My parents didn’t find us a church to go to when we moved to Arizona. For the first time, I had the option to say “no” to church, and that’s just what I did. At fifteen, I focused my energy on making eye contact with people instead of scouring the campus concrete for loose change. I was determined to trade in my glasses for contacts and anxiously awaited the removal of my braces. Basically, my attention turned to the outside and I ignored anything deeper.
God was with me enough to keep me out of trouble, but I didn’t do anything to grow a relationship with Him. As the years passed, my closeness with God faded. I took religion classes in college to fulfill degree requirements, which created more distance. I still wanted to believe, but doubt and confusion crept in because I could see the validity in the other religions. I wondered how every religion could be so sure that theirs worships the one true God.
During college I waitressed to pay bills. Every Sunday, the “church crowd” flocked to the restaurant after services concluded. The men wore their suits and ties; the women donned crisp dresses and high heels. Many of them were courteous, fewer of them were generous, and a handful caused me to develop a dislike of religion and the hypocritical nature of people wrapped up in it.
In church, I remembered being taught about kindness and compassion for mankind. I recall the message of spreading Christ’s word, but not passing judgment. The comment that stung the most came from a church-going couple on a Sunday morning. The man had been demanding and rude to me, and as I turned to walk away, his wife told him as much. His response to her: “It doesn’t matter. She’s just a waitress.” Lucky for him, this waitress was more interested in letting it go than plotting revenge.
I met my husband my last year of college. We were in agreement about the hypocritical church folk. He believed in “something bigger than himself,” but never attributed that “something” to God. Five years after we got married, I started wondering, “What am I supposed to be doing in life?” I felt lost, like something was missing.
After several years of treating God like a distant relative seen only at weddings and funerals, I now looked to Him for direction. If He was a mortal person, he probably would have told me off and showed me the door. Of course, He didn’t do that. But He didn’t reveal His plan for me, either. Then again, maybe he has shown me and I just haven’t noticed it. I am a little slow that way.
I searched for a nondenominational church rather than the Baptist church I grew up with. I only went to churches with a relaxed dress code because I associated ‘church clothes’ with hypocrisy. (At one of the churches, the young pastor even wore flip flops! Seeing the pastor’s toes went a little too far – I never could get used to that and ended up staring at his feet during the entire service).
My husband has come along with me on this journey, but I don’t know if he’s any closer to believing in God. I pray that one day he will. I’m no longer that stubborn (young) girl who had pulled away from God in favor of the illusion of personal control. I humbly admit that I can’t do it alone; I got lost and am asking for directions. My mind is finally open again – possibly for the first time since I was eight years old. I’m eager to learn and ready to grow and prepared to follow the path He leads me down.
I am enjoying your journey. I love the way you expressed your honest reflection: “I’m no longer that stubborn (young) girl who had pulled away from God in favor of the illusion of personal control.” Living in an ‘illusion’ is a excellent way to paint a wandering adolescent. -Bravo!
The ‘wandering’ continued through my mid-twenties. Now I’m in the wondering phase (wondering what my purpose in life is, where I’m supposed to go and what His plan for me might be.) Thank you for reading and leaving your comment, Aligaeta. I do appreciate your visits 🙂
Actually I never knew Him until last year, but now I’m gonna be baptized in March.
I cannot say that completely no doubts are dwelling in the room of my mind. There maybe much time to be spent for me to struggle against my immature, like the period you already passed over.
How great for you! Baptism was a special experience.
For me, doubt creeps in because God is intangible – I can’t see him or talk to him (in a human sense). So, I have to rely on faith that his existence is real. Sometimes that isn’t easy. I do wish I had studied the Bible more throughout the years. If I did, perhaps my faith would be stronger.
(1) While trying to decide what to do “next,” if and when I stopped practicing law, I kept saying, “Tell me what to do and I’ll do it.”
Spirit replied, “You’re not doing what you came here to do.”
At last I got it ~ our purpose is to discover our purpose and then pursue it with passion.
(2) Sounds like your husband does believe in a higher power ~ just not the paternalistic God created by the Christian religion. You/he might be interested in this post:
It contains a video of an excellent reasoned discussion by a retired Episcopal Bishop, John Shelby Spong, on how the church has used religion to control the masses. In it, he states: “God is Not a Christian. God is not a Jew, or a Moslem, or a Hindu, or a Buddhist ~ all of those are human systems which human beings have created.”
Enjoy your continued search for answers.
(1) When I first started wondering what my purpose was, there wasn’t anything I could name as something I was good at or passionate about. It took a really embarrassing experience to get me thinking about what I wanted to do with my life in a career sense, which led me back to writing. (I hadn’t written anything in years, opting instead for the practical approach of climbing the corporate ladder. I discovered that I didn’t enjoy the climb…and I’m afraid of heights anyway.) I still don’t know how I know if I’ve discovered my purpose.
(2) Thanks for the link, I listened to it and found it interesting. I didn’t go into it in this post, but another reason I like the nondenominational churches is that they don’t have a lot of the rituals that I’m not comfortable in doing (like recited prayers, for instance.) I like to go to church because they dig deeper into scripture than I could do on my own, and the act of going makes me feel like I’m getting to know God better. It doesn’t surprise me that human control is sought through religion.
