Every Sunday I get they urge to expound on my spiritual beliefs. But I get over it and move on to Monday and the minutia of my everyday life. Yesterday, my oldest was confirmed in the same faith that my great-grandmother, grandmother, mother and myself were confirmed into. She joined the church, reaffirming her baptism, committing to become an adult member of the church, all her own decision.
When I had her baptized in this faith, I was ambivalent. I was doing it mainly out of a sense of tradition and superstition…I wasn’t positive I believed in God, but what if I was wrong. I sure didn’t want my precious little baby to suffer because I wasn’t sure. So, just to be on the safe side, she was baptized. As she grew, so did my faith. My spirituality grew more outside of my religion. I was consistent in getting her to sunday school. I knew I wanted her to have the security that having a religion gives. But I wasn’t attending church. I was following a different spiritual path. I was exactly where I needed to be.
And then we had a series of deaths in the family which shook my faith and eventually destroyed it completely. In an effort to regain inner peace, I started attending what I lovingly called The Bible Banger Church. I was searching for answers and assurance. The religion of my upbringing was very structured and I felt so chaotic I couldn’t find sanctuary in the sweetness of the sameness. So, to the Bible Banger Church we went. I did find comfort there, in the early days. I enjoyed the rawness, the unabashed displays of joy and the message that no matter what Jesus loved us…with conditions….wait…what? Maybe I misunderstood. So, I kept going. The kids enjoyed the sunday school program. They always got candy and they had friends there. The youth group was always doing cool stuff like having dances and going on trips. No doubt there was lots of love there.
But the exclusion-ness of the message didn’t jive with the way I was brought up or what I believed. And my children were being taught a sort of elitist-ness that I could not honestly agree with. After two years of listening and learning, I was done with the Bible Banger Church. I was so very grateful for the experience and the love that I felt there. But the religion I was raised in was all inclusive, excluding no one regardless of sexual orientation, race, or current or former religion. I grew up secure in the idea that all people go to heaven. No matter what they believe. Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, even the Catholics!! everyone goes to heaven. Because God loves all people, even sinners, even people who don’t believe. Everyone goes into the afterlife, into a better place. There is no hell except that which we create for ourselves.
The God I know loves me unconditionally, loves all unconditionally. God is within me and everyone. I need look no further than myself to commune with God. The darkest days of my life were the days when I was certain there was no power greater than myself. When I had no God to speak with. When I was convinced that there was nothing more than me here, alone, with no help, no great savior to step in and alter the course of life. I brought my pain to the groups where I learned a personal spirituality which is different from my religion. One very kind man told me after I shared on the death of my faith that I could borrow his faith until my own returned. And so I did. He also reminded me that God wants us to question, wants us to test because it gives God the opportunity to show us miracles and help us to believe. He told me that the faith that would return to me would be greater than it ever was before.
That man was correct. My faith has returned and it is not the same old faith I had before. It is greater, more powerful, and much more practical. I believe what I have always believed in regard to God, but now I know what I believe to be true. I guess I could name off the ways regaining faith has changed me, but I doubt it’s important for anyone else to hear. I bet you all have stories of faith lost and regained or have reasons that faith in a higher power is not what you believe. It takes all of us with our views and opinions and our love to make the world turn.
I tried to be a Bible Banger, I tried to be an Episcopalian, I tried to be a woman with no religion and none of it worked for me. I disagreed with the Bible Bangers, I wasn’t wealthy enough for the Episcopalians and I was too needy to not have a religion. So, here we are back to being what we have always been and content. I love the hymns and the organ, I love the structure and tradition and predictability, I love the message that God loves everyone and everyone is accepted, just as they are, believers or not. My God speaks to me through people, not just through my pastor or the bible. God is within everyone I see, everyone I hear and the most powerful messages I have ever received have been out of the mouths of the most unlikely sources.
My prayer for my daughter is that she continues to explore other religions and finds what she believes, what give her peace and fills her with faith. I was given that great gift by my mother to explore, unrestricted, any and all other religions, and I eventually came back to my church, with a wider view of life and a beautiful knowledge of why I personally chose to be a part of an organized religion. Let go and Let God….
Now that is not to say that when she opened her gift of a steel cross from the church I didn’t say “That’s to keep the vampires away.” and she replied with “Oh I thought we accepted vampires in our religion!” And then she flashed at it at her little sister (whose dream currently is to become a Cullen) and said “I guess it doesn’t work.” Being funny is her other religion….