I've said it before, I'm horrible at reading signs. However, this morning, I woke to one that couldn't be ignored. I always have music in my head. This morning, the song lyrics that were running through my head where, "Oh no, You never let go through the calm and through the storm... Lord, You never let go of me." This sign didn't need me to figure it out. It said it all. Then, as if I needed more of a sign, Monster listens to it with me and says, "Mommy, listen to this part". The words he was referring to were, "There will be an end to these troubles..." Then he told me that listening to this song made him happy. Apparently God knows I need to be hit over the head in order to see the signs. So, today at least, I got it. One day at a time.
"I don't want to start any blasphemous rumors, but I think that God's got a sick sense of humor and when I die, I
expect to find him laughing." --Depeche Mode
Religion has never been clear to me. What I felt in my heart was always in direct conflict with what I was taught in my 12 years of Catholic schooling. Somewhere along my journey, I came to the conclusion God had given up on me. I was just on sick joke placed on this Earth, left to be completely alone. After getting over the anger of that, I accepted it and decided to live my life, not how "God" wanted, but how I thought good people should live it. I accepted God was not on my side but that didn't mean He couldn't be there for others. I have actually always been jealous of people who have strong faith in God because they have someplace else to turn when things are hard. When things get hard, other than Husband, my parents, and select friends, I only have myself to turn to. For most things, that's fine. For most things, it makes you stronger. But, for some things, it breaks you.
This past month, I have been broken. There is only so much comfort you can get from family and friends. When things get so bad that you feel like you can't go on, it's nice to have something extra. I don't have that extra. Not yet. I'm on a religious journey. A pilgrimage of sorts, to find if I can ever believe in something more. I have spent the past 20 years of my life believing the exact words in the above Depeche Mode song. I have spent 20 years of my life feeling like the lyrics in Nine Inch Nails, "Terrible Lie". "...I'm all alone in a world you must despise. Hey, God. I believed your promises, your promises and lies." My journey is to give more hope than that to my children and, along the way, maybe finding more hope for myself.
Monster has been interested in learning about God and Jesus since he could pretty much talk. A lot of that was my mom, but more of that was just his desire to learn everything about everything. I have never had an issue with teaching my children about religion, but I have never wanted one belief to be pushed more than others. I always wanted my children to figure religion out for themselves. I wanted to give them exposure to everything from Judaism to Buddhism to Christianity to Wicca. I have always wanted them to find something more. So, my mother started teaching Monster about God and Jesus. I love my mother. She truly has faith in what she believes, but she doesn't teach the other side. For example, last Easter, Monster and my mother were having a discussion about the resurrection of Jesus. Fine, no problem, except I felt it necessary to interject that not everyone believes in the resurrection and that's OK. But Monster then told Nana, "But we believe that and we're right" and she said yes. No. There is no right and wrong. And here in lies the struggle. I am perfectly OK with Monster believing that. I am OK with him learning all about it, but I am not OK with him believing that someone else's beliefs are wrong.
Fast forward. With how smart Monster is, he has been seeking out something "more" in life. He may be only 6, but he's so much more advanced than that. He's already looking for purpose and reason to life. I can not, will not, let him fall into my vast pit of hopelessness. That's not what I want for him. He finds comfort in God. That's what I want. So, we started going to church. Before I completely gave up on religion, I found that I enjoyed my father's church, which is a Methodist church. That's where I decided to start for our journey. Well, actually, I started our journey at the Baptist church, but that was definitely not for me or Monster. He loved the teachings but the praising and singing was too intense for his shy self. We have been attending the local Methodist church for 2 months now. Monster is loving it. Sunshine has only been twice, but she likes it, too. She's definitely not on the same quest Monster is though.
For me, it's a rough go. Husband won't go to church. He's been jaded as well. I feel like it's my job as a parent to help Monster and Sunshine with their religious journey, so I will go to church with them. It is so extremely difficult going. I feel like a hypocrite. I have this internal battle from what I have believed for so long, what I want to believe, and what I was taught. I go to church on Sundays and I listen to the sermons and find them interesting. Interesting in either they are in direct conflict with what I learned but completely go along with what I always believed, but it's fighting against how I feel. Two weeks or so ago, the sermon was about God never being too busy for you. God is always there. This is what I always wanted to believe growing up. What I was taught though was that God is too busy. Don't bother Him. If you need something, pray to Mary or a Saint. Don't bother God with your trivial stuff. This past Sunday, the sermon was about letting God's will be done. Letting go of the control. God has a plan. I get it. I understand it. I want my children to believe that everything in life has a purpose. Things happen for a reason, even if we don't know that reason. But, unfortunately, that aligns with my feelings of hopelessness. What kind of God makes children suffer? What kind of God makes you feel such despair?
My world, my family's world, has completely fallen apart this past month, and I want to give my children someplace to turn, but how do I explain the hurt and pain? How do I make them feel like there is something more out there to believe and put trust in if the hurt just continues? How do I get my kids to put their faith in something I've lost all hope in? I don't pray. At this point on my journey, I find it too hypocritical but I believe that other people find comfort in prayer. I tell my kids to pray, hoping they will find comfort.
Since Monster loved VBS so much, we decided to go for Round Two. Sunshine will be attending preschool at the local Methodist church. It just so happens this church is one of the only ones with a preschool VBS program as well. We signed the kids up. They were both thrilled because it was the same program as the other VBS Monster went to at the beginning of the summer. They both knew all the music and Monster knew the dances. They had a wonderful time. It reinforced the need to start going to church for Monster. I've never been one to "take comfort in the fact that God is with us", but my son does, and that's what matters.
