalian and requires students to attend chapel services six days a week. As a result, I believe that I am well-educated in regard to religion, but education is not necessarily the same as hands-on experience. I did not begin to feel connected to God or to prayer until I began regularly attending church services in high school. The process began with a feeling of peace and contentment while sitting in the marvelous mahogany pews and it gradually grew into a feeling of curiosity and awe. At this point in my life, I would classify myself as an outsider looking into a church through the gorgeous stained glass windows, reaching out toward the cold glistening stones, and longing to walk confidently through the heavy wooden doors. Religion makes sense to me, but it is not yet an integral component of my personal life because I do not quite understand how to incorporate it into my daily routine. When do I pray? What is appropriate to pray for? Do I need to be in a church to communicate with God? How do I know that he is listening? These questions barrage my mind like a line of bullets. I long to be the rifle, the loaded gun that has all of these questions safely secured inside. As my conversation with Carla aptly showed me, in order for me to take on this role, I need to give myself time to ask questions, to hear answers, and to develop my own relationship and friendship with the church and with God.
Religion is undoubtedly an outlet for pessimism and doubt. How many of you believe in God but find yourself at a lack of words with a complete and utterly disorienting feeling of the inability to understand why the BP oil spill is damaging our environment, why the Haiti earthquake devastated an already desolate country, and why the global economies will not stop plummeting? How much of this is truly Godâ€™s responsibility? God looks over us, but he cannot control all of our actions. If society is choosing to rig for oil deep in the Gulf, there are consequences and repercussions that will be felt. If the banks are going to make dishonest choices, there are consequences and repercussions that will be felt. In regard to natural disasters like an earthquake, I think that they happen externally from God as a result of all the bad things that we have pumped into our environment and our world. God does with these negative situations all that he can. For example, the earthquake devastated Haiti, but it also brought a new level of awareness and a sense of unity and togetherness on a more global level. Everyone wanted to help in any way possible- with money, with fundraisers, with telethons, with hands-on work, with medical assistance, with adoption, the list goes on. By bringing all of these people outside of their minds and their bodies and giving them the opportunity to focus on something selfless, someone else in need, God was able to use this horrible disaster to make a positive change. As I find myself writing these things, it is very clear to me that I believe in Godâ€™s existence. I am able to easily think about him as a majestic figure with a keen eye, a clear conscience, and an open heart, but in order to truly enter into a relationship with him, I personally need a formal religion to accompany my beliefs. Presently I feel most comfortable choosing to be an Episcopalian as that is the religion which I have connected with and enjoyed to the greatest extent, but I need to do a lot more research both externally and internally to determine what choice is best for me.
Costa Rica has been the perfect place for me to undertake a religious journey, a search for understanding, hope, and guidance. Most people in Costa Rica incorporate religion into their daily lives and routines. Each time that I left work to go on a weekend trip, the other employees all expressed their wishes that God would look over us and be sure that we travel safely. Each time that I ride the bus, the driver has a plethora of religious figures, signs, and stickers asking God to look over him as he works. Religion is ingrained in society here. It is unavoidable, visible, and overpowering. Without an escape in sight, the best choice is just to join in. Instead of feeling lost as an outsider, I have decided to use this as an opportunity to learn and to grow. As I travel back to the United States, I am confident that I will take the lessons that I have learned here in Costa Rica and use them to become a better person. By developing an understanding of my relationship to God, my role in a religious setting, and the ways in which religion can enhance my life, I will undoubtedly be able to use this newfound knowledge to serve and to reign in the way that works best for me.
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