Disclaimer: This post is very personal and is about religion. I have no desire to offend anyone, but this is about my thoughts, experiences, and beliefs. If you don’t want to read about my personal beliefs and efforts to define my faith, go ahead and stop reading now. I won’t be offended
Almost two months ago, I said a prayer. I dropped down on my knees and said a desperate, clumsy, poorly executed prayer. It was the first prayer I had said in a looong time, probably eight, nine years or so (yes, years). I prayed for something I wanted very badly. Unfortunately, in this particular case, things didn’t turn out the way I hoped. My prayer wasn’t answered.
But um, hello? I prayed.
It felt kind of weird. I was awkward and totally out of practice. But I didn’t really care. I felt a need to pray, and I did it.
This is kind of strange. Sort of monumental even, because for the past eight years or so, I haven’t really been sure that I even believe in God. I know. Hold the presses. I’ve never gone here before.
I used to believe in God. I was raised Christian. I didn’t go to church a lot, but I believed in God, and that Jesus was his son who was born in a manger to a virgin, and all that. I believed it all.
Until I didn’t.
I don’t know exactly when I stopped believing. As I mentioned, it was around eight or nine years ago. As I think about it, it probably began during the time leading up to the 2004 election. Around the time that I began noticing so much hatred flowing from people who supposedly were acting in the name of God and Christianity. I saw and heard so much that didn’t sit well with me. So much ugliness. People who were trying to hurt and control and limit other people in the name of Christianity. Trying to control other people’s bodies, families, marriages. Saying, “You can’t have what I have because you’re different, and God doesn’t approve of you, and the Bible says you’re wrong, and by the way, you’re going to Hell too.” I could not get on board with that. I could not find a way to reconcile my beliefs and my sense of what is right and decent with this sort of Christianity. I started thinking hard and really questioning.
At some point I started reading atheist books and listening to atheist recordings. I never outwardly identified myself as an atheist, but for a while, I probably was. I was bitter. I scorned Christianity. I felt I was above that hateful, holier-than-thou way of being.
This didn’t really last too long, and then I realized I was kind of being “holier-than-thou” myself. I remembered that not all people who are of the Christian faith are bigoted and hateful. In fact, most are the opposite.
However, I found that once I had started down the road to questioning and disbelieving, it was hard to go back. I spent several years not really thinking too much about religion except to be a bit annoyed whenever I felt someone was trying to “push” theirs on me. I truly no longer scorn Christian beliefs and haven’t for a long time, but I’m not sure I believe in them anymore either.
The past year has brought some experiences that have shaken me, while at the same time bringing me a bit of clarity. A few particular instances stand out as relevant to my faith, or lack thereof, or attempts to figure out my stance on all this…
First was my husband’s Grandmother’s funeral (you can read more about that here). It was sort of a game changer for me. I will never forget standing in that small-town Catholic church, looking around as everyone sang the songs and went through the motions of the service, and seeing so much unity in their experience and reverence for the ritual. Probably the entire front half of the church was filled with my husband’s family, all Catholics, who were totally in sync with each other as they went through the mass. At one point, I looked back during the “Hallelujah” song (I don’t know what it’s called) and I was captivated by the uplifted faces, closed eyes, and peaceful looks I saw on every face of the members of my husband’s family. It really struck a chord in me. I felt something in my Mama Heart longing for that sense of ritual and community for my girls. I wanted that for them. And maybe a little bit for myself too.
After that, I really considered starting to take my girls to church. I’ve thought about it a lot since then in fact. But I felt like it wouldn’t be right to take them when I wasn’t even sure of my belief in God. How could I take them to a Catholic church with such doubt and disbelief in my own mind? It felt dishonest.
Then, the second event occurred. In January, I prayed. And though my prayer was not answered the way I wanted it to be, it felt good to do it.
Then something else shook my world and Tuesday, Wednesday, and today, I prayed some more. I prayed harder than I have ever prayed for anything in my life. And at least part of my prayer was answered. (BTW, I’m sorry if I’m kind of committing a “Vague-booking”-like offense here, I’m just not ready to go there and write what the prayers have been about. So again, let me just stress, I Prayed, y’all!).
I’m not saying that I think prayers have to be answered in order to “prove” that there is a God. There is no way to prove God’s existence, that’s why they call belief in Him faith. Lately, there’s this little voice deep, deep down in my soul telling me that maybe I ought to have some. Faith, I mean. And really, since becoming a mother, it is harder for me to not have faith. How can I not believe in something higher when I look at the beauty and perfection of my children?
And come to think of it, how can I not believe in God when I think about how I met my husband, four months after experiencing a devastating break up, which at the time I thought was the worst thing that could ever happen to me and I now see as a true blessing?
Or how about this: How can I not believe in Him when two days ago Baby Sis pulled my entire full mug of coffee over into this situation in our playroom (the coffee was on the wooden crate next to the box of tissues)?
And because that white lid was there in the green tub (in the wrong place I might add, and since I’m so compulsive about putting toys where they belong, if I had noticed this during clean up the night before, I would have put it in its place), hardly any of the coffee spilled into this tub of blocks (many of which are cardboard):
If it had, it would have been an ugly clean up. As it was, I mostly just had to dump coffee out of the lid and wipe up the floor. AND, though the lid was not on all the way on the tin of my husband’s Grandmother’s hats (white tin in pic above) and there was coffee spilled on the lid, not a drop went into the tin. That’s right. Not one of my girls’ Great-Grandmother’s hats was ruined. Not one even got a drop of coffee on it. How’s that for Divine intervention? Maybe that was God’s way of saying, “C’mon. Are you still not sure about me?? Really? Look how much work I just saved you here.” Just kidding about this one. I think.
Really, I’m not sure what to think of all this. The fact is, I’m still not sure what I believe.
I do know that I don’t believe that people don’t get to Heaven if they don’t believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Heck, a few months ago I didn’t even believe in Heaven. Now? I’m not sure.
I know that I don’t believe that people shouldn’t be allowed to get married just because they are gay. (And saying that gay people should be able to have civil unions but just not call them marriages is B.S. too. That’s like the whole “separate but equal” argument back in the days of racial segregation. And what if a gay person has strong religious beliefs and wants to get married in a church? Any given church can say that they will not marry gay people, but the government should not be making laws to say this is illegal because of some people’s religious beliefs, in my humble opinion.)
I think I do believe in God. The rest of it? I can’t really say at this point. Maybe I sort of believe something like this way of describing it.
As I continue to try to figure out my beliefs, I don’t know where the road will lead me.
I’m gradually finding my faith. At some point, maybe I’ll just have to take a leap of faith and see where I land.