A bible study teacher in middle school told me God couldn’t hear my prayers if I sinned, my CCD teacher in ninth grade taught that having mortal sin on your heart when you died meant you would go to Hell, and my 11th grade CCD teacher said that masturbation is a mortal sin because it was sexual activity that wasn’t “open to life.” I had so much shame as a kid thinking that I had to earn God’s love and care in a very particular way. I just stopped praying in between visits to confession, because I figured, “What’s the use? I’m a mortally sinful, horny teenager who masturbates all the time so God definitely can’t hear my prayers.” I would go to confession weekly to get those masturbatory slip ups off my soul and then try to not have “impure thoughts and actions” for fear that if I accidentally died I would go straight to Hell. When I got sober in 2013 I learned through my program of recovery that I could choose my own conception of God. I got to imagine and cultivate a relationship with a God that is love, rather than punishment and abandonment. However, old habits die hard. Even now, sometimes I find myself foregoing prayer and meditation and cutting myself off from Source when I feel ashamed about procrastinating on my spiritual practice, work, or my business. I continue to operate in an old belief that I must be punished if I am not perfect. The antidote? I forgive this thought, I forgive myself for missing my meditation or procrastinating on my goals, and I get back in touch with that ever-present source of love and intuition. Sometimes I also worry that my Higher Power will leave me. What if my conception of God slips away and is replaced by a harsher, sad reality - like if I find out that God doesn’t really exist? I suppose anything is possible, but experience tells me that it’s awfully helpful and practical to have faith in something greater than me. Even if one day I somehow find out God as a being doesn’t exist, I can still believe in love, peace, truth, and service; these are all principles that are greater than me and bring good to my life and others. I was sharing my fear that God will leave me with a friend last weekend, and she said the words, “God is here.” I repeated, “God is here” with tears streaming, a heart open, and spirit willing. I realized that my Higher Power’s got me, no matter how my understanding of her evolves. I ask this power greater than myself for signs and synchronicities, and these real moments of truth, peace, and intuition come when I’m willing to see them. My understanding of God may be ever changing and evolving, but I know that my Higher Power is here, will always be available to hear my prayers even when I’m not a perfect person, and will certainly never send me to Hell.