Thank you for following my journey posts and offering such thoughtful comments. I do look forward to what you have to say because I get the sense that you are a logical, spiritual person.
Thanks, Janna. I’ve been enjoying your journey posts.
Another thought: Purpose may change over time. Looking back, I know that “part of my purpose” was going to law school and practicing law ~ because it enabled me to strengthen aspects of me that needed strengthening. I know that it was also “part of my purpose” to stop practicing law once it served its useful purpose.
When I resisted leaving the practice of law (because I didn’t know what to do next), I became increasingly unhappy every time I stepped into my office.
I think that’s part of it, if you are happy doing something, it’s part of your purpose. If you are not happy, it’s not.
Good point, Nancy. I never really thought of the purpose changing. I don’t know why because everything in life changes, why not His purpose?
I feel like these posts are serving as a compass of sorts for my journey. I have reading to do related to the subject, but life isn’t cooperating right now 🙂
I believe that God is here for each of us and will meet us where we are. I don’t think we find him in a building but inside each of us. God did not design institutionalized religion or government for that matter, man did. I think we flounder between the God we feel inside and the God others tell us to believe in. There is a big difference in warming a pew and living a spirit filled life. Yes, there is a lot of hypocrisy in this world…and I think that is why I am so comfortable where I am right now in life.
I agree, Suzicate, that God comes from within. For me, the importance of going to church is that I usually walk away with something to think about throughout the week that will help me in my life. If I just go for the hour and that’s in then it’s a waste of time. I don’t follow anything that seems to go against what I feel is the ‘right’ way to be. For instance, the religious groups that are intolerant of others because of their “sinful ways” – I think we’re supposed to love one another, not judge.
I’m glad you’ve found a place of comfort. That’s a peaceful way to be 🙂
Suzicate ~ Beautifully put. When we connect with God within, we are able to let our true spirit shine.
Yes, I agree with Suzicate. God is within. I went to traditional churches even knowing that till I learned the New Testament was OK’d by Constantine of ancient Rome and he chose Christianity to be the religion of the Roman empire. That’s where Christianity came from. The Bible is historical. The Jesus seminar decides on what Jesus says in the New Testament and the one true gospel, the gospel of Q is not even in the Bible. My journey continued with Borg’s “Reading the Bible again for the First Time Again” and ” Meeting Jesus for the First Time Again”. Now I am re-reading the text of A Course In Miracles where it says “Nothing real can by threatened. Nothing unreal exists”. I know my journey will really take off when I continue with the workbook. I stopped on lesson 78, when my mother died and haven’t gotten back in the grove. It’ll be there when I’m ready.
Like you I am wondering what my purpose is but I think it’s Love and forgiveness. The course is all about Forgiveness. That”s my where my journey is right now. In a nut shell.
Hope this wan’t too long and I hope it helps you some how. Know that God is Love and His purpose is to bring us back to Himself and if we have just a little willingness He’ll bring us the rest of the way.
Yes, we do have to explore on our own and not believe what we are told to believe ‘just because’. I’ve been lax on the research part, which is part of the reason I’ve started the Sunday spiritual posts. It’s a way to force me to start digging instead of drifting.
Love and forgiveness is a good purpose. I hope He shows you the path just like I’m waiting for a sign that I’m on my way 🙂
Sorry about that comment Janna, when I reread that comment it was a mess. I didn’t settle on any one message. Anyway, know I value your posts and will support you if I can. I’ll write a post someday on the Course. Are you familiar with it?
It’s okay Clarbojahn. It’s such a big topic, it’s so easy for all the thoughts to merge together. I am not familiar with the course and would love to read posts on it. I look forward to it!
Thank you for sharing your journey of faith. May God speak to your heart and lead you all the way to victory in this life and beyond. May you grow to trust Him more, day by day, someday knowing God as well as He knows you. Blessings to you, Janna…
Thank you for your support, Carol! I’m working to keep my heart and mind open so that I don’t miss His wished for my life.
Beautifully written! I struggled (and still struggle) with the feeling that those who most loudly label themselves “religious” don’t always live the kindest, most God-seeking lives. Going from Baptist roots to Catholic University definitely confused me. I think you are right to recognize the importance of seeking a PERSONAL relationship with God and sometimes letting the formal church rules take a second seat to that!
Thank you, Tori. I’ve been confused by the differences in religions, too. I don’t understand why if we all believe in the same God. I hope you are able to resolve your own struggles and maintain a personal relationship with God, too.
I enjoy reading your blog. I love the animals and their personalities. I love the Lord, and yes have a personal relationship with him since 1990, when I accepted Him into my heart and daily life. The world is cruel and harsh and society tends to “judge” and the Lord says, “judge not.” I try to say to myself, “WWJD?” Keep up the great writing.
I’m so happy that you stopped by, and that you like my blog and my pets. They are all so sweet 🙂
The world can be cold, but I’m amazed that he can surround me with people who are kind and believe in His grace. I’m glad He is in your heart and prompts you to think about your own actions while living in a society that doesn’t necessarily do so.
Thanks for your supportive comment – I do appreciate it!