This post will do something I don’t like to do: talk religion. I’m putting it here because this has become part of my processing of what’s going on with our darling Pickle. I do not share it here to judge or to be judged. I do not share it here for unsolicited opinions or advice. I simply share it because it is part of my story. That being said …
I am not an overly religious person. Never really have been. I was raised in a Christian home and attended church with my mom nearly every Sunday. I have been baptized (I think I was 3 or 4), but never confirmed in a church. I have always believed in God — in some form — but I have never been a fan of organized religion or “church.”
“God has no religion.” ~Mahatma Gandhi
None of them gave me the feeling I thought you were supposed to get when you attended church. I had — still have — many problems with some of the “ideals” of religious people who proclaim to be living as God wants them to live. There’s an awful lot of hate and judgment coming from people who claim to be about love and forgiveness. And there are an awful lot of people who will say in one breath that God is the only all-knowing and all-powerful being but then say in the next breath that they (or their religion) know exactly what God meant or wanted or believed — and their way is THE right way. Politics plays too big of a role in something that should be about a personal relationship and understanding.
Me? I believe in Love — over and above all else. And as an adult, I’d searched for a church where I could feel that Love. But, after trying several churches, I couldn’t fight the battle anymore. There were just too many people-politics getting in the way of the Big Picture. So I haven’t attended church regularly in a long, long time.
Now that that’s out of the way, the meat of this post:
When we found out about Pickle’s diagnosis, I — quite frankly — was pissed off. For a lot of reasons. I could list them here, but no one wants to read that. I was mad at anyone. And everyone. I was mad at God. Some days, I still am. And I
have to believe that God’s OK with that. Because, if there’s anyone who knows how hard life can be, it’s God. He — or She or It — has seen it all.
But then the first words of “comfort” I/we heard from people were that God gave us this for a reason. Or that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle. Or that God made this happen so God would see us through this. Or that God would fix this. Or that God works miracles. Or that God is just testing us.
These things that were supposed to be comforting only worked to make me even angrier. Because Mr. B and I? We’ve done everything right. We live a good life. We are kind to people. We donate our time, our talents and our money. We help strangers, friends and family. We work hard. We do all of the things we are “supposed” to do. But, clearly, if God did this, we aren’t good enough. And if God doesn’t work a miracle to fix this, we’re not worthy. And this is our fault. And since I’m the one
carrying caring for Pickle until she is born, it’s my fault. And God just doesn’t love me enough to give us a healthy baby. And God doesn’t love our unborn child enough to give her the life she deserves.
So, to say that I’ve been struggling even more with the faith I had is an understatement. And in talking to Mr. B about it one night, I knew I needed to get a handle on it — because if there’s anyone we need joining us in our corner right now, it’s God. So I told him I wanted to start attending church. A church where we could have a support system and a community to lean on. A church where our family could grow and learn and thrive. A church where there would be Love and not hate and judgment.
Like me, Mr. B is not an overly religious person — and definitely not a church person. So, I didn’t know how my statement would be received. But, I was OK if he said he didn’t want to join me. There’s nothing wrong with going to church alone — lots of people do it. Besides, Mr. B’s feelings and decisions about church/religion are his own — not mine. Just because I feel one way doesn’t mean he should/would/could feel the same way.
Mr. B, though, said he’d been thinking the same thing.
And so, we started our research — looking at various church websites and social media pages trying to get a “feel” for the churches we wanted to visit. In our town, this is not an easy task. There are hundreds of churches. But, we were able to narrow it down, and we made a list of four we wanted to try out. Some I’d heard about from friends, others we picked based on what we read about them online.
So, one Sunday morning, we set our alarms and headed out for the first church on our list.
The sermon that day? Exactly what we needed to hear. And I cried my way through it, listening with relief that there was a pastor who so eloquently put into words the experience we were having.
In a nutshell:
God doesn’t make bad things or good things happen. Bad — and good — things simply happen because that’s what life is. That’s what the human experience is. There is no formula. But God? God is there to help you through whatever may come your way.
So, you mean, this isn’t our fault? This isn’t because we’re bad people. Or because, for some reason, God thinks we should suffer. Or because God wants to test us. It’s because, well, sometimes life is crap for no reason other than it just is. And sometimes, really bad things happen to precious, innocent babies. And sometimes life hurts. But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Because there is Love.
Flash forward to today: Mr. B and I have been attending this church for a month. And I like it more every week. We haven’t even made it to any of the other churches on our list. The other people who attend this church are so welcoming — without being overbearing or pushy. We’ve met a lot of really nice people. And the pastors have exhibited a genuine interest in Mr. B, Pickle and me. In fact, we had a quiet brunch with the head pastor last Sunday after church where we had a lovely conversation about our family and our story. Never once did he try to “sell” us his church or pressure us into anything. We simply … talked.
What’s more? This church is what I’ve always thought church should be:
We are open and affirming, a community where everyone is welcome regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation or identity, physical, mental or emotional ability, or economic status, where the rich diversity of God’s creation is celebrated.
And, most importantly, this church is OK with my questions and doubts and fears and, even, my anger.
“We each hold our own understanding of the faith. We do not and cannot dictate the content of another’s faith …. We are blessed to be a place that encourages our individual search for God’s truth. There is grace enough to ask questions, make mistakes and express doubts even as we actively search for meaning in our lives.”
I could probably share more. But I won’t. Because I’m still not someone who is going to actively, loudly talk about religion and faith. Because I will always believe that those things are about a personal relationship and understanding. Whether you have them or you don’t, it’s not my business — and I fully support your right to make your own religious choices (just as I support that right for myself and for every member of my family). That’s why I won’t go on and on — I probably won’t even talk religion ever again. On this blog or in conversation. Like matters of money or politics, it makes me uncomfortable — because I’m not an expert nor am I a scholar. I only know what I know is right for me, right now.
Besides, that’s not what this blog is for. This blog is for Pickle and for processing and for sharing. So, for now, this is where my heart is. Full of more questions than answers. And still dealing with a faith that is not yet on a solid foundation. And still fighting anger and sadness that won’t ever go away fully. But we’re marching forward.