Tuesday, November 25, 2008

FAITH + 1

When I was a child, attending church wasn’t part of my family’s weekly routine, nor was I raised with any kind of preconceived religious ideals. However, being that I experienced adolescence before our society impressed upon us all the notion that we must adhere to political correctness, I was well aware of the Christmas story and the Garden of Eden. That was the extent of my exposure.

Shortly before turning 16, I decided to tag along with some friends to a local youth group, and from there made the quick trek down a slippery slope. Before long, I was involved with youth group, church and summer camp. While I feel that my time invested in church-based activities gave me a fantastic moral foundation through some crucial years of my life, I carry much regret also. Expectations of others exceeded the reality I was capable of, and I soon found myself compromising who I was for the sake of who others wanted me to be.

It’s been, quite literally, years since I’ve set foot in a church.


Photo: Joel Bedford on Flickr

That is not to say that I’ve lost my faith. Quite the opposite, actually. I still – and always have – believed in God, and that’s just what works for me. In my mind, however, “church” and “faith” are two completely separate entities. While I have no desire to ever again be part of an establishment such as a church, I find myself desiring to reconnect with my spritiuality more as I get older.

What I think about the Bible remains to be seen (Roman scholars, anyone?), and I don’t consider prayer as a means of asking for everything I want. In reconnecting with my spirituality – which I believe to be a crucial part of whole emotional health (whatever form that may take for you) – I find myself being more realistic. I don’t petition to God with a laundry list of things I’d like Him to “fix” for me, nor do I treat Him as a genie to grant my wishes. Instead, it’s as simple as finding a bit of understanding and asking for a measure of grace and sufficiency in all things I experience.

That gives me a greater sense of peace than I’ve discovered in a very long time.

9 Comments
Amber

I have a very strong opinion on this topic, and I’m glad you wrote about it today.
I was raised in a Christian (not Catholic) home and we were very heavily involved in all things “churchy”. My parents taught Sunday school, led youth groups, and held weekly bible studies. I had a very strong faith from a very early age, but part of that stemmed from observing and taking part in the the aforementioned activities for as long as I can remember, and going through a grieving process as a child when my sister died when I was 4 (she was 16). To see the grace of God fall firsthand upon my family, and to feel the peace that was given to us at that time became the foundation of my Faith. It would be some time before I understood it all, but I got the message loud and clear, even as a child. God was there for us.
Through my teen years and as a young adult, I remained active in an Alliance church. I was baptized at the age of 16 and went on a mission to Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam to observe the work that Christian Missionaries do overseas. What an eye opener that was. Once again my eyes were open to God’s grace and how he provides for those that believe. I saw some terrible, horrible things there, but I saw a whole lot of beauty too..especially in remote villages where they scarcely had food or water and lived in simple housing but their eyes held such joy because they knew God.
Then for some reason, a couple of years later I felt that I was missing out on being a normal young adult and began to go out and party with some of my co-workers and high school buddies. I ignored my Faith for many years even though on some level I knew it would never go away..it was a part of who I am.. so why was I pretending I was one thing when in fact I was another.?. Faith rekindled.
As an adult I’ve checked out a number of different churches over the years and didn’t seem to mesh with any one. So I haven’t been to church in a very long time. But that doesn’t mean a thing to me. Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship with God so I don’t feel the need to attend any particular institution.
I think churches are over-rated and more often than not they end up sending young believers out the door overwhelmed and discouraged that they might never live up to the expectations the church places on them. On the other hand, they can be a great way to meet like minded individuals that help you to grow in your Faith. Different people have different needs that way.
One thing I think people fail to take into consideration is that God is very much like a parent. His love in unconditional. He is patient, & kind and would very much like to have relationships with all of us. He always answers prayer, BUT like any good parent, knows when to answer yes, when to answer no, and will often answer “wait”. Only he knows the big scheme of things going on so take his answer, whatever it may be, and watch how it unfolds. Everything for a reason, and though it may even take years to understand, if you stand back and piece it together it will make perfect sense.
It really amazes me that people can take a look at the state of the world today and say there is no God, or where is God when we need him most? He’s been right where we left him…on our back burners.
This sums it up quite nicely.
For years we’ve been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?
Just my two ..errr ten cents.:-)
{:-0 Sorry it’s so long, but I warned you of my strong opinion.}

Bethany

Thanks for sharing Keira. I too am greatly disapointed in churches. Finally understanding that church is just a group of average people with different personalities trying to get a long has helped me to tollerate much of the annoying bits. Having said that, there are for sure some churches who’s leaders are not commited to helping people learn the truth, and are more focused on imposing their own personal ideals and opinions on the listeners. This is cannot deal with… grrrr!

Many people in my family (including myself) haveat one time tried to keep their spiritual selves in tune outside of going to church. Most of the time they all end up going again (most of the time switching to something that’s more “them”) and confessing that a community of people who support each other in a common belief is a good thing.

