I’m a believer. I was raised to believe, so I already had that foundation, but I’ve also, seriously, felt the true presence of God on two separate occasions in my life. Like, I felt Him so deeply that a feeling I’d never known stirred deep inside of me. It was honestly frightening to some degree, but it came with such an overwhelming feeling of peace, and comfort that I wasn’t alone, that I’ve longed for it again in certain instances.
The first time I ever felt it I was with my friend Luke, from high school. If he’s reading this, I’m sure this is news to him! We lost a very dear friend, Dan, our freshman year in college and it was very, very tough for a lot of us to deal with. A few months after Dan died, Luke and I were driving down a street in our hometown and we started talking about Dan. We both started crying so Luke pulled over and we got out and sat on the curb. (Do you remember this, Luke?) I remember sitting there, talking about Dan. Talking about life, death, friends, love. I remember crying. And then I remember, sitting on the curb of Jordan Rd, right where it became “country” at the time – it doesn’t become “country” at all anymore – and suddenly, I felt God. The only way I can describe the way I felt, really, is that for a fleeting moment, I was engulfed in an overwhelming feeling of peace. An unexplainable absolute feeling that things were the way they were supposed to be, even though in our reality, we felt completely the opposite. That feeling didn’t do much to ease my grief, but it did wonders in accepting the existence of a Higher Power.
The second time I felt God, I was in the bathroom at our old house, sitting on the floor in tears, holding what was probably my 20th negative pregnancy test. I don’t need to go into the details of the despair of infertility here, but I’ll just say that I was feeling beaten down. Like I had lost. Like I was being punished. I was so confused, so angry, so sad, so jealous. It was certainly one of the very lowest times in my life. And suddenly…that feeling. That all-encompassing peace that things were the way they were supposed to be. Now, those words don’t offer anyone in difficult situations much comfort, but that’s how I knew it was something much more meaningful. Because the wave of feeling that came over me felt good. At one of the worst points of my life, I had a fleeting moment where I knew, in my heart, that things would be alright.
I don’t know, it’s hard to explain.
The point is, I’m a believer. For many reasons, not just the two listed above. But I’m a believer who doesn’t jive so well with the church. I remember growing up at church, and while it offered a certain security based on routine and tradition, it lacked a lot of what I now know that God is. Love, compassion, generosity, kindness, hope, faith. Honestly, when I think of my experience with church, I think of people being nice, but never really knowing them. I think of going through the motions, of the way you’re “supposed” to believe. I think of a Pastor and Sunday School teachers who were very kind, but that droned on about stories and things that I just couldn’t relate to, no matter how hard I tried.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m grateful that my parents raised us in the church. My parents are incredible people, and everything they have ever done for us has been motivated by their love. I know they were doing what they believed in and I will always respect that. And there were certainly things I liked about church. I thrive on routine to this day, so I took comfort knowing that every Sunday morning we’d be at church and Sunday School. I loved singing in the choir. I don’t have the voice of an angel, but I’ve got heart when I sing, don’t I, Justin? Ha! And the memories I have of church on Christmas Eve can’t be matched. They used to decorate with larger-than-life, floor-to-cathedral-ceiling evergreens, wrapped in white lights and decorated with rich burgundy ribbons. We’d sing Silent Night by candlelight and Christmas truly came alive for me in those moments.
Of course, church is made up of humans, and man oh man, are we flawed. Believers and non-believers, alike. One of the lessons I learned as I was growing up is that a lot of those people who are droning on about how to live like Jesus and follow the Bible, aren’t exactly practicing what they preach. There is so much judgement out there. (Thank you internet, for opening my eyes to even more.) Judgement - the thing that we believers are supposed to leave to God. I don’t like politics and I really don’t like when my name, as a Christian, gets dragged through the mud by extremists on either side – but especially on the far right. I try never to get political, but I do have one thing to say in light of some of the ridiculous headlines lately (Arizona, I'm talking to you.) If you think any human doesn’t deserve equal rights, please, please, please don’t declare it in the name of Christianity. All people should be loved and treated fairly – I’m pretty sure that’s what Jesus would say, anyway.
Now, I'm far from perfect. I judge, too. I think it's in our nature and in our culture and it's hard not to judge sometimes. But I'm a work in progress, and I'm doing my best to become a better person every day of my life.
Ok, I’m getting so far off track here. My brain is a crazy place. Before I really start ranting, I’m going to quit. But I wanted to ask for advice. Because I want to raise my girls with faith. I want to teach them about an all-loving God, about a Higher Power that will bless them a million times over throughout this life. I want them to believe in miracles. I want them to know that when they feel like they’re at the end of their rope, there is always a loving source from which they can draw more strength, more hope, more anything. I want them to learn how vital it is to believe in something, and that it's so important to respect the beliefs of others. And I want to raise them to be good, loving, open-minded, kind, truthful people. Is that so much to ask?
So I am looking for creative ways to do that. Anyone out there that doesn’t do church, but teaches their children about God? I’m open to all and any ideas.