Religion Lost/Found/Still Missing

Further to my recent post on "Losing my Religion". Major long post warning!

I received quite a few comments, from both sides of the fence, and a few from a place where there are no fences too. So, in response, here's where I'm at.

Yes, I can understand that "lone ranger Christianing" is not a good idea, and I know about "coals removed from the fire". Maybe I'm guilty of both, and maybe that's my problem. I've gone so far out that I can't get back. Being that far out panics some who are far in.

(Please note that I'm talking generally in this post, and not pointing out individuals. When I think in these terms, my mind has pictures of people I know here, off-blog, and their reactions. Some of what I'm writing was sparked by comments, some is just plain off-the-top-of-the-head stuff.)

Having been the pastor's kid all my life, attending church "religiously" every week, I can well understand this point of view. You don't want to "lose" people to the outside. It's dangerous out there, full of all kinds of things of the world. Rather stay in here where you'll be safe (and we can keep an eye on you). I know that collectively the regular-church Christians worry about those who disappear from the pews, and in many cases they are seen to have "left the church" (small c), when in fact they're still in the Church (capital C - God's body of believers, across man-made boundaries).

And that's where a part of this struggle comes in. I've spent 32 years within the church walls, and my thinking, my reactions, my beliefs and frame of reference is all caught up with that. I'm still not used to the fact that I can feel different and still be right. That I may not conform to what the church thinks is right, but I may also not be wrong.

Having said that though, there's a part of me that is drawn toward things that are not always seen as Christian - a celebration of seasons, respect for the earth, fascination with the ancient and the unknown, urges to dance in the light of a full moon and build rings of standing stones. An open mind which loves to explore "taboo" subjects like UFOs, apparitions and cryptozoology, and who has just set up her office according to feng shui principles "to see what will happen". Which makes me quite possibly downright pagan in some circles, or at the very least definitely "lost"! :)

Along with that comes an inability to connect to the God of the Christian - the God who everyone warming a pew on a weekend (Saturday or Sunday, your choice) seems to have a "personal relationship" with. The one who brings on tears of ecstasy in a worship service or makes one fall down and writhe, or jump up and down. The one who will smite you if you aren't in your place when the worship team takes the stage each week. Who keeps tabs on the services, meetings and leadership opportunities you miss, and balances them against your expectation of salvation.

See, I don't know that God.

I know the God of the hidden valley and microscopic flower. I know the God of winds and tides, and yes, even tsunami's. I know the God who created a world of colour for our enjoyment and paints the evening sky with splashes of light in hues we could never duplicate. I know the God who watches from afar, yet is near. The God who cares for mites and blue whales - and homeless humans. The God who is found in brush-strokes and sculpture, in the rings of a tree and the sand on the seashore. It's a God that doesn't get much of a sermon mention, unless He's comparing us superior races to lilies, or feeding a crowd, or being a Shepherd. Even then, it's all for our benefit, us the dominators of creation.

I know of Jesus. I believe He was God-man and died to save all who would believe in who He is. And I do believe, but there's that missing "personal relationship" thing. I find it hard to get close to someone I can neither see nor hear - perhaps I live too literally. I know when this world ends (whichever version you hold to) He'll be back, and we'll live forever and ever with Him, the 3-in-one God.

My Christian upbringing says I don't know enough of God to want to be with Him forever, or He with me, and I'd probably be better off without. My supposedly non-Christian current brainspace says I'll sure enjoy the New Earth with all it's wonderful natural existence and exploration of the things we don't know now. And it also says eternity is a good, long time to get to know One not well known right now. Heretic, me. Gotta get there first of course, and I'm definitely not being good enough at the moment to be sky-lifted when the earth ends.

In fact, my head is full of weird heretical thoughts that no Christian would dare tolerate, especially not a large group of collective Christians. Stepping out has given me a new perspective on a lot of things you wouldn't see if you stayed where you were. And I can't express many of them, or you'd probably be bombarded with them, to the detriment of blogland....!

I find myself unable to attend a church. If I did it would likely be a different one each time the urge struck. A drifter, a "homeless" wanderer with some pretty strange beliefs - that would be me.

And then the Christian upbringing kicks in again - what about your kid? See, I don't have anything to teach him right now. If I can hardly figure it out myself, what can I tell him? Can I honestly drag him off to a service he won't listen to (he takes things to "keep him busy") in the hope that he'll pick up what I can't teach him? No, I can't. It would do both of us more damage than good at this time. We talk of God now and then, and sometimes (most times) he's the one teaching me. I may not need to worry after all - but that doesn't stop his friend's parents from telling me "you're doing your son damage by your choices". Doesn't help living in a one-religion community, when one doesn't fit in that well....

Yes, I read my Bible each night - it's a habit - but I'm casting around the pages right now, the only thing going in being a well-aimed Proverb ("a little rest, a little folding of the hands, and poverty will come on you quickly" - so I guess I can't use afternoon naps as an excuse not to get going on things I should be doing if I want this year to be a success). I've tried praying - and the words seem to bounce around my skull without going anywhere. However, they're more "real" than they were - I find myself talking out frustrations and acknowledging I'm the lowest of the low. So perhaps that's progress. Except that I usually fall asleep without ever getting to the "amen" part.

I shocked a relative over Christmas by saying I don't consider myself a denomination right now - oh, the heresy! I shock myself sometimes when I wonder if I'm even a Christian, or if I should call myself a pagan-Christian-Celtic-something. I KNOW I'm not a "normal" Christian, but then again I'm not alone in that. One has only to peruse the blogs to realize what variety there is out there. Some I may have felt uncomfortable with while still pew-sitting I now find myself relating to - and wonder how many find ME uncomfortable now.... how many would dare say so to my face, or would rather just think it.

I guess I have lost my religion - the one that is "supposed to" be, the one I'm expected to have as a Christian. I feel like my experience and my current beliefs have set me apart from basically everyone as strange and unnatural, as not normal.

And it's hard being different. Ask any kid on the playground who is shunned at breaktime. Ask anyone who has chosen a Harley and open road over a steady job. Ask any woman trying to lead in a man's world.

Perhaps, as many of you have said, losing my religion is a good thing. Perhaps it's a waiting period, a dark night, a "be still and wait" time. Perhaps I'm slowly descending that wide road to hell, or it could be that I've found the twisting narrow path that is headed upwards instead - but one that is just meant for me, apart from the other pilgrims.

All I know is, I'm not the girl I was a year ago, or even a few months ago. I've lost what I had then. And whether that's a good or a bad thing remains to be seen.