Church: Yay or nay?
Let's backup a bit. I was raised Lutheran. Lutherans are Christian, meaning they believe Jesus is the Son of God and died for our sins on the cross. I like to say we are similar to Catholics only we get to wear jeans and sing shorter songs. I remember tracing the outline of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible with my finger over and over again. I could prolly do it right now on a piece of paper....which is kinda amazing because....
I haven't been to church in years.
I can't exactly pinpoint the moment I stopped going. I'm pretty sure I went every Sunday all the way through Jr. High and maybe a year or two into high school...but then, college years, nothing. I was married in the church and attended services at a little chapel in Germany while he was deployed. I remember feeling pretty religious for a while there...even picking up some Christian novels and daily quotes to read each morning. When we returned stateside, however, we didn't make church a priority. And then my marriage took a serious, serious turn for the worst...and I decided I didn't ever want to go back.
Now, almost four years later, the wounds of my past are healing. My marriage is renewing itself...very, very slowly, and with substantial setbacks......but it's getting better each day. My faith, however, has not yet healed - I hold grudges like a muther trucker. But I'm a mom....and if there's one thing I'm pretty decent at, it's considering my children when making decisions.
See, I have really good memories from church. We had this pie fest thing around Thanksgiving. Everyone would bring a pie, we'd do a short service, and then we'd stuff our faces with pie until we about died. I think my love of pie came from church. True story.
And then Advent....Christmastime decorations, crafts, the music, and a month-long message of grace and gifts and good things. I remember coloring pictures, making a bird-feeder pinecone with peanut butter, and decorating gingerbread ornaments with my baby sister.
There was this picture of Jesus in the church hallway. I would stare at it every Sunday. I thought he looked beautiful...dark-skinned, long-haired, peaceful. I loved that painting. No uber-creepy, bloody head of thorns I would see sometimes in other churches....no nails and crosses, sacrifice, or blood. Just peace.
My church had a kickass youth group. We'd camp and go on scavenger hunts and take trips to the Ozarks and cliff jump into bright blue water. I went to my first concert (Supertones) with my church youth group. The concert was, in all honesty, way more trippy than you'd think a stone-cold soberfest filled with Christian ska bands would be. I remember standing there, under a dusky sky, staring up at a brightly-lit stage, surrounded by hundreds of almost-adults, all screaming the lyrics to every song, and dancing like we were alone in our bedrooms, feeling completely accepted as we were, flawed, gawky, most of us never-been-kissed. We hummed with potential, like an untapped spring, filled with raw, crystal-clear faith. It felt joined to everyone else - completely included, like one collective spirit, hundreds of voices and bodies moving with youth and joy - and it was all our own, pure and untouched by drugs, alcohol, or fear. I was a foot off the ground, floating on the buzz of life. Coulda been dehydration, coulda been Jesus, but either way, it was a memory I'll never forget.
I loved singing. Man do I miss the singing. Did you know that about me? I love to sing. I had a few solos in church - botched them, for the most part. I am a very nervous, shy singer. I can belch like the best of 'em but ask me to sing by myself and I turn bright red and want to run. Singing in church was different. So many other voices. Sometimes my pastor would walk down the aisle and stand right next to me, loudly singing the hymn, bolstering my strength to sing louder, not be afraid.
My pastor was like a second father to me. He helped me through my parent's divorce. He taught me how to train a hunting dog. He took me ice fishing. He gave me my first sip of beer (that's the Lutheran way! haha!). He took care of me and my sister when my mom was sick. He was the only positive male influence in my life for many years. He officiated my wedding....and then retired. He did not baptize my kids. They'll never have the chance to hear one of his sermons. Makes me sad...but also a bit motivated.
I want my kids to have the opportunity to make memories like these. I want them to have a foundation of faith - something they can choose to build on, or not. I want to give them the option of knowing God, knowing a Higher Being is all about. I needed my faith quite a bit when Aaron was deployed. Regardless of how much I waver in my faith now, it was strong and held me up back then. Maybe it could do the same for my girls? Maybe they will one day need it like I did?
But then there's some stuff about the whole church-going thing that doesn't agree with me. Like the giving stuff. Church always made me feel this intense amount of pressure to give more....more money, more time, more than I can. It became more about doing for the church than doing for God, in some instances...and that bothers me intensely. I'm happy singing songs in a open field or wooden hut...why do we have to spend millions of dollars creating McChurchMansion? And why are those who give the most money considered the "Committee on High?" The only thing worse than governmental politics is church politics. Puke.
I also take issue with some of the Bible-bound laws and regulations. I believe in the ideas behind most of them....be good to your neighbor, don't cheat, don't lie....but the God I believe in doesn't send a sick, sick person who committed suicide to hell. And I know with ever fiber of my being that love is love. The God I know would never condemn a man for loving another. And I think respecting nature and celebrating the seasons of the moon and sun is good, not evil or "devil worship wiccan" stuff. The Harry Potter VS Narnia debate makes me shake my head. I do not believe in a Fire and Brimstone Lord. I think Jesus was a cool cat, but I have problems with the literal translations of the stories and miracles most Christians covet as 100% fact. Science fascinates me and I think all things, even humans, evolve.
So you see, putting me in church is like flicking water onto a frying pan. When the congregation is cool, I can hang out and enjoy myself. Turn up the fire and brimstone, however, and I evaporate real fast. My relationship with God is MY relationship with God. Man shouldn't be defining any part of it.
And then there's my husband. He was raised by the daughter of a Presbyterian Minister. He had a good foundation of faith growing up but lost most of his faith during his deployments. His disgust with the hypocrisy and extreme actions of "religious people" reaches so far, he wants nothing to do with a church. He, too, wants to do right by our kids, but he doesn't have the same memories I have.....and in his mind, doing right by the kids doesn't mean taking them to church. As a matter of fact, he suggested once maybe keeping them OUT of church might actually be more beneficial.
And can we please just talk for a minute about the early-morning Sunday thing. I am a selfish, selfish woman. I crave time with my family to the point of tears. I will never, ever be an every-Sunday type of gal. I kinda feel like God is smiling at me when I tickle my kids and eat muffins in bed instead of yelling at them to hurry up so we can get to church on time.. and then being crabby and resentful for the rest of the day. The early-morning Sunday commitment frightens me not because I'm worried about what God will think, but because I'm worried about the judgement of everyone else at the church.
I'm at a crossroads. Church or no church....teach Jesus at home or try something new. I think it would be best for my kiddos to at least try it out....but what about the united parental front? If mom goes and dad doesn't? What kind of message will that send to the kids?
Come at me, readers. Tell me about your experiences. Do you go to church? Do you not go to church? Why or why not? I realize religion is a very personal subject - but I can't help but feel somewhere out there, someone is sitting there asking the same questions I am. So let me have it, Bible-lovers! Tell me all about it, Amazing Agnostics! Lazy Sunday Morning People - I want to hear from you!
Full disclosure: I like having a globe full of Buddhist, Hindus, Jews, Atheists, Christians, and Islamic followers. I think diversity makes our world go 'round. All opinions are welcome here, assuming they are not outwardly offensive to others...which they obviously won't be because let's face it, I obviously have the best readers ever. Don't even know why I typed this. Stupid disclosure.
And as always, thank you so, so much for reading :) Have a happy weekend!