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Finding a Better Me: The Transformative Potential of Religion

Shylet Chabata | Zimbabwe


Across many societies and communities, people tend to conclude that religion is a vehicle of oppression. Take one look at history and you’ll find that this conclusion has rung true, time and time again.


History is full of examples where religion has been used to subject people to all kinds of horrors: the pain of the inquisitions, the injustices of the Crusader wars, the justification of slavery using scripture, the colonization of free nations, upholding of misogyny and the list goes on. Unfortunately, these examples only scratch the surface of the damage that wicked men have done in wielding religion as a weapon instead of a tool of peace and love that it was meant to be.


These religious atrocities were done by men devoid of righteousness and the transformative power of God’s spirit; men who were performing religion instead of living a life fully committed to God. The foundation of the Christian religion is the transformation of the human being, freeing them from their unrighteous character to a righteous character. When untransformed people lead a religious organisation, any power associated with the organisation is then misused. Innocent people suffer and are oppressed.


But, religion can be beautiful and freeing, as it has been for me during the highest highs and lowest lows of my life. My personal spiritual experience has been with the Christian religion. I have never viewed my experience through the traditional lens of a religion with a list of do's and dont's but a daily walk with my ‘Heavenly’ Father.

Growing up I was a shy, withdrawn child and I did not see myself as anyone of importance. I struggled with finding a direction for my life and sometimes felt invisible.

Females in their younger years tend to congregate in groups. I do not do well in groups. My friendships and relationships are based on a one on one level. As I wasn't able to make a mark in these groupings I often felt invisible and unable to fit in.


But it is at church that I soon realized that I didn't need to fit in. I could be myself and 'play alone'. I learnt that as a Christian I didn't need to follow the crowd or try to be cool. I was already 'cool' because God made me just the way I was, with the personality I had and He loved me as I was.


It also took a while for me to embrace my gift in writing. From school, my teachers always encouraged me but I did not see how my writing could be transferred to the 'real world' away from school. At church, one of my mentors recognised my talent in writing and asked me to help my fellow youths to write speeches for a debate competition. Three of the five students I helped to write speeches advanced to the next stage of the competition. I realised the blessing of my writing ability and that it had a real life use.

I always knew I wanted to write and I constantly wrote articles, short stories that I would subsequently hide and store in notebooks deep in my wardrobe gathering cobwebs. It took the realisation that God has endowed me with a unique voice to give me the courage and confidence to write and allow that voice to be heard.


My introverted nature makes me slow down and observe the world around me. Seeing people as they go through life with its surprising experiences and outcomes. Growing up in a country, Zimbabwe, in the midst of an economic and political crisis, I now have unique insight in the nature of human perseverance in meeting challenging situations.

Being a Christian, in a world whereby being religious is seen as being weak, I have unique voice in why I resolved to walk a path of faith and in fostering tolerance for opposing beliefs. I am one of a kind and I have something to offer the world and there are stories and viewpoints that will only be known to the wider world, only if I tell them. I now know that I was created for a purpose and it is my pleasure to fulfil that purpose.

It was because of my discovery of the love of God that I came to an understanding of who I am in God’s eyes. I came to know that God sees me as a unique individual whom he loves and saved from the entrapping of sin.


He endowed me with special skills and gifts that, combined with my unique personality, make me me. A beautiful, talented, and loving individual. I hold a special place in his kingdom. From being shy and withdrawn, I have become more confident in my own skin.

Life has battered me with its ups and downs. When I lost my mother during the Covid pandemic, my heart was broken, ripped apart and my world upended. However, it is the blessed hope that one day at the end of this world, the dead shall rise again that I have been able to find a way to deal with the grief. It is God's promises and the knowledge that God is with me despite any situation that I may meet that have kept me afloat.

In my faith, we believe that the dead are in a state of sleep and know nothing of what happens on this world as they rest. The righteous people who have died will only awaken at the end of this imperfect world to go to a perfect heaven.


In light of this, I have decided to live my life in such a way that when the resurrection happens, my mother can study how I lived my life and be proud of the woman she raised. This hope may be foolish to many, but I hold it close to my heart as it has been my lifeline and it is only this hope that has saved me from being stuck in a muddy bog of depression. It is on the Lord's promise that I base my hope. Believing in faith that his promises are true and sure always.


Becoming a mother, I was scared of my ability to impart the right values to my children. Raising children within the framework of my spiritual experience has been freeing for me. Instead of following a list of societal dos and don’ts, I realised that just as I love having a relationship and connection with my heavenly Father, that is the same relationship I want for my children. A relationship based on love and connection. I am a better parent because of my spiritual journey. I have learnt to parent my children on the foundation of respect knowing that they are also God’s children just as much as I am a child of God.


The same lessons are extended to my interactions with my fellow citizens, treating people the same way I would also want to be treated. I want to be treated with kindness and respect. These are the same courtesies I extend to others.


I have found a better me as I have grown spiritually. A more confident, loving, and mindful woman. It is within the framework of the church that I discovered my voice, and I am now able to take that voice beyond the confines of church fellowship.


The church has long been viewed as an obstacle for women empowerment. There are many examples of misogyny and patriarchal tendencies. Only men leading in positions of power, women not allowed near the altar, preaching that all women are Jezebels (deceptive and untrustworthy) and women not allowed to speak in church.


I have been blessed that my spiritual home, though not perfect, has made some progress in ridding itself of its patriarchal tendencies. One of the more celebrated founding members of my church in the 1800s was a woman and the sermons and writings of Ellen G. White are cherished to the present day. Every Sabbath, on pulpits around the world women will be preaching and fulfilling their purpose within the church.


It is within the church that I have found female mentors that have helped me in my growth journey. It may be men hogging the limelight, but it is the women who have held hands together in sisterhood and held the church together, building a new generation who will take the gospel of a risen Saviour forward.


It may sound like a cliché but without my faith and spiritual journey which started in my teen years I do not think I would have become the person I am today. I am better for having a spiritual walk with God.


Shylet is a freelance writer and stay-at-home mum. She is passionate about writing stories from an emotional and educative perspective. Contact her at shychabata@gmail.com


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