Soooooooooooooooooooo, unpacking. Deconstructing.
As I get close to present (part two got all the way up to about five years ago (2015ish) it’s getting messier and messier to blog through. I’m unable to condense this into just talking about spiritual and faith-based development any more. It’s going to get personal and if I get to the present, I’m going to be talking about hot topics that I am confident a significant percentage of you will disagree with. Is gender a spectrum and is there still racism in the United States and stuff like that. So if your heart rate is increasing already, you should probably take a pass on this post and go pet a puppy or something. I welcome conversation, but I am processing hard stuff about my own personal development here and my own personal development is not a topic for debate. I will exercise my freedom to ignore/delete any comments here that call me a damn fool or question my value or rightness before God.
Oh, and family and friends… I cuss sometimes now. Even more in my head than out loud, but ya know, some things don’t change easy.
This is a good time to talk about how I think about myself. How I thought about myself. What I expected of myself.
Doing stuff. Canning. Gardening. Camping. Going for walks. Cooking dinners. Kids’ clothes. Fun. Family. Birthdays. Pets.
I did the stuff. We have loads of beautiful memories.
As the years went on, I became able to do less and less and less. I was not able to fix some things. For me, it was autism, developmental delay and attachment disorder. One little boy whom I love dearly was the first to turn our life on its head. I expected things of myself that I couldn’t do. I actually don’t want to get into that right here. But it is IMPORTANT stuff that I couldn’t do. They are true heart goals that I was failing. I don’t know how much of it was an idol of an image that I was aspiring to that the church created… how much of it was perfectionism as a personality trait that was getting crushed… how much was the conversation of depression that showed up with my depleted physical state… and how much could have been avoided.
Blog attempt falls flat.
A day passes.
Another day passes.
It’s time for me to step back and evaluate what I’m doing and why. I am revisiting my spiritual history, both long past and recent, to get a better understanding of where I am now and why… and what I believe and why – particularly as it relates to religion and spirituality.
This process of review and assessment cannot happen without honesty. Testing my faith without honesty would be a waste of time. Testing my faith without being willing to reconsider everything lessens the authenticity of my review.
It’s not easy to ask questions that allow myself to go all the way to the question, “Am I even a Christian any more?”
Brian and I sat on the front porch (Hiding from the children and dinner.) and talked about that. He asked my why it was scary to me to consider if I am not a Christian. Firstly, because I’m “supposed” to be. Christians are taught to fear Hell. Secondly, because I have made 37 years of life choices based off of this Christian foundation. Would I regret life choices if they came from a place of error? There are other things, but I want to move on.
As I sat on the front porch step, leaning on the shoulder of my best friend, life partner and soulmate, I saw the sky.
I cannot believe that the world and universe created themselves or always just existed. I believe in a Creator.
I saw the beauty… the wild beauty of the clouds against the sky and the tall fir trees reaching up toward them… and I believe that the Creator knows and loves beauty. I believe the Creator must be good.
As a person interested in the sciences, I am somewhat aware of the incredible, impossible complexity of all of Creation. The detail work of the Creator goes beyond our ability to see with the most powerful microscope… so I infer that S/He cares about every bit of Creation. That means God cares about me.
I believe that a person named Jesus existed and I believe that He represents the heart of the Creator’s love for us… putting away patriarchal behaviors, putting away rules and prejudices and loving and teaching us in person, by example.
I want to rush through the end of my spiritual journey now and then articulate some of the things I DON’T believe and try to articulate where I’m going from here.
It’s ironic that I’m going to spend a little time here judging churches for being judgemental…
I left off when we were attending a local church, but weren’t truly accepted or loved. We did not feel valued or important. We were given the impression that we were an imposition even. Though our children were still small, they were very well behaved in church. We worked hard to show up on Sunday clean, well-dressed, and equipped to make it through several hours of service and small group with babies in tow, including Jordan who has Down Syndrome and Autism. They encouraged us to use child care there…. and then didn’t provide competent care. I kept my children quiet in service except for the occasional wiggle or whisper, but one Sunday they asked us to leave service so we didn’t distract the pastor. (I didn’t.) We signed up for our kids to participate in the Christmas service… every one of my children were put in the baby angel choir, despite some of the kids being much too old. We decided not to perform. We participated in a small group where we shared our hearts and supported the other families. Since leaving, the only contact we’ve had with those families is one family trying to have me hire her son for piano lessons. While I was just home from the hospital.
Do you see why we need to be honest? Because if we just look right, but don’t honestly care for one another, we hurt each other!
We church hunted again. We found another community church with a great children’s program. We attended for a year and volunteered and went to classes and initiated conversations with families and leaders to get to know them. Our children made friends and we began to feel at home. We decided to pursue Daniel’s adoption while we were there. We volunteered how 10 month process was going to leaders and members we spent time with and I asked for prayer regularly. Jordan often struggled to go to church and we were very visible as he and I often sat in the lobby during service… or Brian took him to walk around outside. Time came for us to adopt and bring home Daniel. I spent two weeks in Bulgaria with an emaciated and scared little boy who wouldn’t eat or drink. We got home and were admitted to the hospital for a week. We got home. Nobody called. Nobody showed up. Nobody checked in. Orphans are close to the heart of God’s business. Nothing. A friend outside of the church initiated a meal train with a mom in our church for us to help. Time went by and we showed up at church for the first time with our new family. There was no special greeting. We came. We left. We didn’t return. I should also share that my older boy was struggling with big emotions and behaviors and we tried, very directly (with emails and phone calls) to find a way to get him to church. Their advice was to wait for summer. We were NOT VALUED OR WANTED by the institution of this church either. While two families reached out to support us individually (which is pretty awesome, considering how short a time we’d known each other), the church as an institution and culture did not “see” us.
