Please, no bashing of my beliefs or ideas. While I welcome discussion, insight, or respectful sharing of alternative ideals, attacking comments will be deleted. Thanks.
I haven’t talked a lot about faith and religion in my blogs before. I guess part of the reason is that I’m not comfortable enough in my own understanding and faith to really delve deep into it, and I am very shaky in my faith. I falter and question more than I accept and follow. I haven’t read much of the Bible since I was in my early twenties, and I’m just not comfortable with where I “fit in” in relation to religion and faith. I have views and values that are/might not be “compatible” with certain people’s beliefs, and it bothers me sometimes to be judged for them by those people. I think when you’ve been through any life-altering event or struggle people tend to react one of two ways. They either turn toward God and their faith for comfort and their faith in turn grows as it strengthens and comforts them. Or they turn their back on the church and God because they feel that God has turned His back on them. I, sadly, fall into the latter category. I haven’t admitted that in a long time. There was a time that I went to God with every concern and prayer. I gave thanks for what I was given and had in my life and prayed fervently for God to grant us a child. He didn’t. I still can’t understand why. I have been quite bitter about religion, God and church for a long time because of that. I can’t understand why if I have tried to live my life as a good person, how come I can’t have a child…yet the crackwhore down the street who neglects and abuses her children can have a litter of them? I just can’t reconcile that in my mind. It makes no sense. If someone could explain the justification behind that I would LOVE to hear it. I have asked God to heal my broken heart but still it remains pained and shattered. I believe in God…but I don’t trust Him. I don’t think He believes in me. I want answers to the questions I have. I doubt those answers will come any time soon.
I was raised in the United Methodist church. My parents are still active in the same church I grew up in. Throughout high school, I went to church regularly, attended Sunday school, was active in the church youth group, sang in the choir, etc. I listened intently during sermons, read the Bible, memorized Bible verses, was an acolyte and assisted with communion. But…something never felt right. I never felt that “Holy Spirit” at church. I always assumed it was me. That I wasn’t doing something right. And maybe it was me. I don’t know. I don’t believe that I have to go to a particular building on a particular day and recite specific verses and have someone spoon-feed me doctrine in order to be a good person and have a relationship with God. I don’t want someone telling me how and when and what prayers to pray. If I feel the need to talk to “The Big G”, I will. I pray in the shower, driving to work, while I’m dispatching calls, while I’m shaving my legs, sometimes while I’m washing dishes. I don’t care what I’m doing…if I feel a need to pray, I’m going to do it. That didn’t always fly too well with the people I went to church with. I don’t like or agree with what some preachers and “good Christians” believe and teach in regards to women and their relationship to men and their “roles” in life. It was because of this that I was once told that I “had too many feminist opinions” and that my “beliefs didn’t agree with the church’s teachings”, I “asked too many questions” and was told that it might be best if I didn’t return. So I left and haven’t been back since (except to get married).
For a long time I haven’t felt a relationship with God at all. I felt like I had been forgotten by someone who I had been told my entire life loved me. I felt denied by someone who I had been told would give me what I wanted if I was a good enough person, if I prayed hard enough, and if I worked for it. Well, I did all those things. Apparently God didn’t see fit to answer my prayers. Either that or He deemed me not worthy enough of achieving my dreams. I have felt betrayed, forgotten, and have been very angry at God and very bitter and doubtful of His very existence. (Which, I believe He’s okay with. I’m sure I’ve done things that He’s not too thrilled with either. Just because you’re mad at someone doesn’t mean you can’t or don’t love them). Well, maybe it wasn’t that God turned his back on me…but rather I turned my back on Him because I didn’t get what I thought I deserved? Perhaps. Like a spoiled brat throwing a temper tantrum. That visual makes me laugh. But I do still believe I deserve a child…why have my prayers not been answered???
One of the biggest problems I have with religion is the so called “Christians” that want to tell me that everything is “God’s will”. That my infertility is God’s will. That "maybe God didn’t intend for me to be a mother”. That “good people are rewarded and blessed with children”. Really? So…God hates me that much that He divinely sterilized me? Honestly, don’t you think someone would have told me this a little sooner so I didn’t waste the last five years of my life banging the sperm heads up against the brick wall of my cervix??? Anyway…I could go on and on about the comments I’ve received from “devout Christians” about my infertility. However, I am working on healing, and that does not seem conducive at this point. (And I am not talking about ALL Christians. Just certain people I’ve had run-ins with. Don’t get all up in arms about me stereotyping people, because I’m not.) I can forgive these people, even though their words were like daggers through my heart. They didn’t know any better. They were simply trying to make themselves feel less uncomfortable in a situation they don’t know anything about. Their ignorance of infertility is not their fault, and I’m glad they don’t have firsthand experience of it. Lord knows I wish I didn’t either. But I do. And it is from that experience that I write. You know, I wish there was a big fat handbook that came along with an infertility diagnosis that outlined how to react in those situations…if only for the value of smacking said idiots upside the head with it.
