Monday, December 29, 2014

To My Ten Year-Old Church-Going Self

I grew up in a conservative, Christian religion. Some of my earliest memories are sitting in Sabbath school (the Saturday equivalent of Sunday school) and listening to Bible stories on the felt board and being hushed in church for picking fights with my brother over who got the last Cheerio. I attended our church schools from kindergarten to my last year in college. To say I grew up in a fully religious culture is an understatement. For Pete's sake, we produce our own brand of veggie meat.

Photograph by Wade Dunkin

So, my innocent ten year-old self would probably be abhorred to know that my twenty-seven year-old-self works in a secular environment at a non-religious school, doesn't regularly attend church, and has had more alcohol to drink in the past year than in my entire life (and that's saying a lot because I really hate the taste of alcohol). And yet, I have more peace and joy in my life than ever before. I am growing in my awareness that life is a gift and how I respond to it matters. And if that's not the best definition of spirituality, I don't know what is.

Life is a gift and how we respond to it matters.

How I think about God and church and spirituality has changed a lot in the past few years and I think that's okay.

I'm learning that the best kind of Christian is not one that protects themselves from "the ways of the world" but one that engages with it fully from a place of openness and love.

I'm learning that no amount of Christian education will "save" a person from making some really terrible decisions.

I'm learning that there are more similarities than differences between the world's various religions. What we seem to be fighting about is semantics.

I'm learning that church attendance was never meant to be the signifier of a "good" Christian.

I'm learning that while my generation may be leaving our church buildings in droves, it doesn't mean we are leaving the church. Those beliefs and that lifestyle don't expire when we walk out the door. I promise. We will do church differently and that's okay.

I'm learning that I do not have a spiritual life. I am a spiritual life.

I'm learning that there is a little piece of God in me, which makes me awesome. But there is also a little piece of God in everyone else, which makes me humble.

I'm learning that I come from dust, and yet, the Universe was made for me. Whoa.

I'm learning that the pain in me is the same pain in others. The joy in me is the same joy in others. We are all in this together.

So to my ten year-old self, I need you to know this: 
-God can't be put in a box or a building.
-The world is less black and white than you might like it to be.
-Your judgment of others doesn't make you better than others.
-The symbolism and fundamentals you practice right now matter. Just less than you think.
-Don't throw out all "religion" and "church" to be cool. There's a lot of good there.
-Some day you'll be pretty angry at God and find a way to blame most of your problems on him/her. That's cool. That's normal.
-Oh, and P.S. while alcohol does taste as bad as your parents said it would, drinking it doesn't condemn you to hell, and it's just a nice way to show respect and appreciation to a gracious host.
-Keep growing. Keep learning. Onward.


Elliot LaPlante said...

I love this - I feel I have had a similar experience and am learning these very same things. Love reading your blog - so real, so honest.

Thank you