I’ve been feeling conflicted about adding my blog link to The Better Mom on Mondays. Even though the tag line is “Sharing Life and Learning Together”, I know that the focus is sharing a Christian life and learning about God together. When I link my posts, I worry I will either offend someone by being too non-religious or worse, give someone the impression that I am secure in my faith. I also diligently read several other moms, before and after my own post, struggling to find the right words of encouragement, especially when I clearly have a different opinion about life and religion.
My childhood memories are seamlessly attached to weekly church services, youth groups, choir, vacation bible school and prayer. What I loved about growing up in our church was fellowship and community. I loved that my mother associated Sunday worship with past and present family. She made religion about appreciating, as well as experiencing, God’s presence in everything and in everyone. My parents both gave us permission to not only seek God in our own way, but to accept and honor other faiths that experience God in different ways, even if they call Him by another name.
I am thankful for my parents giving us such a gift, a gift of religious freedom and compassion. It’s also a gift of accepting other people’s beliefs without judgement or condemnation but with respect and possibility. I am able to really love my community unconditionally because I am not distracted by an agenda. It’s been hard to find that same level of spiritual safety as an adult. Political opinions, leadership dissension, narrow-minded beliefs and unforgiving viewpoints have driven me out of the church. And yet, I continue to gravitate towards believers, in the hope that somewhere I might find the right fit. Somewhere I will find a community that sees God in all things and in all people, even if He is called by another name. Even if He, is not called at all.
There is a strong desire in my heart to take this gift of religious freedom from my parents and pass it on to my children. It’s important to me that they understand that there is something greater than themselves out there, that we have been created for a purpose and that everything in this universe is interdependent. I want them to learn the importance of contemplative silence in order to reflect on both the joys and sorrows of life so as not to take anything for granted. I want them to know the value of praying and meditating in a selfless way, a way that does not revolve around themselves and produces action that benefits others. But most of all, I want my children to find their own spiritual relationships.
Unfortunately, because I have been frustrated by not finding my perfect religious community, my children have not experienced that same community of youth that I did in my childhood. They have not built relationships that spur conversations about faith and world views in order to help them mold their own opinions outside these four walls. But every time I try to venture out into the Christian realm, I am disappointed by messages of condemnation, righteousness and judgement. It makes me question why I still cling to God and it certainly does not push me to find a church home to raise my children.
Recently, I’ve been reading Standing in the Light, by Mary Pope Osborne. It’s part of a children’s historical fiction book series. This particular book is about a little Quaker girl who was taken captive by the Lenape Indians in 1763. It was such a good book, that I read it in about two hours. I was completely absorbed by the history. The story revolves greatly around the conflict of religious beliefs and the idea of manifest destiny or divine destiny. But the greatest message was presented at the very end of the book when Caty, the young girl, is having a conversation with her father after she has been reunited with her English family.
“He took my face between his hands and said, “Thee learned to open thy heart to those who are different from thee, Caty. That is why thee stood in the light. But such learning is lonely and cannot be taught to others, for thee had to suffer greatly to uncover such truth…He held me tighter and said, “Thee must pray for thy red friends, Caty. For the same loving Spirit who loves thee loves them, though they know Him by another name. Thee must know that we are all always in God’s embrace, whether we are alive or have departed this earth.” (pg. 152-153)
And I read it again.
And I listened.