See, I’m not big on the whole “God’s will” thing. I don’t believe God is up there picking and choosing what to do with us like we are pawns on a giant three dimensional chessboard. I believe we have free will. That doesn’t mean we have the right to commit crimes, or run around all willy-nilly doing anything we want to anyone we want without repercussions. I believe that God provides ‘guidance’; that is, if we pray for direction or answers, He can if He wants, lead us in the direction of the best course of action for the outcome of the greatest good for all involved. Does that even make sense? We as humans have this wonderful thing called “choice”. There is no right or wrong choice, necessarily. What matters is if the choice I make with the information I have at that particular time doesn’t work out or yields bad results…I have the ability to make a different choice based on the knowledge I’ve obtained. And that’s what having free will means to me. It doesn’t mean that I don’t pray for guidance and answers. I believe that if I pray for God to come into my life, and I ask for guidance…if my heart is open to hearing the answers, He can lead me in the direction that will be right for me and my situation. I don't think God "pushes" us into doing anything though. It doesn’t mean I don’t have guidelines for living my life. I believe in holding yourself to good morals and values, not intentionally harming anyone or anything (unless it’s insects or snakes…or the occasional squirrel that runs in front of my car. I SWEAR…that thing was suicidal!), in being a good person, in being compassionate, charitable and honest. I believe in tolerance of other’s beliefs, lifestyles and opinions (as long as they’re legal), in loving people for who and what they are warts and all, in giving back to the community. I believe in right and wrong. I believe in trying to be the best we can be and through loving relationships with others bringing out the best in them as well.
All of that being said, Matt and I have been talking about going back to church for some time now. The topic first came up about a year or so ago, but we couldn’t seem to agree on which church to attend, so the conversation kind of fizzled out. He was raised Lutheran, and I was raised Methodist. He has his own reasons for falling away from the church, and I’ve discussed mine here. However…I’ve felt a pull for a while now to go back to church, but knew Matt’s views on it and I didn’t want him to be uncomfortable with it or feel like I was pushing something on him that he didn’t want to do. He actually came to me the other day and said that he wanted us to start looking for a church to go to. Seeing as we were raised in different religions, we discussed which churches near us we would like to visit and see which one fit us best. It’s kind of strange, because although I was raised in the Methodist church, I really don’t have any significant desire that I “have to” go to a Methodist church. I didn’t know if I would like a Lutheran church, because I know that Lutheran practices and services are a lot closer to Catholic services than I’m used to. (I don’t have anything against Catholicism, please don’t misunderstand. I simply mean they are more structured, conservative, formal services). Methodist services are usually more laid back and informal (at least the ones I’ve been to). We wound up choosing a Lutheran church not far from our home, because Matt was more comfortable with that, and I really had no preference. Since he has voiced a desire to return to church, I wanted to nurture that by going with what he was comfortable with. We attended the Christmas Eve Candlelight service.
I have to admit, I really enjoyed this church, and the service was beautiful (even with all the standing up and sitting down…that truly IS reminiscent of the Catholic services I’ve been to!). I felt a tiny bit out of place because I wasn’t familiar with the “performance” of the service (for lack of a better word)…not knowing where to sing the parts the congregation sings, the Nicene Creed is TOTALLY different than the last time I recited it at a Methodist service. But, there was a very comforting and “homey” feel to this church. I liked it a lot. Matt wants us to try out a few different churches to see if there’s one we like better, but I’m really leaning toward this one. I will probably go again on Sunday, to get a feel if I like the regular weekly services as well.
There were several things about the experience that were different from the Methodist services and religion I’m used to. One of the most significant was the service of communion. In the Methodist church, communion is open to anyone, whether you’ve been baptized/confirmed/are a member or that church. However, I learned that in the Lutheran church, you must be a confirmed member of the Lutheran church to partake. They consider it one of the sacraments, as does the Catholic Church. Although, at this particular church, if you are not a confirmed member, you can still go forward to the altar during communion and receive a blessing, you just can’t take communion. You just have to signify that you are not a member by crossing your arms at the altar. I thought that was really cool, and a lot more inclusive than the traditional Catholic services I’ve been to where you can’t even walk up unless you’ve had First Communion. I also noted that many of the members crossed themselves at various times during the service. I was under the impression that crossing one’s self was strictly a Catholic practice, so it was a little different seeing it there. The last two differences were less significant…the pastor was wearing clerical vestments (a priest’s collar) and in addition to an empty cross displayed in the sanctuary, there was also a crucifix next to the pulpit. As Methodists, our ministers don’t wear vestments (some don’t even wear robes during services) and we display only empty crosses, not the crucifix.
I’m quite interested to see where this takes me. As I said before, I have been feeling this pull to return to church for some time, and I’m really glad that Matt has had the same experience. This might turn out to be something really good for us as a couple. I know I have a long way to go in rebuilding my faith and that I will still falter and fall. But, I also know that it doesn’t matter how small the first step is…what matters is that I took it, with my husband at my side.