I've been thinking a lot lately about the role that religion has played in my life (a very small one), and the role that I would like for religion/spirituality to play in my life and Alex's life as he gets older. My mother-in-law has been giving me a lot of God-centered things for Alex recently. A Noah's ark ornament, a cute book about the animals on the ark, a Veggie Tales book called "God Loves Us," and a Christian-centered book about the inner workings of men's minds (that one was for me, not for Alex). I am grateful for each of these gifts, but I always secretly wonder how I will use them in establishing a belief system for Alex. I feel like I should get my own spiritual and religious ideas in order before I start trying to teach a little person about these huge concepts.
To be perfectly honest, it's been really easy to be lazy about my own spiritual life. I've been married for ten years, neither Kevin nor I have felt a huge hole in ignoring or being undecided about our beliefs, and nothing has shaken me to the core and forced me to reach out for some greater force in my life. For this I am truly thankful. But I still think about it a lot. So, I figure I'll start small and break this down piece by piece and see where we end up.
I want to believe in a greater power -- something larger, more powerful and more knowing than myself. Usually these are times when I am overwhelmingly happy. For example, hiking in Canyonlands National Park. I'm sitting at the edge of this huge abyss, the sun is setting, the world is perfectly still. This is a time when I am moved to tears. Something or someone has to be responsible for all of this beauty and perfection. I'm nursing my son. He turns his head and I see a perfectly formed ear or a tiny hands with five little fingers. To me, he is a miracle. Although I know all of the scientific explanations for reproduction, creating another human being is a feat that completely takes my breath away. There must be something more than biology responsible for creating the "soul" of this little person that greets me every morning.
Conclusion #1: I want to believe in some sort of higher power.
There are many times when I feel the need to pray. I don't even know if you would call it praying. Usually this is at night (especially when Kevin is out of town). In my quietest moments all by myself, I feel the need to thank someone for the amazing amount of good in my life. I never ask for anything for other people. When I'm confused about something in my own life, I don't feel the need to ask for guidance. I just feel so blessed for everything that I have: friends, family, beautiful son, unconditionally loving husband, talents. These are the times that I want someone to whom I can be grateful.
Conclusion #2: I partake in some sort of silent thanking ritual that closely resembles prayer, I guess.
Church. I have had NO desire to attend church in recent years. Going as a kid was primarily for social reasons and because that's what we did on Sunday mornings. I visited my brother's church last year and really enjoyed myself. This was mostly because I felt that I was in the presence of a community of other intelligent, forward-thinking adults who were concerned about the welfare and greater good of their fellow man. But let's be honest. Many churches are not truly concerned about any of these things, but consciously or sub-consciously condemn their fellow man for not living up to a long list of ideals many of which I find to be antiquated or just plain wrong.
What do I enjoy about church? I usually like the music because in old-school churches, the music is like mac and cheese - comfort food. These are songs that I've known my whole life, and there is something nostalgic about singing them as part of a group. I usually like churches that allow me to examine Christianity as an academic exercise. I need to feel as though I'm walking away having learned something and with new perspective on my own life. I generally feel that I'm walking away having heard the same party line that has been regurgitated for centuries.
My main problem has been that when I find a church that challenges my status-quo and makes me feel as though I could be part of a community of caring, open-minded individuals, I feel like a hypocrite. A lot of those people are there because of the whole "Jesus" thing. And I can't get my arms around the "accepting as Lord and Savior" portion of that. I think Jesus was probably a great historical figure, a magnificent teacher and an accepting individual who set a good example for many people. But the whole son of God and Lord thing? Well, that leaves me feeling a little empty and a lot skeptical. Why should I be mucking up the pews of the true believers when I'm there because I like the homeless shelter volunteer program and I'm glad that these people care about social justice? Hmmm... These are the questions that really throw a wrench into Christianity.
Conclusion #3: Church? Lots of good, some negative. Not sure that I can weight in on that one.
Conclusion #4: Jesus. A good guy, but if I have to accept the "whole" story to be a Christian, then we may as well throw the baby out with the bathwater.
I will leave this post on that note. I'm feeling a little dizzy from all this self-analysis. Thus, the reason it has been easier to ignore than to move toward a more solid conclusion in recent years. Besides, I know that these are the age-old questions that MANY people struggle with. Makes me feel slighty unoriginal, but also comforted that I'm not the only one. I'll keep you posted on any conclusions that I come to. Happy hunting!