I am a pretty open-minded girl. I tend to dabble in all things alternative and mainstream and not adhere to any strict set of rules on any front. I’m not very good with dogma and I don’t like pre-conceived ideas about anything. I never follow recipes and I only read instructions as a total last resort. So when it came to religion, I have to say that my open-mindedness failed me. For most of my life, for some reason that I never understood, I completely closed down when I heard ‘Jesus’ come out of someone’s mouth. But there was one day about 10 years ago that I let ‘God’ become a regular part of my vocabulary. And since then, I find myself being able to talk about Jesus in a meaningful way without having fear attached to that.
I imagine Jesus was probably a pretty charismatic guy in his human form, worldly wise and sure of his convictions. It also sounds like he knew more than humans could possibly know. I bet I would have admired him greatly if I had met him on the street.
For some reason, my parents chose not to expose us to any religious or church-related activities as children. I believe that my father’s mother was interested in God, but I would often listen to my mother’s father go on about how there could not possibly be a God after what he had so closely witnessed from his native land in the Netherlands in the early 1940s. My grandfather was a stubborn man (wooden shoes and a wooden head) and he was intense. I believed everything this man said because he always said it like it was the Gospel.
As a young adult I recall asking questions about religions but I mostly remember feeling like that was a part of life that I just did not belong to. For some reason, other people knew how these things worked and I didn't. I probably pretended that I was above all that nonsense, when truthfully I would have committed bloody murder to believe in something as strongly as some of my more religiously inclined friends did. I should not joke about such things, as bloody murder is unfortunately a reality for many in the world who fight for what they believe in.
Decades passed and I let on to certain people that I would appreciate an opportunity to join them at church one Sunday, but the Sundays would come and they would go and this was never realized. I suppose I made myself too busy on Sundays. They were filled with brunches and sports and matinees and all kinds of other heathen activities that just didn’t allow for such a commitment.
After a pretty great sadness that enveloped me one year, I did pursue some Buddhist practices in an attempt to calm my traveling mind and seek peace in the world as it was. This kind of practice healed me in ways that no food, movies or physical activity ever could. It brought me to a safe place inside of myself where I could rest - something I had never been able to do. My body was not a home to me. My mind was a lot more like a prison than a haven. And I kept myself so very busy most every minute of every day in order that whatever had been chasing me all those years would never catch up.
My journey towards Jesus began as a haphazard conversation with a very religious fellow from Texas who introduced me to C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. He and I were both a little low at the time and I think our mutual friends were hoping we could ‘talk each other down’. It came as a surprise to me that reading C.S. Lewis brought me from one side of the line to the other. I did not necessarily take to the Jesus parts, but the way in which this writer found a home in God was so comforting to me, it was so familiar and seemed the only true path. Further, I recall a moment when I got off the phone with the Texan where I truly felt God in my body for the first time. It had the impact of a car crash as an overflowing love and light surged through me. I clutched my chest as it felt like my heart was going to burst open. And that night I think mine did. God had found me. Or I had let God in. I was hooked.
It is now almost 10 years after those events. Though I could not relate to the name that the Texan would call his Saviour, there was no denying the love that shot through me, welling up and washing over me like a cap popping from a champagne bottle. I was a changed woman after meeting that Texan. All I know from that experience is that the strangest people are sent to us at the strangest times to deliver us messages. To this day I still don’t know what happened there.
Now I live in a small community that seems to generally value going to church regularly. I am married to a man that went to church growing up but didn’t necessarily see it in his future. I have two small children who will soon be asking me questions that I’m not sure I will be able to answer. I cannot provide a framework for birth and death without drawing on some ideas put forward by religions. And further to this, I don’t want my children feeling the way that I did. It was a distinct possibility to me as a child that I was not good enough to have a God. Only richer, smarter, better people were allowed to enjoy the fruits of a regular practise and commitment. Maybe I was not worthy of a God who could love me and protect me and guide me through my life?
Now we go to an Anglican church. I look around me in my new community and see women my age with young children that take the foundation for granted that was offered to them at a young age. Though it's probably a good thing to ask questions about how we were raised, I believe that not being given a scaffold to build a spiritual framework left me, frankly, a little lost. I don’t know if I’m looking for a Shepherd now, but I certainly believe that I could use a road map, especially when it comes to guiding my children.
But then again I suppose that is what faith is all about. It isn’t up to me to decide how it’s all going to work.