El Roi is a name of God. It means He who sees me. And, by implication… cares about me.
Church… has failed us. Over and over.
The message of the church if I listen to their words is: “Love. Hope. Grace. Humility.”
The message of the church if I listen to their actions is: “Rejection. Incapacity. Requirements. Pride.”
Is it any wonder that I need to go through this process of deconstruction?
I have often wondered, or even asked God directly, “Why in the world did you choose people to represent your church!? People suck. We’re terrible at love and grace.”
So my religion is stripped down and I’m learning what it is I still believe.
I believe in the Creator. I believe He’s good and that he cares about me. I believe that the message of the gospel is less about Jesus’ name than it is about the message of hope and grace and love and tenderness and compassion.
Special needs forced me here.
If we hadn’t adopted, we could have maintained the image required of church attendance indefinitely. But we didn’t. There are things that changed when we invited brokenness into our home. And for the record, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Brokenness. Special needs. Attachment disorder. Trauma. PTSD. Autism. Developmental Delay. Physical differences. Wheelchair use. Chronic illness. Chronic fatigue. Syndromes. Etc.
It means that we cannot all:
Sit quietly in church service
Behave nicely in children’s services
Serve in church
Show up on Sunday regularly
Show up in person at all
Participate in group activities
Attend a potluck
Stand in the lobby
It means that we need:
To be seen and wanted and needed
To be supported
To have activities adapted
To have differences welcomed
Others willing to be uncomfortable
Others willing to change
Am I not valuable to God? Are my children not made in His image? If you attend a church that CANNOT make space for a child or adult that makes funny noises, struggles with behaviors, needs an adult sized toileting/diaper changing area, and cannot access areas that don’t have wheelchair access, then you are NOT welcoming the least of these. And that grieves me. You are missing out on real life.
Did you see the video some time back of the pastor who showed up at church dressed as a homeless man? Was he welcomed and invited in? What about an individual who looks or acts funny? Is your church body healthy enough to develop relationships with each other? The kind of relationships where you’re not threatened by weakness and neediness? Do you feel the kind of love for each other that compels you to acts of service and sacrifice for each other?
Because that’s the kind of church I long for. One that understands and does not shy away from suffering. One that identifies with the broken. Actually, I’m slowly finding it. It’s not in a building and I don’t know if we’ll ever attend church in a sanctuary again. At this point, we’d need extraordinary support to pull that off. And I’m not convinced it’s necessary.
The heart of the Gospel is love. Love is an experience of relationships. And we’re slowly finding and developing a few relationships. We’re awfully isolated and few people are comfortable standing in the suffering with us. But those I’ve met who have experienced or are continuing to experience suffering… the kind where it’s beyond endurance or fixing… they reach out a hand in solidarity.
So here I am. Unfixed.
My wedding band, created a few years ago, reads: “Stand Fast. Made Whole. Poured Out.”
Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13
My faith has changed, but it still stands fast.
My hope is for the broken things to be made whole. And for many broken things it’s too late. So my hope is set on eternity.
My love is poured out. Continually. All I have. All He gives me. Gushing or barely dripping. For myself as well as others.
Be willing to challenge your beliefs.
Stripped down faith.
Yes, conservative and fundamentalist friends… this means that I will not support rules that exclude. Obviously, I am talking about MY OWN experiences with “the church” as I’ve experienced it in the middle class white church of America. Yes, segregation in churches is a thing.
I do not support the exclusion and damnation of LGBTQ+ people. They’re people, dammit, and don’t deserve that damnation from the church. If (IF!!!) the Bible is against gender as a spectrum and love and devotion in non-heterosexual couples, then that STILL doesn’t mean excommunication and judgement. Our job is to love and support each other, not to condemn. If you want to make a big deal out of this, then make a big deal out of smoking, gluttony, anger, hate, and selfishness. Because they’re way more damaging.
I do not support the judgement and “looks” given by the church to divorced, incarcerated, impoverished, intoxicated, addicted or otherwise “unclean” groups of people in the community. The church ought to welcome homeless people to camp in their parking lots. We ought to serve refugees and support abused women and make space for individuals who are still in the grips of addiction. It’s messy, y’all, and it hurts. And it’s still the right thing to do.
Churches should do a better job of practicing intolerance of spousal abuse and related.
I am no longer a Republican and please don’t defend Trump to me. I hate even calling him President Trump, because he and what he stands for is so distasteful to me.
White churches need to stop ignoring racial bias and begin to stand with the hurting.
That’s all. I feel flat like a balloon. I think that means I’m finished! For now.