For the first half of my life, God and I lived on either side of a window. We both knew the other was there. I watched from my side as other people interacted with this God but this was not my God. To be truthful, I wanted to open the window and see what was going on over there. Friend’s parents would invite me to church with them but I was never brave enough to go. I would watch in awe at weddings and funerals as parts of the services were so incredibly foreign and unfamiliar to me. Being a nature lover, I knew there was something pretty phenomenal at work out there, but I couldn't put a finger on it in any way.
In my twenties and early thirties, I did what everyone around me was doing and took up things like meditation and yoga, went on silent retreats and read all about Buddhism. I longed to trek the Himalayas to find myself in a little shack nestled in those mountains. Instead I traveled to Africa to scout out places that I could work with gorillas and chimpanzees but that’s another story. Nature and animals were my religion. Being around living, breathing beasts was always what made me feel connected to the world and brought me home to myself. It didn’t take long before I realized that I could surround myself with furry things on the same continent as my extended family.
So when I purchased a farm that was quietly nestled between two hillsides, not in view of any neighbours and surrounded myself with creatures, I was certain that I was creating my own little Godly universe. It was a world that I thought I could completely control. My very own center for spirituality away from all things unpredictable, including humans.
It did not take me long to learn two very important things: no man can live as an island (especially not a farmer or a parent), and there is no God without community. For someone who figures she had all the answers by age 2 (and never really grew out of that), I was shocked to find out how wrong I was. I was going to need to connect with the human types of living, breathing beings in order to find true peace. Go figure.
Before you go wondering how all of this silent business was going to go down while living with a husband and children, I thought I had that covered too. I happened to have married a fellow who enjoys his solitude for the large majority of his day. I could not have imagined what bringing children into the world would be like. I suppose I thought they would be like an appendage that I could trek around with me everywhere I went. One without will or needs or a voice or an agenda. I was also terribly wrong there. I got away with hiking around our land with my newborn strapped underneath my winter coat. That lasted about five minutes.
Talking about how integrating children into daily farm work is another post for another day. For now I will just say that my silent, controlled world does not exist. But truthfully, I think it has turned out so much better.
Another thing that I have gained in our new surroundings is a community with a selection of churches. One brave day we extended ourselves into this world. Now, many Sundays we pile our tidy children into the van and head towards the village to attend Sunday school or a service. We have even become part of a church discussion group which we quite look forward to every week. One morning my 2 year old son piped up ‘Yay, church!’ as we drove into the parking lot and my jaw dropped in surprise. I honestly would never have imagined hearing those words out of the mouth of my babes. Mostly because I never thought I would have brought them to church. I had never gone as a child, teenager or adult and I never would have thought there was a reason to start. My husband had grown up as a somewhat regular church goer but was not so very attached to the idea either.
For me, there was something about being responsible for these little human beings that made me feel like I had to expose them to choices. I had to open that window for them, let them feel the fresh air, smell the smells, taste the bread. I didn’t want them to feel like an outsider to God as I had. Many people have regaled me with tales of how organized religion was shoved down their throats in their childhoods. I am grateful for these stories as they explain why there is so much resistance out there around religion.
Aside from reading some excellent books on Christianity, I have only been a tourist until now. My slate was clean, my curiosity was deep, and my need to feel connected to something larger was unrelenting. Up the road was a church filled with people who opened their arms despite my ignorance. It may not have been the denomination that my groovy Buddhist friends would sign up with, or that Hollywood would wear a little red bracelet for but it is the one that found me, next to my home. I do grapple with the role that religion plays in wars today and have no idea where or how I am to take responsibility for these things as a Christian, but that is also likely for another day. Until I have a negative experience personally, it will be difficult to turn away from our new found community.
In this new arena, I fear that I am asking stupid questions all of the time. Most of the time I don’t talk about what I’m thinking. All I know is that for some reason I find myself welling up with emotion at almost every church service. Even when I am wrestling with a squirming, squawking child the power of what is going on surges through me. The energy is undeniable, forcing me through that window. I have decided not to name it yet, but I am certain it has everything to do with the people lining the pews around me. At a minimum, we are all just there, hoping that we are right about the fact that we belong to something Great.
A year ago I would have turned to a new page if I was reading a blog and someone decided to post about God midway through an academic discussion about food systems and feminism. I would have had assumptions about who that person was. In the spirit of ignoring labels, I would like to experience what it is like to actually live in an agricultural community with devoted Christians without preconceived ideas of what this looks like. In fact, I have joined in wholeheartedly for the ride.
I would only hope that for anyone else out there that would like to know what lies on the other side of that window, be it for leaving the city to live on a farm, or leaving behind a secular life to follow an organized religion, perhaps I can be a tiny inspiration to you. This may be the seed that helps you know what lies ahead. This may be one plank on the bridge to get you to the other side.
So far anyway, I’m going to keep the window open and let the breeze come in a little while yet.