For almost fifteen years, I wore a scarf to signify my Muslim faith.  But, truth be told, I never found God wearing a scarf.  I never felt closer to God because I wore it.  Nor was I ever convinced that it was required.  I think I did it because, as a blonde-haired blue eyed American, I wanted to be “identified” as a Muslim.  I wanted to be a part of a wider community.

However, over the years this “identification” has lost its appeal.  I became increasingly disillusioned over those in my faith who judged a person’s relationship with God based on outward appearance instead of what was in the heart.   I didn’t feel I should be responsible for men’s inability to keep their own urges under control.  I questioned those who judged others based on outward reflections of religiousity and rigid conformity to rules devoid of compassion. This religion was more than just a piece of cloth.  To me, it was about compassion and kindness to all members of humanity.  It was about humility and gratitude – not just conformity to rules without any real connection to the divine.

This past year especially was a year of reflection to me.  Turning fifty does that to you.  I became more concerned with my personal relationship to God than mere conformity.  This is the relationship I needed to develop.    I knew in doing so that I needed to be authentically me – and so I removed the scarf.  I took it off it because it wasn’t authentic.  I took it off because I felt stifled by it and didn’t want any resentment from it to keep me from God.  I took it because I refused to let myself or others be judged on an insignificant matter such as outward appearance.  I took it off because I knew that anyone who judged me by its removal was far from God.

An amazing thing happened.  I feel closer to God now than any other time in my life.  God let me back to consistent and regular prayer through a kind kindred soul who needed my prayers.  Now, I feel His presence everywhere.  I feel His presence in those quiet moments after prayer when the voices in my head have been silenced.  I feel His presence when answers to my prayers seem to come from thin air.   I am reminded of Him when I recognize signs in my life of his wondrous grace and generosity.  Most importantly, in the love I have for others, I am continually reminded of His love for me.