Sunday, December 28, 2008

From Here to There

I wrote a post recently on my other blog about what I believe. Shortly after posting it, I received an email from one of the readers asking if she could ask some questions about my faith. Her name is Jessica, and with her permission, I'd like to share some of her words.

(from Jessica's first message)

"I wanted to express to you how much I enjoyed reading your full description, but didn't feel

like commenting in the public forum. I hope you don't mind. So much of what you said are things I feel in tune with, and was wondering if I could share some questions with you.
I have been speaking a LOT with my husband (a Christian man who knows what he believes) and trying to figure out things for myself.

I learned a few months ago what it was that I was seeking out, and it was someone who found their path to God and religion and might be able to share with me ways of understanding it. I have found it very difficult (so far impossible) to discuss my reservations about religion
with people who have always grown up "believing"in a higher power. They talk about it as if God already exists for everyone and explain from there, but I'm still back
at "how do you GET to him and feel him in your life" stage. I hope that makes you said, it's very difficult to put into words what exactly one means when talking about faith.
If you would be open to sharing some conversation with me, I would love to "chat"."

(from Jessica's second message, after I told her I would love to talk more with her about faith)

"I appreciate you being open to discussing, I just felt from the tone of your posts, you would be a comfortable voice to talk to. I've been searching for quite awhile for someone to bounce ideas around with, and realized looking around my peer group wasn't cutting it."

I decided to start off by giving a very condensed synopsis of me and any religious"ness" that's been in my life. It's brief, which makes it the easiest place to start (when you compare it to the thoughts in my head that I've tossed around for years). I'm 31. The first 10 or so years of my life, my dad took our family to Catholic church and Sunday school, almost without fail, every Sunday. One day, we woke up and didn't go anymore. I asked my mom about it, and she said they had a problem with the Father who was currently at that church (he picked on families with small children if their children were loud - go figure, Catholic priest getting mad about KIDS??). My mother was raised Methodist and converted to Catholic to marry my father. For those ten years, I really got nothing out of church. We didn't discuss religion at home, and I don't recall much of anything from
Sunday school lessons, and all I really remember about mass was the singing and trying to stay awake.

I basically went through the rest of my young years and all of college ignoring everything about religion. I didn't have anything against it, and I didn't have anything for it. It existed, and I existed, separately.

I started to ponder religion and what was "real"in my early 20s. I was living alone, working,
surviving....I saw a guy a few times, but during a latenight phone call, we started talking about church. I don't really remember what was said, but I believe it started with him saying something about being blessed, God knowing what was right for him...and I was totally
shocked at myself because I started crying. Not to him, and not aloud, but I just cried. He sounded so peaceful talking about God in his life, and I knew nothing of what he felt.It was during this conversation where my thoughts began, and so did my confusion. By this point in my life, I was so set in my beliefs that good things happen because good people made them happen.

Simple as that. I believed that you treat people nicely and as you want to be treated because it's the right thing to do, not because I want to please a higher being. I didn't feel this way to shun God, but I just didn't see how it was "Christian" of me to behave this way, I felt it was a HUMAN way to behave. It's how my families have always acted. And because I felt and still feel this way, it makes it hard to understand that it's a Godly way to live. My husband has told me that he believes I'm one of the most Christian-living people he's known and I don't even realize it. But I tell him it's how people are supposed to be, I shouldn't have to believe in a God to want to live this way. Because I could go on and on with my confusing thoughts, I'll get to my main two points of conflict (right now anyhow!).

1. I think religion is a great thing for those who have it. I think, no matter if the afterlife and God exist or not, having something like religion to believe in allows people to live more peacefully. I envy that feeling that people have, and that no matter how rough life can be, they honestly feel that by praying, their life becomes less stressful and the struggles are given to God to lead them the right way. I think it's wonderful to have it regardless of what really exists.

2. I have yet to meet anyone who came to understand and believe in God as an adult. I have realized I can't talk and ask questions from most people who have believed all their lives because they truly canNOT relate to what it feels like to not believe or to waffle. Asking questions about how they KNOW God is there and how to form a relationship with something so intangible always ends up with answers like "praying will help you find your answers" or "I just knew he existed because I've been so blessed". That doesn't work on someone so uncertain of it's very existence. It doesn't make sense. I don't feel blessed, I feel like I struggle and good things happen if I work hard or have good people around me. I can't pray because that feeling of inner peace or tranquility that comes with releasing your fears doesn't wash over me. I feel silly.

