Hello there! You’ve indulged my need to post poems for a couple of weeks now. For that indulgence, I thank you. I’ve been grateful for the kindness you’ve shown as I show you snapshots of the people in my life and although there are more that I will be sharing, I thought it would be nice if you could see a snapshot of me and pray the same indulgence.
I’m not telling you this story to be a witness or a proponent of the church I am now a member of, but to explain how I came to my own realization of my own faith. I don’t think anyone or anything can tell you how to find faith, love, or even whether or not God exists. I find love and God, in my life, to be synonymous. It’s my goal to help others because that satisfies my love for myself, my love for my neighbors, and builds a stronger community. I’m not asking for you to believe as I do nor am I encouraging you to follow my path. I say, flat out, that I’m not a Christian and I experience God like the Cowardly Lion, “I do believe. I do believe. I do believe in ghosts!” But I do try to live by a basic rule, Love My Neighbor as Myself. It is difficult to do when people don’t “get” me, but I still put forth the effort because I also use Namaste.
I’ve attended so many different churches and other religious establishments in my lifetime. No matter where I landed my butt on a Sunday morning, my primary concern of finding faith in the love of God became discarded after a conversation with a pastor’s wife in Lake Station, IN. At the time, I attended and was heavily involved in a Covenant church which has rather extreme views about the roles of women and men. It felt awkward, but it pleased my husband so…I went, participated, and attempted to alter my heart to fit into the culture.
The nutshell version of that garden conversation is this: God won’t accept you if you don’t believe in Jesus.
This did not fit with my heart. It didn’t even come close. At that moment I realized, that for me, God (or whatever face you see or don’t) can’t be contained into a neat label any more than an individual can be labeled only one thing. I left the church in search of Love as the face of God.
Johnny Lee’s 1980 hit, “Looking for love (in all the wrong places)” fits quite nicely. I searched everywhere I could think to without results. Years passed, I didn’t even claim faith any more. At times I’d even mock the faithful for being so gullible as to fall into the junkie mentality with religious fervor and misguided ideals.
A shift in the spiritual winds of my soul started out as a light breeze, but about two years ago, it hit with a hurricane force. There was no fanfare. There wasn’t anybody asking me to go to their church. There wasn’t any outside influence suggesting to me via written, conversational, or other form of communication telling me to go to church. It just happened. A screaming Mimi in my mind saying, “GO NOW!”
A friend of mine held a group that I really dig at the Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church (ORUUC). The fact that they allowed that particular group to meet under their roof (It’s the Red Tent Temple) caught my attention. Noting the time of their service as I drove past, I thought, well if I get up on Sunday, I’ll give it a try. I had no intention of honoring that fleeting thought.
As it happened, my eyes popped open early enough to not only shower, drink coffee, dress, lounge, and still make it to the service that I felt compelled to comply with my intuition that started doing a happy dance as soon as I accepted the wisdom.
I entered the church expecting what I was familiar with, a fashion show with pretty people pretending to be good long enough to get a pat on the head from the pastor then back to neglecting their spirits for the rest of the week. Cynical, yes, but that’s how I viewed the church.
Instead, there were people in jeans, dresses, suits, bohemian eclectic, dressy casual, and they were hugging each other. Genuinely hugging. Not the “A” hugs where the hips don’t meet. Not the half-hugs where an arm and a hip touch. But “I” hugs, the sincerely glad to see you kind. The welcome table had a sign in sheet and name tags. I refrained. I figured if they want to know, they’ll ask. It weirded me out as the service time got closer when I saw friend after friend of mine from social media arriving. Then I was the one being embraced with “I” hugs. I was still resisting.
The service was pretty typical at first. Call to worship, blah blah blah. But, the first hymn I heard? John Lennon’s “Imagine.” That got my attention. Who in the world uses secular music, even with peaceful intent, in a church service? My WTF button came out of my pocket as my skepticism faded. I checked the bulletin and found that the next hymn would be John Denver’s “Sunshine on my shoulders.” I choked through the rest of the service in disbelief. Who were these people?!
I didn’t go back for a long time, over a year I think, because the idea that there were others like me searching on their own paths gave me pause. But there was something that called me to return to “those people.” I started attending pretty regularly. Atheists, Buddhists, Humanists, Christians, Jewish, Conservationists, Scientists, all of them together under the same roof in the spirit of love.
One of those people and I had a conversation. She said that everything was created by God but humans are the only one of those into which God breathed life.
“Love is the breath of God.” I thought. Those words encompass my daily journey to pursue my peace and happiness, harmony with my fellow human beings despite their circumstances or situations. As my favorite song says, “When I breathe in, I breathe in peace. When I breathe out, I breathe out love.”