May 12, 2009

My Spiritual Limbo

I have been struggling most of my adult life with my faith or lack of faith in God. I have a difficult time articulating how I feel on this subject. Maybe because it is such a confusing jumble of thoughts in my head, that to explain it to anyone else seems impossible. I recently came across "Conversion Diary", a blog of a woman who was an Atheist and has been blogging about her 5 year conversion to Christianity. Her post entitled "On Having Proof" really struck a chord with me. Her post echoed what has been rambling around in my head for so long now. Her quest for answers has encouraged me to find my own answers. I have gone too long now with not knowing what I believe in, living in this "spiritual limbo" of mine. She has encouraged me to get my thoughts out there, begin to mull over this whole issue, and stop living in a state of no beliefs at all. Therefore, I will follow her lead and write about it (not for 5 years or anything crazy like that).

I was raised by a mother that is secure, certain, and convicted in all things God. I attended Catholic schools for 12 years, but we were so much more than Catholic. We atteneded different churches from time to time that were not Catholic and were therefore exposed to a variety of Christian worship. We read the Bible as children and I still remember I loved the illustrated kids' Bible that we read before bed each night. We attended Vacation Bible School every summer. We were also embarassed publicly by the weekly bible studies at the local park. It was strange to us at the time: why would you have a bible study at the playground? Don't you realize all the people are staring at you when you pray aloud or sing with your hands in the air? Now being a mother of 2 kids it is quite obvious to me why bible study was at a really cool playground, but at the time my brother and I were mortified. We became adept at blending in with the other kids on the playground and joined them in gawking at the strange ladies waving their arms in the air and speaking in tongues. No matter how strong the urge to pee, we were not going to be seen approaching that picnic table of crazy ladies.

Our home was also a home of prayer. We prayed at the drop of hat. Prayer went way beyond 3 squares and bedtime. Any chance that came up mom was praying for an answer, for guidance, for someone's health, for someone's soul. Fighting with a playmate? Let's stop and ask God to help us find a way to get along. Studying for a history test? Pray to God for guidance and to help you in remembering all you need to know. We talked to God all the time. He was someone living in our home, someone that we could talk to whenever we needed to. Even today with my doubts and everything I still find it very soothing and calming to have my mother pray over an issue.

I never felt that God was crammed down my throat. It was just a way of life for us. Yes, I had to explain things to friends, or endure the occasional "Your Mom is a Jesus freak" or "Is your Mom a bible banger"? But all in all we survived and had a good solid foundation of upbringing. Fast forward 20+ years and I am now a wife & mother of 2 children and I am completely without Faith in God and even questioning my belief. For many years now I have questioned faith, organzed religion, and what I believe and don't believe. I have not spent a ton of time dwelling on these issues, I mean it certainly doesn't keep me up at night, therefore I have not really come to any conclusions for myself. I have been in sort of a spiritual limbo if you will. Not sure what I believe, who I believe, or if I believe at all. All of this I am sure breaks my mother's heart, but everyone must find their own way, their own truth, their own path in life. And I guess it is time I stop ignoring the issue and figure things out for myself once and for all. Here are a few thoughts that I have. They are NOT conclusions but more like questions, or doubts, or thoughts on all of this.

1.) The Catholic church is not for me. (ok that's a conclusion). After having been exposed to various other Christian churches, when I make it back for a Catholic mass I am left feeling completely empty. All of the coldness, the ritual of pray this, repeat this, say the
same thing over and over every Mass, stand, sit, kneel, stand, kneel, shake hands, blah, blah, blah, blah, on and on and on. If you were raised in the Catholic church you probably knew the Mass by heart by the time you are 5 years old. Then you spend your remaining 85 years of your life just repeating the words. How could all of those words mean anything to anyone? They are repeated from memory. You could be planning your Sunday dinner or dreaming about that day's NFL game, and still recite the Our Father and the Apostles' Creed. Then there is the whole "You must be a Catholic to go to heaven" thing. And what is up with the Mary devotion? My mother always told me "Why would I pray to Mary when I can go directly to the source?" Makes perfect sense to me. The Mary and Saint "thing" reminds me a bit of Idol worship, which is not OK if you are a Christian, correct?

2) FAITH & BELIEF & TRUTH. My thoughts are really muttled on this issue so I will try to keep it short and concise. I think you either have faith or you do not. Believing in what you believe in and having Faith in those Beliefs is what makes you a Christian. However that does NOT give you the right to judge others who do not share those beliefs. That does not mean that Jews, Buddhists, or Hindus are following the wrong Religion. They are following their own beliefs and truths. WE BELIVE IN SOMETHING, THEREFORE WE HAVE FAITH THAT IT IS TRUE. THEREFORE THAT IS OUR TRUTH. A Christian has faith that Christ was born, died for our sins, and rose again so we might have eternal life in Heaven with God. Christians BELIEVE that to be true. They have FAITH that they will be in Heaven with God. That is their TRUTH. It is not true for a non-Christian, because they do not have the faith or the belief in those matters. If they decide to start to believe or have faith in the Christian God or Christ, then that will be TRUE for them.

What I am trying to say is that not one single religion or faith is right or wrong. Whatever your truth is that is YOUR fact. It is NOT fact that you must accept Christ into your heart in order to get into Heaven, UNLESS YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN. Because that is your faith and your belief therefore it is YOUR truth. You know it with an absolute certainty. Key word being "you". That is your truth, your belief, your fact - NOT the truth, belief, or fact for everyone on this planet.

3) In recent years I have begun to think of Christianity as just another mythology. You know the stories of mythology we read in high school and college. The Gods, the supernatural things that happen, the relationship between mortals and Gods, etc. The Merriam-Webster definition of MYTH is:

"a usually traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon".
The bible is full of stories of myths about heroes (Samson in the temple, David & Goliath), God, supernatural occurences (miracles) and even the relationship between mortal & God (the Virgin Mary). This is not meant to lessen the Christian beliefs, but somewhat puts it in to perspective for me along with other mythologies, beliefs, and religions over the history of time. Christianity is just another ancient mythology that for whatever reason has taken a hold and endured the test of time.

That leads me to my final point:

4) If Christianity is just another mythology why do so many millions of people, over the last 2,000 years still believe, still have faith, and continue to be strong in their convictions? There must be something to it, right? I must have belief in me somewhere or I wouldn't be spending time dwelling on it, or blogging about it, or trying to figure it out. Therefore I have decided that instead of just living in limbo, wondering, doubting, and questioning like I have for the last 25 years, I am going to do something about it. I am going to go on a sort of spiritual quest if you will. I will not start with Christianity. I am no expert, but having been raised in it, and been a part of it my whole life I have a much better handle on it than other belief systems. I plan to do my own searching and investigating and really examine what it is that millions of people around the world have found : a faith in something or someone higher than themselves.