I’m also a firm believer that people will have realistic expectations of us when we are open about who we are, what we stand for, and how much we are willing to commit to. I have made this a point in the church a go to now and it seems to be working :)

I really appreciate your honesty here on Keira-Anne dot com :) I’m sure I’m not the only one!

Duane Storey

@Amber

First, I think religion is a very personal experience, and what you believe in is entirely up to you. That being said, you’re paragraph above plays both sides at the same time. First, you say that his love (intentional lowercase) is unconditional, and that he’s been here all along. Then you seem to make excuses (pushing him out of schools and what-not) for why he hasn’t been around as much as he should be. I’m curious what part of the world you see that indicates to you that there’s a higher power influencing and making things better? Global warming? The death of innocent people in the Middle East? The loved ones who are stripped of their family due to cancer? The poverty in Africa? The droughts and famines? You believe all of this suffering is part of some big master plan of his? If so, he’s got one heck of a sense of humour. Maybe he really is there somewhere, but he certainly has never been there in my life, despite having attended church and sunday school for the better part of my childhood.

Faith is, in my opinion at least, not possible to reconcile with logic, nor do I think it should be. I’m spiritual at some level, but I think trying to explain religion or faith using logical methods is simply not possible, or required.

Keira-Anne

I’m glad you differentiated that, Duane. While I believe in God and consider myself connected to my personal spirituality, by no means do I consider myself to be religious.

Amber

@ Duane
I will definitely agree that religion is ultra personal in nature. Two people can have the exact same belief system and still disagree on many levels. So I can only share what I believe with the knowledge that many can and probably will disagree.
His love is unconditional….and he is and has been here all along. My statement pertains only to how quickly people chime in with the “Where is he?” or “Why doesn’t he fix it?” as soon as things start falling apart, when we’ve been telling him he’s not welcome for eons…Personally, if I built my kids a wicked awesome tree house and they bashed the crap out of it with baseball bats and took all the nails out just for fun, would I come running to put it back together for them?? I certainly would not. . He has not been M.I.A in my life even once. Suffering was never part of his plan for us. For that, thank Eve, or better yet, the serpent in the garden that gave her the apple in the first place. Global warming, the death of innocent people in the Middle East..Loss of life due to plagues of illness, drought & famine. These things were all foretold in the Bible and only came to be because of Mans wicked ways….His master plan was simple. Create an amazing planet with everything people could ever want or need and in return, people will honor & respect him and forge meaningful relationships with him. He was even so kind as to give the human species “Free Will” so we would not be like slaves or robots, but could CHOOSE to live in accordance to his master plan. That is where it we failed. A little temptation, a little greed, and bang. The beginnings of the human condition.
Faith defies all logic, you are right about that.. but if you cannot apply some sort of logic in the explanation of the Faith people are bound to think you’re nuts…which I’m sure plenty DO think about me. It’s not really their judgment I’m concerned about though, is it?
Each to their own though. I’ll be the first one to say we can agree to disagree.

nancy (aka money coach)

From time to time, I do “church by twitter”. Seriously – I’ll do a call out for links to posts my followers have found meaningful, be they buddhist, christian, jewish, muslim. Then I’ll spend the hour reading them and thinking about them. My own faith is christian, and many sundays I attend a radical anglican church in the dtes. For me, it is a place of quiet and transcendence but I know that’s not what a lot of people have experienced in church. Another web 2.0 experience I *love* is the podcast “pray as you go”. Lovely, contemplative music, then a brief reading, and a few completely non-judgemental, but deeply thoughtful, questions to ponder. I always feel centered and calm and encouraged after.

nancy (aka money coach)

ps – I should say – in my twitter call-outs I also welcome readings by atheists.

Jen

I think whether God exists is irrelevant. If you want to feel ‘he’ had a hand in something good, in your life then he did. That is the beauty about attributing actions and reactions to something that is not tangible. The definitions and plan are not God’s they are yours.

I read an amazing article in Harper’s years back about the belief in God being a part of the human DNA the way sleeping and eating is. Facinating. You could attribute the strong desire for belief in a holier power to generations of DNA that did the same thing.

I struggle with is how people attribute random acts to a ghost instead of seeing the strength they themselves have. IMO, I feel this is sad. I also find the “godspeak” hard to handle. A person saying they know God and can interpret him is extroridnarily deluded and arrogant by definition of proxy.

I also wonder why people never blame god, but humans for bad things. Agreed, logic isn’t a part of it.

Duane Storey

Some good points, Jen. Actually, there’s ongoing theory that the random parts of DNA nobody really understands is in fact a form of genetic memory, that is memories passed down the genome. This at some level would explain instinctive behaviors amongst animals. So if it turns out to be true, you could also argue we’ve had memories and behaviors passed down from the very beginning.

With regards to your last statement, I couldn’t help smile because it reminded me of what’s happening in Wall Street — the privatization of profits and the socialization of losses. And I agree, I think more people should put faith in themselves and each other first.

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