Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Finding My Way

I waffled about putting this on the Web for all to see, but ultimately decided to go for it. After all, this blog is primarily for my benefit and it is nice to look back and see how things have changed or what has happened. I'm hoping that somehow it will help make it easier.

I come from a mixed religious background. I was taken to Sunday school in the Methodist church when I was younger. My grandparents made the decision to leave the Methodist church and join an Episcopal church and were there for quite some time. There was also visits to Baptist and Pentecostal churches during those early years. At the time, I primarily remember wearing dresses and prancing through the church clicking the heels of my patent leather shoes. The "Word of God" went over my head and sacrament was more a snack to me than anything else.

After we moved the Fredericksburg to live with Tom, I went to church with friends, whatever church they attended. I spent more time in an Episcopal church, but also visited St. Patrick's Catholic Church, a Presbyterian church and an AME church (quite an assortment). For the most part, if I am being honest, going to the various churches was a way to be social with my friends. On the other hand, I started questioning things around me and found that I was obsessed with mortality and what happens in the afterlife or if there is one. My mother would be happy to tell you stories, very happy. :)

I thought, at the time, I believed in God. Slowly I started to question things even more until I didn't know what was what. At this point in my life, I find that I am not only skeptical that a God exists, but I also have many issues with religion in general. I can get into that later. For now, let's just say, "Jess isn't buying it."

When I was pregnant with Sydney, I started thinking about all the things I wanted to teach her, what kind of woman I wanted her to be and how to get her there. Some decisions are easy. I want her to be healthy. So, I will teach her to eat well and enjoy the delicious, but unhealthy, things in moderation. We'll teach her to play and be active. She'll go to the doctor regularly and we'll teach her that shots are uncomfortable, but only for a second. Check, check, check. Next, we focused on education and other similar subjects.

Then, we were faced with faith and I was stumped. What do we do about that? How do I steer a child in any particular direction when I don't know which way to go? I decided that I would just teach her to be a kind, accepting and loving individual. Yes, I skipped over faith. I swept it under the rug.

Fast forward almost five years. Now, we not only have Sydney, but Nathan also. In general, I'm very happy with the way we are raising them. We have our struggles like everyone else, but as far as the basics go, we are happy with the steps we have taken. The bump under the carpet, however, is getting larger. I'm finding that I am walking around it on a regular basis. Sydney has started questioning things (i.e. death, heaven, etc.) and I'm finding that stickers aren't an effective distraction anymore. So, I now find myself faced with figuring out where I stand so that I can guide my children. Oh boy. Here we go.

Let me start by stating that, if you've bothered to read this far, I may say something to offend you. I apologize in advance. This is essentially my thought process and is not meant to hurt anyone. I'm just trying to get things organized and put away. Sometimes it is a messy process.

At first glance, I find religion hypocritical. For example, "It isn't my place to judge." How many times have I heard this expression? Unfortunately, I find more judgment among folks who have religion than others. I try very hard not to judge, but I'm guilty of it too.

One of my favorites, "It's God's Plan." First, I thought we had free will. Second, how am I to believe that the horrific things that happen around me, and to people I care about, are "God's plan?" It is terrible to me. We shouldn't worry thought right because "God will never give you more than you can handle." Until he does.

"All other religions are wrong." Well, that is just arrogant. How do you know?

There are others, but you get the point. I just don't get it.

At this point, I want to start my own religion. I want to study all religion, pick and choose what I want and move on. Why can't I just teach my children that you should be a kind, accepting and loving individual? Why can't being a good person be enough? I've heard that some believe that you can be an exemplary individual, but if you aren't baptised. Too bad. You are going to Hell. Seriously? Come on. That just seems nonsensical.

Despite the above, I believe there is something greater. What? I don't know. I want to believe in something. People seem to get so much comfort from their beliefs. I'd like to believe that this isn't it and I don't want to lead my children into nothingness, unless that is what I firmly believe. Actually, I'd just like to lead them on a path where they can make their own decisions.

I spent a lot of the last week polling friends. What do you think about this? Why do you feel this way? I've gotten a lot of good feedback. I went to the library yesterday and put out a request for The Case for Christ and Jess G led me to the Conversion Diary. I poked around a bit found her Finding God in 5 Steps. Okay, what the heck? I'll give it a try.

