Wednesday, March 5, 2014

This One's About God

So….God.

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.

6 comments:

  1. Of course religion is based on belief. And each person has to choose what they are willing to believe. Even our own kids. And those beliefs are based on all our experiences and exposures to life. I, like you, was raised going to church every Sunday and attending religious classes. All were helpful and gave me a solid basis to grow up on. It served it's purpose well on many occasions. But not until I hit my 40's did I struggle in life in a way I never have. Combined with being 'unintentionally' surrounded by some very strong believers. In hindsight, I was being led on a path. This path brought me to learn that I grew up on a religion. And again, it did a lot for me. But not until now, did I learn it's about a relationship with God. That's first. And should always be first. Even before your husband or children. And you get out what you put into it. The more, you rely on your faith and trust that someone else is 'handling things', the more amazing life can be. (which is best explained another time, as I have a ton of stories to explain what I mean) But to keep this short, religion/church gives you a basis to understand the whole concept. And yes, church is full of humans, sinners. Many who are finding their way. So they may seem the most hypocritical. But maybe that's why they are there. Looking for change. And someone to help them. You can take as much from mass as you want, or as little. You can make the most of being with a community of believers, all trying to muddle their way through when it's hard. Or not. But I would say, choose a path. Don't be afraid to show that path to your kids and others. So your authenticity shows through in your words and actions. Your kids will learn a ton from watching you too. Being mindful to count your blessings in front of them, explain how you lean on God in the hard times (age appropriately), and explaining what faith means. Even when it means you don't know, but you have this 'feeling' (in my belief that's the Holy Spirit talking). That's the best way to learn. And if you can dive deeper yourself and really solidify what you believe and don't believe (not just believing what makes other's comfortable) - you may get a lot out of it too.

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    1. Lots of good insight, Cynthia. The part that really resonates with me is letting go and trusting that someone else is handling things. When I learned how to do this, during some very dark days, things got easier, better, lighter. I still have to remind myself to do this, and the payoff is unbelievable. I love the saying "Let go and let God." It's a mantra for me. :)

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  2. The outdoors is my church! I'll take the girls hiking any day and point out everything God created :)

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    1. Kim, I love it! You're of the same camp as Dusty (which means you're in great company, obviously.) I remember, like 15 years ago probably, when Dusty and I were talking about God and he said that for him it was clear - Great Out Doors...GOD is everywhere, especially in nature. You can take the girls hiking anytime!! They would LOVE it! Let's do it in May! Xo xo...

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  3. I feel really weird writing you, but last night when I couldn't sleep I was bouncing around on my phone and came across your blog via facebook. It really struck a chord with me and its been on my mind since. It stood out partly because I know the whole 'waiting game' (We have been trying for over two years and have had a lot of tears) and a little about grief (I lost a niece and have another, that means the world to me, require a heart transplant and face extraordinary obstacles). I also believe in the presence of God in everything.

    I am now a public high school teacher. Though I cannot tell any of my students what they should believe I never hide who I am. Generally speaking they appreciate this regardless of who they are, and I garner close relationships with my students because of it. They like my honesty and see that I love to have a real conversation about things that are important in life.
    For some reason I have had a number of students ask me about 'God' or 'Heaven' over the last year. I am not really sure what has been different this year, but a few things have become clear to me. These kids have struggled with addiction, loss, abuse, and even the pitfalls of excess. In all of this a lot of them seem like they are desperately seeking something to believe in. In the last year I have had a few kids at different times come and cry in my room to get away from everyone else. Sometimes they don't have any idea why. On one occasion I came home and told my wife that when/if we ever have kids they need to know how to pray, because I have seen the kids that don't know how and have no idea where to go because Mom and Dad aren't standing beside them.
    I am not going to tell you what to tell your kids to believe in, but give them something to hold on to. And show them how. Give them prayer and a foundation.
    A kid once asked me if I just took on the religion my parents gave to me. I said yeah, I guess I did. BUT … I also took the life they gave me, and just like my life, I shaped it to be my own. Obviously you have a lot of power in your kids life, so . . . well good luck. Hopefully I am as blessed one day. I will say a prayer for your path.

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    1. Thank you so much for reaching out and leaving your thoughts here...it's very difficult to find the right words regarding faith and believing, and my short blog post is just that: a SHORT glimpse into my feelings on the subject.
      I also took on the religion my parents gave to me, but I've also learned about so many religions since my days in Sunday School classes, and you're right - eventually, you shape the religion you've been taught (or that you've chosen, or even that has chosen you) into your own. I count that as one of the many blessings in my life. I know there are people in some places who aren't allowed that incredible freedom.

      Giving my girls a foundation is extremely important to me, and yes, I will give them MINE. And they will learn and live and take what they need and want and form it into their own personal relationship with God.

      Thanks for leaving your comment! I will say also say a prayer for you - wanting for children is indescribably difficult. It's impossible for many to understand, and I'm sorry that you have been dealt that difficult hand. Looking back, I can say that my struggle changed me for the better. I pray your prayers are answered, as well.

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