A few months ago I attended a mosque for the first time. It was after the New Zealand shootings and I wanted to show solidarity with my Muslim brothers and sisters.
I was also scared.
It was intimidating to go to a different worship service. I’ve grown up Christian and I’ve gone to many different churches. But I’ve never gone to a synagogue or a temple or an Islamic center.
I was nervous to tell people I was going, too. Nervous they would think I was turning my back on my own faith. Nervous they would think I was going to be converted or to try to convert others.
I just wanted to learn.
I wanted to see faith from someone else’s perspective. In a country where so many Muslims often feel out of place and isolated, I wanted to be the one who felt uncomfortable, who felt awkward or stared at.
Our faith doesn’t have to be what drives us apart.
Instead, I was welcomed. People looked at me, yes. But they smiled. They answered questions I had. They told me they were glad I came and asked for my name.
The imam spoke to everyone about preparing their hearts for Ramadan, about focusing on God, about fasting and praying to get ready for a season of renewal. It was the week before Good Friday, and his message reminded me of so many Lenten sermons I’ve heard through the years about focusing ourselves on God, preparing our hearts for that holy cry of Easter.
I can spend a lot of time pointing out all the ways my faith is different from Islam or Judaism or any other religion. I can do it within my own faith, too, picking apart Lutherans versus Methodists or Catholics versus Protestants.
I can learn about someone else’s beliefs without taking them as my own. I can engage in a conversation for the purpose of knowing their heart, not changing it.
I can hold my faith and theirs in the same space and there is room enough for both.
We spent the month of Ramadan sharing stories on Instagram from our friends Saadia and Ihsan as their families walked through the Islamic holy month. They shared about fasting and about family, about service projects and community dinners.
I don’t celebrate Ramadan. To be honest, I probably understand very little about it. But I can appreciate the season of spirituality for my friends. I can wish them Eid Mubarak without worrying that it will compromise my own faith or my own relationship with God. I can learn from their examples of faith, of generosity, of community.
I can look up at that hook of new moon, that pale slip of light marking the end of Ramadan, and find a world expansive for us both, for us all.