Step 1: Seek Humility First

Now that is a very tall order. I didn't think so at first, but then I read this.

Mike explains that "Humility is not the trait of thinking of self as being of less worth. Humility is not thinking of self at all, whether good or bad. Humility is thinking of others and seeking their advancement."

From this article, I've gotten that I need to:

1. Not think about myself

On the surface, I would think this one is fairly easy, but I am sure I will find I am more selfish than I think.

2. Not bad mouth anyone

I'd like to say that I don't do this, but I do. Hmm...does thinking something not nice count? If so, I'm probably in really big trouble. No really, I'm not that bad.

Okay, so I will spend the next few days working on those. Step 2 is to drop cynicism. IPES! That is going to be a tough one. Baby steps.

I had one friend tell me to pray on this situation, which sounded funny to me. Pray? I talk to myself or the "Great Beyond" when things are particularly crappy. I thought I would give it a go. Another friend told me to meditate, listen.

I went up to bed last night and thought, this is a good time. The only quiet time of the day in my house. I climbed into bed and started thinking/praying. Then, I decided to meditate. Before I knew it, Nathan was waking me up. Oops. I fell asleep. Hmm..I suppose I will figure it out. I'm going to try to work on it though.

I have a lot of work to do to figure things out. I just hope I can sort things out.


Rach said...

Hey there. I don't want to leave you a super long comment. I had many many many of the same feelings--"If I wanted my children to grow up hating people, I want them to figure it out on their own, not from church..."--and many others. Oddly enough, losing Hannah firmed my faith in God and faith because I HAVE to believe there is an afterlife, that we ARE going to be together again.

I'm not at all preachy about this, I promise. If you want, you can email me and I can fill you in. The only email I have for you is your old work one, otherwise, I'd have sent you a message.

This is a REALLY tough issue. My suggestion would be to find a church/religion you and your family are comfortable with (even if you DON'T believe) to give the kiddos at least a taste of religion.

This parenting gig is HARD stuff.

Hang in there.

Ruhiyyih Rose said...

I love your writing! This is a great post.

It is most certainly a journey. I was raised Baha'i, then became a Christian in college as I desired a personal relationship with God so badly. It was a huge change for me, as I had never even celebrated a Christian holiday, even secularly. Nothing.

Keep on writing and searching - things will sort themselves out eventually because you are taking action steps for them too. :)

Jess T said...

Thanks, guys.

Rach-new address is and would love to hear anything you have to say.

Ruh-they are the main reason for doing this, I think. It has been on my mind, but for them, I'll go to the ends.

Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blog for a while, off and on. I think that this is the first time I've commented. You said just like I did ten years or so ago. About a year or so ago I prayed a simple prayer that God would show Himself to me, something He did not have to do because He is, after all, God. But he did. He has shown me in large and small ways that not only does He exist, but He cares. There will not be answers (particularly "why?") in this lifetime, that's quite obvious to everyone but - BUT I have learned that He is real, He hears my prayers and He is WITH me. I hope that you find the same truth and the only advice I have to offer is that you will not be able to do any of the things you aspire to in your own strength but I believe you will find that as it states in 2 Corinthians 12:9- My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. You can trust Him with your precious children, He is the Creator after all. I will be praying for you!


Jess said...

Jess, we should grab a cup of coffee sometime just the two of us and have a nice long, uninterrupted chat! I had a lot of the same questions and I decided to read a whole lot and I feel confidant that I found what I was looking for.

I think Mere Christianity may be a very good read for you. It has a very readable prose style but packs some great punches of insight along the way.

Jess said...

I am terrible about praying in bed, I feel like I am just sorting through a laundry list of life details in my brain and I fall asleep before I finish the prayers.

Meditation for me is taking the focus off of me and my needs/wants and placing my attention elsewhere. That is why I particularly find praying the Rosary so useful and calming. It is a rote series of prayer over and over again but you meditate on the mysteries of Jesus's life as you pray. It has nothing to do with me yet everything to do with me.

Adoration (which I mentioned to you) is usually held in a very quiet, small place in a Catholic Church which offers the ambiance that some of us need to settle down and listen. I can't do that at home and I've tried! Other faiths have the same sort of meditative/prayerful period and place for the same purpose. And I know of a couple people who have turned a closet inside their house into a similar type of space only to be used for that purpose.