Just because Husband and I aren't religious doesn't mean we don't want to introduce religion to our children. We want them to have an understanding of all religions. Last year, we sent Monster to a Baptist VBS. He loved it. It was a little too out there for my Catholic upbringing and way too out there for Husband. We decided to try a different route with VBS this year. We sent him to a Catholic VBS. Again, Monster LOVED it. This year, he actually cried when it was over and asked to go to Mass. Well, there's no way Husband or I are attending a Catholic service, so we are trying to figure out a compromise.
During one point in my young adult life, I tried a Methodist church since my father and his whole side of the family are Methodist. I loved it. I really connected. For the first time, I found people who actually believed actions were more important than simply showing up to service. Problem was, I then moved. I didn't like the Methodist church where I moved to, so I just stopped going. When I moved here, I thought about going to a church, but it never happened. Now, I know a ton of people who attend the local Methodist church. Most of them are good people. In fact, Sunshine will be attending preschool there in the fall. So, I thought this would be a good place to start Monster out. He can go to Sunday School while I attend church. Husband doesn't completely agree yet. He's not sold. He wants it to be like when he was growing up. His father used to drop him off at Sunday School and then read the newspaper in the car and drink coffee. That was back in 80's. I think the rules have changed. He wants to "research" this though. I can't imagine that every church makes the parent be present in service for the kids to go to Sunday School. Until he comes up with something that is better though, I think this is the route we're going to go. Monster is desperately searching for something in his life. Religion may be the answer.
It's difficult for me to accept this since I'm no sold on organized religion. When I really think about it, I'm probably more Buddhist than anything else with my philosophies. I felt like a hypocrite giving Monster advice and telling him to pray to God and he will help take away worries. I don't believe it, but Monster does. That's what matters right now. I will do anything to give my children what they need, even if that means going to church. Who knows, maybe I'll find something I need as well.
* WARNING...If you get offended easily, don't read this. If you aren't open minded enough to respect others' views, don't read this. I will be using the Catholic religion as an example, because it's what I grew up with. In no means is what I'm about to say limited to Catholics. Or Christians. Or any particular religion. *
"Do unto others as you would have done unto you." "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone". See, I learned something in my 12 years of Catholic school. Much to my mother's dismay, I am not religious. "Just have faith", is something she says a lot. "I just wish your faith was stronger," is another quote I hear often. I'm not a good Catholic because I question everything. Catholics are taught not to question, just to accept. I'm guessing that's pretty much the same with all religions, but I don't know. I want to have faith. I want to believe in something. The problem is, organized religion and very "religious" people turn me off from whole thing. It's those "religious" people who think they are holier than thou because they attend church on a regular basis. They have their kids in bible study. They go to bible study, etc. It's those same people who are closed minded, judgmental, hypocrites. It's the people who don't live their lives as good people. I've seen it my entire life. That's the main reason I left the church. I couldn't take the hypocrites any more.
Through my 12 years of Catholic education, there were several things I could never figure out. From what I took out of the stories of the Bible, Jesus treated EVERYONE fairly and with respect. Putting that into modern age, why is it the church takes a negative stand on homosexuality? Would Jesus have cared if someone were gay or straight? I think the bigger question is, are they good people, not what their sexual preference is? Even then, we are taught Jesus forgave the sins of others. So why is it that people aren't forgiving? People are so stuck on "revenge" and "justice". I just never got why we were being taught that Jesus did one thing and we should do another. Be nice to these people, but not these people. And then, when you question something, it's because your faith just isn't strong enough, now do 10 Hail Mary's and 20 Our Father's. Because that fixes everything.
I'm most definitely not perfect, but I don't claim to be. I also don't claim to be a good Christian. Do I have trouble forgiving? Of course, but I try. My mom and I were actually talking about forgiveness and how she's impressed with my ability to forgive all the wrong that has been done to me in the past because she can't forgive those people. Being a parent, I get that now. It's a lot harder to forgive those that hurt your children, but for your children's sakes, it's important to try. Children learn from example. Am I judgmental? I am. However, I try to chalk it up to people can be who they want to be and I'll be who I am. It's not easy to do that though when the people who live behind you have their 4 year olds up until after 10 every night screaming and running around. I judge their parenting, but, I'm not the one who has to deal with those kids. Hell, this post is judgmental. Again, I don't claim to be perfect.
I'm not religious. I do have faith. I think my faith is more is about being a good person and that will make my life richer and I'll be happier. I don't know. I have faith that when other people have strong faith in something, it helps them through. I believe in heaven. I don't believe in hell. I believe in karma. I believe in reincarnation (yet that is something I will not discuss with my children until they have come to make decisions on their own about afterlife). I believe that going to church, temple, etc. does not make you a good person. I believe living your life by treating others how you would like to be treated makes you a good person. I believe things happen for a reason. This is what "religious" people call "God's plan". It's what I call destiny. I believe people can change, but I only give one chance to prove it. I believe that you teach what you believe by example, not by words on a page. I believe you can know the Bible inside and out and claim you are living your life for God and still be a horrible person. I believe you can be an atheist and be a kind, loving person who lives a truly good life. I believe that if you don't practice what you preach, you are a hypocrite.
I know a lot of religious people who are good people. The problem is, I know more who are not. I'm not religious. I try to be a good person. I learn each day from my mistakes and try to make my life better. I try to treat others how I would like to be treated. Am I better than other people? No, but I'm probably happier.