I am a spiritual person but not religious. I find church rituals a little odd and expectant. Over the years, I’ve tried to engage in organized religions, but ultimately, after much trial and tribulation, I’ve opted to construct my own faith as I go along. While many would be aghast at this statement, I feel it truly identifies my personal relationship with God. Thus far, I’m pretty proud of what I’ve managed to cobble together.
I grew up in a Roman Catholic home with my first true exposure to religion through the parochial school I attended. My parents for whatever reason opted to let the nuns take responsibility for my religious upbringing, but dutifully bought the uniforms and sent me to Sunday mass with their tithing envelope. Some Sundays we got a ‘pass’ especially if my parents were too tired to drive us, which was often.
It just didn’t seem important to them, and yet when I think back, I always thought it was out of character considering my maternal grandmother was a devout catholic who attended mass every morning of her life. However, as dutiful as she was to her morning mass, I believe she also got some true religion when she’d hit the bingo parlors downtown in the afternoon.
Like everything with gram, there was a ritual when we did catch up with her. Kisses and then blessings. Once blessed we were offered a piece of gum. If you took the gum she gave you a nickel. If you didn’t take the gum, you got neither. I’m still trying to figure this one out. But that aside, we’d always asks how she was fairing down at the parlor, and she’d respond in her thick Italian accent.
Which meant, she wasn’t winning that week, and the prayers to St. Bingo weren’t going through. So you can see how it may have been confusing on whether to go ‘all in’ on the church thing.
Mid-seventh grade, we moved and I started public school. It was there I realized there were ‘others’ in the world besides Catholics. Growing up my mother’s bosses were Jewish, but I understood that to mean nothing except my mother baked them a tray of lasagna each year, and they didn’t celebrate Christmas. Dr. “H” also brought bagels and lox over on special occasions for a ‘nosh’, but that just meant eating bagels to me.
It was then I began to attend bar and bat mitzvahs and babysitting for kosher families which in some homes meant two sets of dishes in their cupboards. Still regligiously clueless, I thought they just like change at the dinner table, but learned later about this and other wondrous traditions.
What Do You Mean You’re a Christian But Not a Catholic?
Up to that point, my impression and thoughts about God were pretty straight forward being based in fear, fire and brimstone. Fortunately, in high school, I met a Christian girl who introduced me to the love of a different God. A loving God. An intellectual God. By that I mean a God who was being explained to me through study. Being an intellectual I was hooked.
I was all in, felt wonderful and finally embraced by the people of this congregation. I believed they would inspire and help my faith and love for God grow in a more personal way.
Not so much. I separated from that church because they basically didn’t practicewhat they preached. Judgement and gossip abounded. Once again, I was on my way. Disgruntled, I was done with organized religion.
Thanks to that experience, I was officially a wondering agnostic.
Not So Fast Sister
When my mother died unexpectedly, I found myself once again kneeling in front of the cross in a Catholic church. I was distraught with grief, longing for answers and love. I sought solace back in my pew where a basket was shoved under my nose each Sunday by a stranger who didn’t offer either. I began to believe I was on my own to find what I was looking for, and it was then I started on a path of a self- reflection and understanding which lead me to a stronger personal relationship with God. It was beginning to feel as if I was getting it, and He was getting me.
Shortly thereafter, I fell in love. The search for answers appeased itself because I felt as if I’d received not only what seemed to be an ‘answer’ but a special blessing – one to be truly thankful for. With my heartfelt thanks, I once again engaged with my church to take my vows, but alas, I was turned away because of my husband’s divorce. There would be no white aisle runner for me. Once again, I found myself walking away.
Where is God’s Love?
I am continuously searching spiritually and have been fortunate to experience and find God’s love through the different things and people around me. The world and human nature is a fountain of God’s love delivered to me through the beauty of nature or through my favorite bass fisherman or theologian cyclist. It’s not as if I’ve sought these folks out but rather that I’ve been given a pre-determined path to them.
I’m thankful for the quiet messages I hear or read from them because they remind me about God’s love and acceptance and ultimately, that I’m not alone.
Faith – A Beautiful Experience
It’s one thing to have faith but another to experience it. I’m not insinuating I was the recipient of a miracle or anything about me is special or chosen, but I put some powerful thoughts into the universe and asked for some help which is something I normally am not willing to do. My humanness has always sustained me in times of trouble, but in this instance, I felt vulnerable and open, so I bowed my head and asked.
There was a detectable moment where I understood that something greater than me had my back and was answering my plea. Something in my mind just let go and I knew in every fiber of my being that it would all be fine. I believed.
These special quiet faith-filled moments help me through some really tough days. I realized a long time ago that ‘organized’ religion may not be a good fit for me. I respect and enjoy gathering in God’s house with my family but my soul is truly fulfilled through His other instruments.
I’m not afraid to talk about my faith or my love for God anymore. I’m happy I’ve been guided to this place through the beauty of the world and the people around me.