The topic for this weeks Spin is Religion.
God made so many different kinds of people. Why would he allow only one way to serve him? ~Martin Buber
I have never doubted God’s existence in my life. However, I was raised with an unhealthy concept of religion. I was not brought up in the church. My father was always grumbling at his mother for trying to shove her religion down his throat. His family did not belong to a mainstream church. I went with my aunt and grandmother to their meetings sometimes. The congregation preached at us with damnation, but they did not practice all of what they preached. There was much hypocrisy among the members, and they seemed more interested in getting one another in trouble for their sins rather than lifting one another up when they were down. The clergy made fun of the beliefs of other people and churches. Mostly, they lectured with “holier than thou” attitudes about the end of the world which scared me more than anything. I think the thing that confused me the most was their utmost disdain for the Triune God of other religions. Their leaders depicted Him as a three headed monster. This also frightened me. (It took me many years to undo that and actually understand the Trinity.)
My mother’s father belonged to a Methodist church. He spoke calmly of a kind and loving God. He never condemned us or forced his religion on us. This God was the one that lived in my heart. We were always told to be respectful of anything my Grandfather said, but never allowed to attend his church services.
In high school, I attended services with my friend at a Methodist church. She played piano for the small congregation. It was there that I fell in love with hymns. I felt a sacredness and completeness in lifting my voice with others in unison to something much greater than I understood yet trusted.
There did come a time when my children were small that I felt we should be teaching them religious values. I didn’t want them to grow up with a skewed view as I had. The funny thing was that we thought we were doing this for our kids and ended up benefiting greatly ourselves. We became active in our church. We taught Sunday School for ten years. We were active in missions, youth, healing ministry, and many other organizations. We loved our church and our church family. It was a wonderful time in our lives. Our children thrived in our church community as well.
The churches must learn humility as well as teach it. ~George Bernard Shaw, St. Joan
We were invited to attend Emmaus. In case you don’t know what Emmaus is, it is a weekend retreat focused on your relationship with God and knowing that you are loved. It’s purpose is to equip you with skills to go back and serve your home church. It was a wonderful experience. I came back renewed and able and willing to support my church even more. However, later I went back to an Emmaus retreat and served, and that was a horrible experience. Helping others was good, but what was not good was getting involved and in the middle of a big clique. If you know anything about me, you know I don’t do hypocrisy and I don’t do cliques. I never felt more of an outsider as I felt that weekend. I won’t go into details as much of the Emmaus routine is not discussed, but it involves much self pride which takes the focus away from God. I totally dropped all ties with Emmaus after that.
Not all religion is to be found in the church, any more than all knowledge is found in the classroom. ~Author Unknown
A few years ago, there was a lot of controversy in my church. There seemed to be many good people all caught up in their own agendas rather than God’s agenda. I got tired of the politics and stopped attending services. Since this time, I have grown tremendously spiritually. My walk with God is much closer. You’d think I’d feel closer when I am reading and studying His word, but that is not the case. I’ve stopped focusing on what other people tell me about Him, and am finding Him within me. I suppose my biggest problem with institutionalized religion is the self-righteous behavior of many. I think as the body of Christ, we should work together to help one another. Many do this, but many do not. I guess this happens in many areas of life, not just religion.
Though I am not currently attending my church, I do not regret for a moment the years I spent there. I learned things in bible studies that I probably would not have learned on my own. I met many wonderful people and had some fabulous experiences. I grew as a Christian and as a person. I think that we provided our children with a solid belief system that will guide them in life.
Because I do not attend church regularly, I suppose many would not consider me religious. Nor am I hypocritical. What I am is faithful.
I feel good about where I am right now. I don’t feel that I must be involved with institutionalized religion in order to serve God or have a relationship with Him. Nor do I feel that I must explain myself to others, though I often end up doing just that. I am content with my relationship with Him. Sometimes, I feel guilty that I am not involved in the church, but I remind myself that what is important is my relationship with Him. My beliefs and my walk is mine to call my own. And in this realm that was once strife-ridden for me, I have found peace. Someday, I might return to church, but for now I am content.
*****This is not meant as a bash on anyone or any religion in general. I realize honesty can be hurtful, but this is not my intent. This is my experience, and others around me may have viewed the same circumstances differently than I did. This is how religion appeared through my eyes growing up and my views today. I harbor no resentment to anyone from my past. Even if I did not agree with their beliefs, I still learned much from them, and love them all the same. I’m sure the things that I mention happen in all churches and not in only one particular religion. Growing and learning is very much a part of the walk. I am thankful for all experiences I have had, for these have helped me choose my own way. Not to say my way is the right way or anyone else’s way is wrong, that is what is great about America…the freedom to practice the religion of our choice, and the freedom to speak of it.