If you were a fly on the wall of my church, you might think that the people worshipping there have been going to church their entire lives, that they have it all together. Of course, Little Fly, if you followed any one of these church members home, you would see a different story for every person. Everyone has a faith journey that is unique.
Let me back up a little, and tell you what my church is. I belong to a church that is part of the Presbyterian Church (USA). That means that it is a Christian protestant church (as opposed to Catholic), and has a presbyterian form of government. It is run by presbyters, i.e., ruling and teaching elders. The teaching elders are the pastors, and the ruling elders are the people in charge of all the workings of the church, like maintaining the church, organizing missions, making sure there are enough Sunday school teachers, etc. A Presbyterian church may also have a group of people called deacons who are in charge of congregational care.
I’m telling you all of this, Little Fly, because in January, I’m going to be ordained as a deacon, and in a week, we have our “examination” to see if we’re ready to serve. Thankfully, our exam is not a test on the Book of Order (our constitution), but instead we present our faith journey. I’m practicing mine here to see how it flies (no pun intended).
I grew up with a family that was Presbyterian in appearance only. I was baptized as a baby, went to Sunday school for maybe a year or two when I was 5 or 6, and had my confirmation (became a big girl member) when I was 13. Nothing much else in between. There was no real showing up. We did celebrate Christmas and Easter, not by going to church, but by wearing cute dresses, unwrapping presents and hunting eggs.
By my adolescence, it was clear that my dad worshipped the God of beautiful nature and the sky, but did not believe in organized religion. I think my mom just didn’t go to church. After my parents divorced, she went through a Bible church phase, but now goes to a regular ol’ Presbyterian church. My sister belongs to a church that we call a cult, but she seems happy, and can leave whenever she wants, so there’s that. She and her family are super conservative. We do not talk about religion at family gatherings.
I didn’t start regularly going to church until I had my first child. I wanted her baptized, and I thought when you had kids you were supposed to go to church. I had no foundation for that belief, it just seemed like the thing to do, and I made friends there. It was a way out of the isolation of being a stay-at-home mom. We lived in Europe in the mid-90s and never went to church during that period. Upon our return to the US, Roland and I and the kids all went. I went, not because I believed, but because it was what we did on Sunday morning. The feeling of being a fraud was beginning to work its way to the surface.
Fast forward to about three years ago, when I had a serious crisis of faith. I was going to church and saying all the words, but I began to actually question what I believed instead of just going along with the crowd. I quit going to church with Roland when I couldn’t even say the words or sing the hymns. In April 2014, I returned to church. Why, suddenly, that happened isn’t important; it is only important that it did. For the first time in my life, I opened my heart and surrendered to faith. That fall, we heard sermons on forgiveness and the light bulb finally lit. I had never been taught that forgiveness was anything like what was described in the sermons. In fact, growing up, I was taught that if you made a mistake or did something wrong, you said you were sorry and moved on. Lots of judgment, no guarantee of forgiveness by anyone, much less God. I was ready to hear about that forgiveness and mercy, and apply it to my life.
And it’s gone on from there. Between our pastor encouraging us to “show up”, and the shame researcher, Brene Brown, and her books saying the same thing (and in the opposite of a shameful way in case you don’t know about her), I began to show up more and more, and not just in church.
I’ve always scoffed at the term “born again”, but after forgiving my dad for killing himself, forgiving myself for a ton of stuff, and forgiving a few more, that’s how I feel. Like a new person. With a journey that brings God, Jesus, the Holy Ghost and faith all along for the ride.
Disclaimer: The post above is about religion. My religion and my faith. I realize that religion can be an inflammatory topic (I don’t talk about it with my relatives). My purpose is not to inflame, but rather to share how I came to have my perspective on the world.