I’m a mutt when it comes to religion. I suppose I’d say I was a Roman Catholic because that was my first official faith. My parents decided to “leave” their local parish- which meant they no longer attended or paid any money to the church and for a while we were “nothing’.
When I got a little older I started attending Catholic school. During the same year I visited a small Presbyterian church for a Bible study. The sudden introduction of all of that Christianity on my life has certainly left a mark.
I convinced my parents that the folks at the Presbyterian church were wonderful and they soon became members there. I often took my services in that building instead of the Catholic church and I was pleased that I was able to answer my teachers questions each Monday about the services because I found that it didn’t matter which Church I was in, the calendar of readings was generally the same. Imagine how pleased I was with myself to be studying the word in a Protestant church and getting credit for having attended Mass.
Still later my parents attended a Christian Science Church. I went too. I liked that my Sunday school teacher was a man named Mr. Moses. He was a wonderful teacher and I truly admired him. He was one of those people that glowed. In a faith that disregards human frailty or human illness he stood out for me because he had a distinct hump on his back. I sometimes wondered how he could teach about a belief that taught that human imperfections were the result of poor thinking, or poor relationship with Christ while he had a visible hump! Somehow I avoided asking. I probably saw that his mind wasn’t all tied up in his “physical flaw”. To me that was the real mystery.
Also, during this time I was introduced to TM. A lot of people were afraid of meditation back in those days. They thought it was of the devil, or at least they thought it was from a religion that wasn’t normal for those of us in the West! Eastern religions were a little scary for dyed in the wool Christians. Afterall, look how their introduction has subverted Christianity!
I’m sorry I’m laughing about it. I wasn’t really talking about subverting Christianity as a whole, I was talking about how it may have subverted my own personal walk.
When I got older I married a Methodist. He had no interest in exploring his faith. He was what he was and he was hoping I’d join him and our children would be what he was. ( That I did.)
My new church was very open to people like me. I was filled with such different takes on some of the stories in the Old and New Testaments that I think I was given more credit than I deserved in my new church. I was allowed to become a Lay Speaker but all I really had was a lot of personal questions about the meaning of faith. I’d spend serious time looking for answers and that appeared to my new friends as a genuine love of God and their faith. I’m sorry that that wasn’t what was going on for me because I’m afraid I let quite a few people down when I couldn’t honestly preach Salvation to them. I needed more learning myself.
To make a long story short, I still have a yearning to experience the sacred and they mystical and the meaningful in my life. But I’ve taken to looking in a very quiet way. The bad news is I have forgotten about my own children. I haven’t been raising them up with a strong connection to any faith. I took it for granted that they’d know how to handle their own relationship with religion. I imagined our traditions would strengthen them. It turns out I was both wrong and right.
In a deep conversation about faith with one of my children my child started crying. It seems they are living in a community with people that trumpet their positions on faith. They live in a community that teaches that if you don’t go to church you go to Hell. Through my neglect, they have accepted that they are almost “orphans” when it comes to seeing a supernatural being as a loving father.
According to Christian teaching that means I’m to tie a millstone around my neck and toss myself in the deepest part of the ocean! I have inadvertently hurt some of “the least of these”. I’ve come all this way in faith, only to screw up the bond between my own kids and God. But I don’t think I’m going to pitch myself in the ocean just yet. Because I know what grace is. I know that even when I’ve done everything possible to sully or to tear apart my children’s relationship to their faith I know that as long as I”m not dead, I can get a clue and I have a chance to try to rebuild what I’ve messed up. I believe in the depths of my being that God honors trying. ( I could be absolutely wrong!)
So lately, I’ve begun praying a lot. I’m not petitioning God for favors. I’m just spending a lot of my waking days repeating childhood prayers. Prayer has taken place of a walking mantra.
I’d like to be honest and say all this prayer hasn’t lifted me up wholly. I’ve had some powerful anxiety even while focusing on prayer. I am not one of those people who will fill anyone’s heads with visions of golden gates and pearlized harps attended by flying musicians. For me prayer is concentrated thought, and it isn’t a passport to Heaven. As I said in my childhood when I first learned to pray, my reason for praying is to acknowledge God’s kingdom here on Earth as it is in Heaven. Don’t bother asking me what that means for truly it’s beyond me!
I still want mystery. I want beauty. I want peace. I want a feeling of God’s presence in my life. I feel a little silly talking about it here, because it’s like I’m advertising how NOT to find God. But a still small voice is insisting that I tell my story. And I thought I can’t write about this, because it will make me look bad. And the feeling that was informing my plan to write all of this seemed to acknowledge my fears. It was as if I heard ” Ayup, you might look stupid alright.”
On the other hand, I might be a tiny candle burning in a dark way. Maybe my mistakes will show others what to watch out for.
I just imagined I heard once again ” Ayup, you might look stupid alright.”