Sunday, March 29, 2009
I don't go to church. I never have. I was raised in a secular household by a woman who was raised Catholic, rejected it wholly, and had me baptised in the Episcopal church as a nod to tradition rather than a statement of and commitment to faith. I don't know if my birth father wanted me baptised, but I do know both grandmothers would have wanted it done. By the time my brother came along, though, there was a new dad and she didn't go through the motions. He was never baptised...I don't know how his father (my dad) felt about it. I've never asked. As for me, I can't lie to God, so I've never baptized my children in this church or that. I know that is shocking to a lot of you, but truly it is okay.
Here is the thing. Growing up in a secular household, I wasn't part of a church tradition, but I was always taught to listen, to hear the divine guidance I was being given. I was always allowed to tag along with friends to Vacation Bible School or other open church functions. I've also been to Jewish temples and Indian naming ceremonies. I wasn't taught that I needed to go to church to hear the word of God, but that the word of God was there for me every day. To me, churches are man-made institutions that are often elitist and divisive rather than inclusive and uplifting. When women greet you with "Oh, so what church do you attend?" in the same tone that used to be reserved for "What side of the tracks do you live on?" I think churches have a problem. Church should be a place where you can learn, question, and grow, not a club that helps determine social status. I don't want or need to feel superior to my neighbor, nor is that what I think God wants of us.
Again, maybe because I've never been a church member, it is all so clear ot me, but there are amazing people who attend all different kinds of places of worship, as well as amazing people who attend no place of worship. On the flip side, I've seen many, many not-so-nice people explain away their behavior by claiming affiliation with this faith or that and telling me they are saved no matter what. We used to refer to these people as "Sunday Christians". Are you familiar with the phrase? Do people not believe that God know what is in your heart, regardless of what you say?
Many, many people are confused by my failure to go to or belong to a church...they say it doesn't match my lifestyle, my morals, or my values. One dear friend even looked at me with a slightly confused look and admiringly told me I was a Proverbs 31 wife. (I'll confess now that it has been many years, dear friend, I had no idea what you meant and I went to learn about it after our conversation and I was so complimented by your assessment of me!)
My sister jokes that I like the word journey as of describing life, but she's right, I do. Each of us has a unique journeythat we're on and, if you believe that God is omnipotent, each journey is not a mistake or a deviation from his plan, but rather a fulfillment of his plan. Another dear friend sat with me one night and told me she found comfort in her own faith as she's thought of me. Why? Because she understood that the journey I was on was part of Jesus' plan and that she was to have faith in the outcome. It was the first time I'd felt a kindred spirit...I felt blessed by her understanding that I was doing my very best each day to live according to the plan for me. You see, she understood I have a deep and abiding faith and a clear recognition that I have been blessed in my life. I have gratitude in my heart and soul. No, I might not be able to quote chapter and verse from the Bible, but that doesn't mean I don't study, learn, think and pray.
So, why this full disclosure post? I mean why "come out" to the world about my non-church going ways? Don't I worry about what some of my readers will think. In a word: Yes. But, I think my journey is evolving yet again and I find it compelling and powerful that the women I've connected to in the bloggy world are either pastor's wives or devout church go-ers. Then, I recently discovered that a girl I went to Jr. High with is a famous Christian writer, very well published. I just saw a face at the library and recognized it immediately as the girl I knew all those years ago, sent an email and there you have it, another sign. All of these things point me in a new direction. I feel my journey shifting and changing...getting broader. Just as I don't think church-goers should make sweeping generalizations about those of us who don't attend services, I need to stop making sweeping generalizations about churches...too many wonderful people I know are devoted to their churches as places to reinforce their faith. My faith isn't changing, but maybe I'm learning a new way to explore it.
I know what I believe and who I believe in and I have a peaceful heart, but that doesn't mean that my journey is supposed to stop here.