I am so sorry this got so long but I guess with a topic like this, it's very difficult to condense such confusion. I am really looking forward to hearing from you. Your post made me feel like I could get some truly honest and non-judgmental responses and conversation.
Thank you again, good night.
(and from her most recent message)
"My question or quest is determining how to create or seek out this relationship or how to even come to terms with his existence at all. It's like..."I want to believe that someone will "catch me when I jump" but I can't force myself to step off the ledge". Make sense?"

Jessica and I agreed that it would be a good thing to have this conversation in a public forum. For me, that's because I would love input from the comments, people adding thoughts to mine when I can't find my words. And also, the contributors of this blog will most likely have lovely things to say in post form if we get their wheels turning. They are wise women who are the type of people who understand, like I do, where Jessica is coming from.

I'm honored that Jessica felt comfortable opening this discussion with me. I'm humbled to think she found me worthy of carrying on this conversation. I consider her a friend, and can't wait to see what's in store for both of us. I respect where Jess is coming from and hope and pray that I can express myself well here. I'll ask God to reveal himself to both of us, since every human has much to learn, whether they are believers or not.

We're all on a journey in this life. Come along and think with us, out loud if you'd like.


Heidi Ashworth said...

I don't know how wise I am and I am one of those people who has always (and I do mean always) known what I believe to be the truth about God and His son so I don't know how much my response can be worth to you. I believe that we are all born with the light of Christ inside of us--and that this light will tell us the truth when we are ready to hear it.

Sara@ Butterville said...

WOW. What I'd like to say is I became a follower as an adult. I, like Jessica went to sunday school and church, but I had NO connection with God or Jesus...I TOO thought good things come to those who treat others nice and work hard.
I found my Lord and Savior after countless other "things" I tried. HE and only HE has moved things in my life...yes blessed me, and yes let me learn from my choices.
This is a fabulous post and I could talk all day long about HOW I know God is with me, Loves me.

Kazzy said...

I grew up in a different religion than I am now. We had a strong family where we enjoyed unity and love, but once we got home from church religion took a six-day vacation and life went on.

I converted to my "new" religion when I was 19 and became interested in having a real relationship with God. Something that was two-way, where I could ask questions about my life and get real answers. Finally I found it.

So, even though I grew up going to church I didn't really become a believer until I was an adult. It is a fresh way to come at organized religion because you come in ready and willing to be a part of things. It has been terrific for me and my experience.

Growin' with it! said...

oh wow heather, what an AWESOME response to your post that you shared. *i'm grinnin' here*

even though i did "grow up in the church" and knew all about God, i'd have to say i never really understood this relationship i have til about 7 years ago. so i'm so excited for this girl to hopefully get a grasp of who He is w/o all the clouds of flannel boards, sunday sermons, and church potlucks. although all those are incredibly good, i know they hindered a bit to who i am because i fit right into the mold and never made it something for myself. so she truly does have a point on us who have "always" known.

i will say though, that just because i've known does not mean that i've experienced Him for myself. and for me it will always be a process. i don't ever expect to figure out God, but i know i see Him in my life and surroundings every single day!

i am envious of her searching and am challenged in my own beliefs to dig deeper and understand more!

Brooke said...

I have always been in the same religion my whole life, being taught that there is a God and that there is an afterlife. I believed it, but wasn't really solid in my belief until about five years ago. I don't really believe in coincidences, and I had a really special experience (to me) that solidified the knowledge that there is a God, and that he does love me. This year has also been an extremely difficult one for me, and I had yet another experience that solidified my belief in Jesus Christ and his atonement. Both of these came through prayer and experiences after. I don't know how to help you find what you are looking for, but I am a person who is always willing to listen, and will try my hardest to find an answer if I don't know it. Wonderful topic. You approach it so sensitively, in a way that makes people want to open up.

charrette said...

I realize I'm coming into this conversation very, very late...not sure how I missed all this...BUT I went through a very tough period of doubt when I was a teenager, and that led me to an intense search. I really, really wanted to know for myself, for certain, if God even existed. I had to fight really hard for what I now know, but after a few months the answers came in ways that changed my life forever. I would be a complete liar if I ever said I doubted the existence of God after that. I still have times when my faith ebbs and flows, but the foundation is set in stone now, and that has made all the difference.

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