Sunday, February 15, 2009

Here I am, but how did I get here?

Bottom line up front, my path has not been straight, nor narrow, but it is still mine.  The memories I have of going to church and religion growing up primarily are not pleasant.  My parents divorced when I was young, and my mom dutifully delivered me to Wednesday night religion classes, but we did not really go to church. as a family. I would go with my grandparents, but I really do not remember going with my parents. Truth be told, it is not her fault. She was not really welcome, from my understanding, in the Catholic Church post-divorce, and also unfortunate is the way people treated me because of it.  None the less, I made an effort for a while. Once old enough, I would walk the mile or two it was to church, sometimes through the snow, cold and who knows what else.
As I grew older, the situation did not really improve, and I was rather difficult to deal with in religion classes. I had a lot of questions, and no one wanted to give the answers. I did not fit in the box. I did not want to sit and memorize the beliefs of the Catholic Church without explaination to their Biblical explanation. On top of that, a lot of the Catholic Church is based on traditions as much as Biblical teachings, which I struggled to wrap my head around. I wanted to know the Biblical basis as to why we needed to see the priest for confession instead of praying to God. 
In some ways I was very angry with God and not mature enough to deal with that anger.  I did not understand a lot of what was going on, and like many teenagers, I was a little self-absorbed. In the end, I believe I went to Confirmation, because it was pleasing to my family and I could stop going to Wednesday night religion classes. I was torn, but didn't want to upset my family.
I bounced to a few different churches during my high school days, visiting and trying to find where I thought I was supposed to be and to get answers to some of my questions, but I was embarrassed by my lack of Biblical understanding. I always felt behind and afraid to ask the questions I needed answers to, so I went back to the "comfort zone" (the Catholic Church). While I was comfortable, it didn't seem quite right.  I went through some extreme highs and lows as far as religion was concerned. I believed strongly in God, but I was struggling to find my path with Him. I wanted the knowledge, but I didn't know how to find it.
In college, I did the same... stuck with the Catholic Church, but I was finding the answers on my own. Away from home, I felt more freedom to question and find the answers. I was not confined by the real or perceived expectations of others. I became less concerned with what others thought, but I was still afraid to break away from those expectations completely. 
Some find comfort in the traditions of the Catholic church, and that is great. There are parts of the tradition that do bring comfort to me too, but there are other parts that I am not comfortable with in the interpretation of scripture, use of apocrypha, the role of the Sacraments in salvation...The more I dug deeper, the more I found huge gaps.
These days, I march to the beat of a different drummer in so many ways. I study the Bible, the history, the stories behind the stories. I feel more confident in doing what is right for me and my family, and in doing so am more comfortable exploring and searching. I have a thirst, and I have finally figured out how to quench it. Fortunately, I have a very knowledgeable husband I can ask questions of  without worry of  sounding stupid and a supportive church community in the Disciples that allows the exploration without judgment.
To answer my own question, we are all right so long as we study the Bible, pray, and discern God's purpose for our lives. We seek to follow Jesus' teachings-- the commands to love God and one another-- and while denominations and journeys might divide us, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, and we all are right in our own ways. I am no longer wondering who is right, but am I doing "it" right by the standards God and I have set in my life. 
Am I studying and praying faithfully? Am I approaching the word with an open mind and heart? Am I reading Jesus' words and praying to discern their purpose and application in God's vision in my life? Am I faithfully searching and executing that purpose for my life?
Those are the questions I am going to be asking myself in this journey.
Do you have questions or statements that guide your study and journey?


Team Ellis said...

Just enjoy Jesus.

ANHD said...

This is a really good post, Maria. I find this part of your journey really interesting. I think it's great to ask questions about why things are the way they are (God certainly isn't afraid of our questions or our doubts). The questions/statements that guide my own journey are "Am I the wife/mother/friend etc. that God would want me to be?" and "What does my life, speech, decision-making etc. say about Jesus to those that don't know Him and to those that do?"

Erin said...

Those are good questions, Maria. I additionally am continually asking how I am being part of the body of Christ. Jesus is going to redeem His bride, which is not a bunch of individuals, but member sof one body as 1 Corinthians 12 says:

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
One Body with Many Members

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts.

And I will show you a still more excellent way.

So as I read that my questions are: 1) What are my giftings? And then, am I using the gifts God has given me to serve the body of Christ? 2) Am I allowing others in the body to use their gifts to serve me? Or am I trying to do this all on my own?

Anonymous said...

hello maria - thanks for sharing your journey. i feel like somewhat of a kindred spirit with you. it is interesting that you felt led out of the catholic church, while i felt led into it and converted at age 25. i don't want to turn your blog into my blog, nor do i want to change you, but just to share that i too had many questions, and i'm sorry that in your experience no one would let you voice them or try to help you answer them. i'm also sorry that you were rejected because of your parents' divorce. you mentioned that your grandma still thinks you're "going to hell" for leaving the catholic church, whereas my family thinks the same about me for joining it. it's too bad that things get to that point when you are being a good christian by trying to follow what you think is god's will for your life. i think you should always be open to where god leads you and go to the church where you feel most comfortable. i find it truly admirable that you read the bible with such an open heart. i'll just close by saying that i found the catholic church to be biblical and historical in its christianity, i was shocked by what the church actually taught, compared to what i was always told it taught. and i don't want to get into doctrine, but i found christ in the eucharist (and other sacraments) in a way i had never known was there before, and i wanted all of him i could get. i was satisfied with the answers i have found, and i know a lot of catholics who can defend their faith, although it seems like there are many who cannot. therefore they are very threatened, hurtful, defensive, etc. when an open-hearted teenager (such as you were) simply asks the very important question of "why". god bless you on your journey, oh the places you'll go. =)


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