I’ve been thinking on this post for a couple of weeks. I spent most of tonight reading something that prompted me to go ahead, be brave, and get it out.
I grew up in a very staunchly fundamentalist Christian family. I can remember asking our pastor who Jesus’ real mother was if God was his father–and well–you know, I knew where babies came from. Wait, wait…let me go back. This was early 1980-something, and Madonna was the Thing with a capital T. And she was singing all over the radio about being a virgin. I asked my daddy what a virgin was, and he very honestly told me that a virgin was a girl who had never had sex.
And Mary was a virgin, right?
So anyway, you can see my confusion.
I wasn’t given a satisfactory answer, at church or at home. And my questioning never stopped.
If prayer works, why was my family such a mess? If prayer works, why did everything hurt all the time?
So I questioned, and I questioned, and when I was a teenager and a young adult I searched. I was baptized once and took catechism classes (besides having water poured on my head as a baby.) I guess that makes me officially Episcopalian (from birth), Catholic (by virtue of being a curious teenager), and Mormon in an effort to save a failing marriage. I also was the Jehovah’s Witnesses favorite stop. For a solid year my first husband and I hosted a father and son for dinner every Saturday so they could share their little magazines and stories with us. (I never could make myself give up my birthday though…)
About the time that Mormon thing failed, and took my marriage with it, my questions got more serious. Maybe because about this time my sister turned to God when she gave up drugs. Maybe because my mother had just died, in the middle of my Mormon thing, and my aunt had pulled me away 15 minutes before she was gone to demand I tell my mom I was going to be a Christian again. Maybe because it was becoming more and more obvious that my sweet, beautiful boy wasn’t like other kids.
I don’t know.
I do know that about that time, I stopped believing. I remember being really afraid. I’d grown up being told over and over that salvation depended on believing. It didn’t leave any room for questioning. Perhaps why all my own searching had been done in the parameters of Christianity. My poor sister was so sure that I was going to hell, she started sending Bibles to my kids, who were too small to read, so that I wouldn’t take them with me.
Did God really cause billions of people to be born, only to have them perish for following the traditions and faith of their cultures, obeying their parents? How easy is it to have absolute faith in the religion you were born to? What if the billion or so Hindu or Buddists are right? What if the Pagan’s were right long before Christianity was even a glimmer of a dream?
I never stopped believing that there is something bigger than me. I did flirt for about five minutes with atheism, but I couldn’t get my heart to stop knowing that there are things I don’t know.
And that’s the point. There are things I don’t know. There are things the most believing Christian doesn’t know. Things that the Jews, the Buddists, the Atheists, the Hindus, and everyone in between just doesn’t know.
In my life, Christianity hasn’t been plesant or nice. It hasn’t ever felt safe. The people in my life who claim the most faith, have hurt me the hardest. I can’t get behind something that doesn’t leave room for safe question asking. I know that isn’t everyone’s experience. But it is mine. It is mine.
I found the Unitarian Church when I was grieving my mother and my marriage. I was tired, overwhelmed with a mysteriously sick kid, another baby who needed me, and a life that was pulling me in 1000 directions at once. I found peace in that place where people were respectful and tolerant of different belief systems. I knew I was home.
That was immediately followed by my mailbox being stuffed with pamphlets from my sister on why the UU church isn’t Christian.
But that’s okay.
I need to be able to question.
My sister has heart palpitations when we discuss this, because anything that causes her to question makes her think she’s angering her God.
My aunt disowned me because I wouldn’t lie to my mother on her death bed. She disowned 1/3 of her dead sister’s, her only sister’s, children and 1/2 of her grandchildren. I’ve only seen her once since, when my brother got married. I would guess she doesn’t even know that Ruby was born. She hasn’t seen Adrienne or Nick in 13 years. In the name of God.
I don’t think that God, or the Universe, or Spirit, or whoever it is that fills my heart with joy when I’m with my children or when I look up and see 10,000,000 stars like a blanket over our home, or when I think of all the little things that fell right into place for me to meet a man I never should have and then marry him–I don’t think that being is vengeful. I don’t think that being is hateful, or grudge-holding–I think that being understands and encourages questions. I think that being welcomes them.
I think that being is not what the Christian church has come to mean to so many around me. The cliquish women who keep out anyone who thinks or believes differently. The conservatives who praise God one day and would deny children health care the other six. The people who use their ‘faith’ like a weapon.
I can’t believe that is what God is about.
I spent all night reading this blog.
That is God. To me that is God. That is the being, God or whoever, whatever–in that girl’s face. God is in doing what you can, and then finding the gumption to do more. And then more. God is in opening your heart wide wide wide without knowing that it will be taken care of.
God is in relaxing and letting that being guide you to the life you’re supposed to lead, to the people you’re supposed to touch, to the places you’re supposed to be. God is being happy with enough, and happy to share the rest. God is in embracing your talents and trusting that they were given to you for a reason.
When I made spirituality one of my goals for this year, I wasn’t sure what I was doing. Tonight I realized that what this whole year about is learning how to stop fighting that spirit, that being, and start letting it lead me where I am supposed to go.
Thank you, Katie. You’re half my age (almost), but I still want to be you when I grow up.