church.

This is probably a thing I’ll never be done talking about.

In the early, cold months of 2014, I drew back from my own life. I couldn’t bear managing things anymore. I’ve already talked about all that. I let go of heavy things, so very slowly, and just as slowly gained clarity about why I was so tired. I gave myself permission, at long last, to stay away from a Thing that causes me anguish and irritation–a Thing that does so much good, that has done good for me too, and that I have served with sincere love–but a Thing that is complicated and a vehicle for manipulation as well as those good things. Church. I went on a gray Easter Sunday and didn’t return again until two Sundays ago. Another gray, cold day.

I went for the ritual of it, for the beauty of spending a Sunday morning with my family, and thoroughly enjoyed that part of it. I went as an act of love for them. I wasn’t scared. I didn’t need to run away or cry in the bathroom or put on a Sunday face. I regarded what was said, found much of it to be incomplete, and went out the doors. It felt like a production, but a wholly sincere one. They think this is what we want, I suppose. I could keep doing that, keep going so that my children have a familiar place to gather each week, but don’t know if I should. There are good people there. There are good people out of there too, but they are harder to find–not gathered so easily.

I’ve missed the ritual of it. Here is the honest truth: I need something outside of myself to bring me to care like I should. As this lovely song says, we could use a guiding star.

It’s getting to where I can incorporate little snippets of Biblical wisdom into my children’s morality lessons. Generosity–if you give to the poor, you give to God. Kindness. Love. Servant-hood, estimating others highly regardless of social station. There is so much good there. I don’t immediately get knee-jerk angry when I open the good book, because of all the things I’ve worked to let go. My parents showed my what it is to give joyfully. I carry this with me.

I want my children to have the gift of faith. I don’t want it to be a heavy thing they feel obliged to carry. I know this weight–it makes you old while you are still young. It makes life seem like a survival trial rather than a gift.

Am I one of the nones? Perhaps. Or I’m one of the alls, because truth is simply true. No one has to bend over backwards to prove it.

I sleep heavy. I used to take such a long time to finally drift off. I’m not afraid of the dark and remnants of my childhood fears of demons lurking, harassing me because I was “doing things for God” have slipped mercifully away. I’m not afraid, and I’ve been afraid my whole life.

When I attend births, I feel like I’m in a holy space. This is what church used to be for me. Now: the trees, the wind, the water, the air–my church. Groups of people sharing life together, watching their babies play, eating good food, telling their stories. Whispering love to my husband. Watching my children grow into amazing and beautiful people, stumbling and flourishing. Watching the seasons come and go. Breathing easier than I ever have. Finding ways to make others breathe easier–I’m bad at this, at not burying my head in the sand, but the struggle is church.

I haven’t found it in myself to declare a label for all of these thoughts and feelings. Maybe 2015 will bring that ability. I don’t need to, for now. I have no desire to cause pain to others, but also no desire to cause pain to myself. I’d love to be understood, but I’ll settle for live and let live.

The brain is so strange and wonderful. What seems completely obvious to me now was not in any way merely a few years ago. I said to my brother, as we hashed out some things like you only can in the wee hours of the morning, that only three years ago I sincerely believed that people who hadn’t spoken a specific set of words were going to Hell when they died. We are capable of holding such conflicting thoughts at the same time. We laughed, we understood. We grew up in the same alien world, and now we’re trying to live in this one.

A fear-based belief system is just a house of cards pretending to be a fortress. It looks small and sad now, but it kept me up at night for how many years–twenty-five? twenty-eight? It’s hard to say. It was everything. All-powerful.

That moment–sitting on a kitchen counter, finding commonality with my little brother, just knowing that we both know–church.

In 2015, I want to seek out more of this. I hope to find it.

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