I used to dread Sundays, even as a kid. It was always a mad rush to shower, get dressed, eat breakfast and bolt out the door for church. Most of the time the car ride was filled with frustration.
“Why didn’t you brush your hair before we left?”
“Seriously! That is what you chose to wear?”
“Chocolate chip cookies and milk is not a healthy breakfast!”
By the time we got to church, we were just glad to not be talking.
For years, we worshiped together and then went to classes. Then, as the kids got older, they worshiped with their peers and we stopped going to classes. Pretty soon it just felt like another time suck. I would watch the clock, counting all the things in my head that needed to get done before Monday, hearing but not listening to the sermon. I resented church, which made me start resenting God. It bothered me that a God so powerful and majestic would really need his ego stroked by a room full of people praising his name. That seems like such a human quality and profoundly vain. It also bothered me that a God who supposedly loves us like his children would require us to accept him and love him in order for him to recognize us as his children. I am a parent and even if my children woke up one day and decided that they did not love me, did not want to be with me and did not want to follow our house rules, I would not stop loving them. Would it make it more difficult to like them? Absolutely. But my love for them is not dependent upon how they treat me and I can’t ever imagine closing my heart to them for any reason. Perhaps that would make me an enabler but they are my children. I am their mom and this is their home, no matter what.
One could say that I am not well versed in the Bible, and I think that is debatable. I grew up learning “the basics” of the Catholic and Episcopal faith, read and re-read dozens and dozens of stories from the Bible. I knew my faith through my parent’s eyes, for a limited time my school’s eyes, and then my church’s eyes. Once I became a young adult, I started learning other viewpoints and went to different churches on my own. Eventually, I adopted the religious viewpoint of the group of friends I spent the most time with, Baptist Student Ministries. Then as an adult, I sought out other churches and adult Bible study groups. I was eventually trained to serve on different leadership teams. But in my heart, I was always conflicted. I always struggled with feelings of guilt because I truly agreed with so little of the doctrine taught. How could God really love me if I supported gay relationships, inter-racial marriages, respected and even agreed with many non-Christian religions, only saw the Bible as an inspired work and not divinely written, questioned who Jesus truly was and absolutely do not believe in the idea of predetermination but lean more towards universal reconciliation? What kind of Christian does that make me?
I only gave God my left-overs. I gave him only the bits and pieces that didn’t feel conflicted, like my volunteer time and tithe.
When we moved to this house, a little over four years ago, we left our church home. The drive was just too much. I had always intended to find another church. We even tried a few, not limiting ourselves to one faith, but looked for churches with strong children’s programs and community presence. Each visit I found things I liked but also things I didn’t like. I felt conflicted every time I listened to the sermon or read the church’s statement of faith. No matter where we visited, I felt like I would be raising my family in an environment of limited compassion and limited acceptance of the world around them.
So we just stopped going.
An amazing thing has happened over the last few years. When I stopped trying to “find” God, he finally found me.
He seeks me out in the quiet moments, reminding me of all the many blessings I have in my family and friends. He seeks me out in the chaos, calms my nerves and gives me strength to be a better parent and wife. We commune more often, with no pretense or falseness. I don’t give him just my left-overs, but everything without excuse. I don’t blame Him for any of the heartache in life, but I also don’t give Him all the credit for the greatness either. We exist together in harmony now.
I don’t dread Sundays anymore. In fact, as a day of the week it is one of my favorites. The house stays quiet for hours, as I enjoy a cup of coffee and time alone knowing that my family is all safe and sound, sleeping in the rooms above me. It is usually the one day of the week that we have breakfast together in our pajamas and regroup as a family. It is the one day of the week that the girls and I snuggle in bed watching TV at night and it is the one day of the week that I feel like I get recharged enough to face the next six.
If I could live my life based on one idea, I think it would be this:
The greatest achievement is selflessness.
The greatest worth is self-mastery.
The greatest quality is seeking to serve others.
The greatest precept is continual awareness.
The greatest medicine is the emptiness of everything.
The greatest action is not conforming with the worlds ways.
The greatest magic is transmuting the passions.
The greatest generosity is non-attachment.
The greatest goodness is a peaceful mind.
The greatest patience is humility.
The greatest effort is not concerned with results.
The greatest meditation is a mind that lets go.
The greatest wisdom is seeing through appearances.