You can thank my friend, Renee, for inspiring this post. She wrote a beautiful post about her spiritual background and where she is now and I loved it. I love hearing about another’s journey in life. So much can be learned from that!
So here’s my journey.
I am a West Texas girl. West Texas generally carries around the idea of friendly farmers and a lot of flat, open land, with ridiculous winds. The “trees” are merely shrubs that have grown higher than 4 or 5 feet. This is where I grew up. I went to a very white Southern Baptist church, and I was a rebel. When the SBC started boycotting Disney, I pulled out all my Disney shirts and would wear them whenever I could. I didn’t understand the reasoning for boycotting (which, at the time, was allowing the LGBT community to exist, more or less) and I honestly didn’t care. I just knew that A Little Mermaid and The Lion King were my favorite movies and I could quote them verbatim. Anyways, this is where I grew up. “Miracles” were when a family survived a tornado, barely, and the community would come together to make sure they were well fed. When a kid was in a fatal car accident, the entire community crowded into the largest church to show the support to the family. I couldn’t ask for a better growing up experience!
I also learned a lot about grief as a kid. My oldest brother died while I was a toddler (he was 17, I was 19 months). Three of my four grandparents died by my 11th birthday. In second grade, a friend in the third grade died due to allergies/asthma. In my college years, two very dear friends died and later, an aunt, and I was devastated. I know my share of grief. I know that “God is in control” is just another line for when people have nothing else to say. If you really want to help someone who’s grieving, have open arms, a dry (or slightly damp) shoulder, and open ears. Everyone processes grief differently, but most of the time they just want a chance to be heard in their grief.
I always went to church as a kid, except one summer when I would say “I don’t wanna go to church” and neither mom nor dad would make me. Then I got bored of not doing anything on Sundays, so that changed. After going to one summer church camp, I knew that I was not a perfect Baptist girl anymore. For one thing, I enjoyed not having to refrain from singing loudly to the newest DCB song, and hymns lost their luster*. It was at camp I realized that Acts could still be lived today. I lived from camp to camp until college when I chose to go to a very Acts-ish type church. They believed in miracles, spiritual gifts, the whole gamut of forgotten doctrine and I grew so much there. When someone from that church mentions Juarez (as in Mexico), they probably experienced first hand a miracle of some sort. And before you start saying “I’m SURE there is a scientific explanation for that,” there probably is. But to me, science is a way of drawing closer to the creator. I look through a microscope and see beauty. I study the stars, and I think of how small I am and yet that God loves me. Sometimes, though, science can’t explain stuff.
and then I transferred and changed my major.
The roughest time I’ve had in my spiritual/life journey was at the university from which I graduated. You want to make an atheist out of a believer? Put them in a theology class. At least, that’s how I felt. I could care less about theology. For one thing, most of it came from the letters of Paul, not from the sayings of Jesus. For another thing, it’s really hard to wrap your head around what people think about what Paul said because they haven’t done their job researching why Paul was saying what he was saying. I will never buy that Paul was against all women in ministry or in church. That, however, is another blog, for another day… But I do know it’s important to know what you believe (and admit that you don’t know) but I found more joy, more discovery in my non-theology classes. Studying the “Writings”or Ketuvim, the religions of the world, the history of the church and missions? That was what helped me grow, to mature. I saw/see so much beauty in the Tanakh, the Qur’an, the teachings of Buddha and Confucius, etc. I may not know what every person believes, but I see beauty in it. I grew up in the Bible Belt, with plenty of bible thumpers, and I’m sure if any of the older people from my church read this they would be appalled by my lack of “Baptist.” But thanks to the awesome professors I had, especially my major professor, I approach people differently. For instance, you can tell me your Muslim, and I’ll want to hear stories from the Qur’an. I want to hear the beauty of the tapestry of your beliefs…. That’s who I am.
I still do and probably will always struggle with Heaven. My current philosophy** is not that Heaven is a place we go to when we die, but more of a modern Jewish (nonOrthodox) perspective. The kingdom of God is not a place we go to when we die, but a place we aspire to bring here on earth. If I were to look at the teachings of Jesus, I wouldn’t see anything bashing the LGBT community, the atheists, the sinners, the poor…. What I see when I look at the Messiah, the Christ is someone who met people where they were and helped them get their feet back on the ground, literally and metaphorically. He spent time among the “common” people, teaching them about life and meeting their spiritual and physical needs. So for now, my goal is not to “convert” the atheist, but to help the homeless, the poor, the widow, the orphan, etc. And while I’m at it, I’m gonna keep on reading those Red Letters and perhaps see if I might miss something. I love helping others, so I will continue to do so, even if that means I’m not included in the Rapture come October 21.***
Anyways, I’m still growing. I’m not set in my beliefs, and I’m ok with that. My beliefs evolve as I grow, just like throughout the Bible the beliefs evolved from polytheistic to henotheistic to eventually monotheistic and trinitarian.
Anyways, tha’s really all I have to write right now (woooo redundant sounds!) and so I shall leave you be.
PS A friend is reading a book and blogging her thoughts about it. I might do that later…. but first I have to figure out which book to read…. and perhaps I should finish a lot of the books I have started….. so it may be a while before I do that, if ever. ❤
*This is no longer the case as I now love hymns and will sing them loudly at any given point in time. I love the history, richness, and beauty of words that are older than I. And yes, I will always sing “Holy, Holy, Holy” in Koine Greek.
**Dr. Tony Campolo and several others are “Red Letter Christians” and they are the ones to whom I give credit for this current philosophy. I’m still, moreorless, agnostic in the ways of heaven. It’s a fairy tale I want to be true.
***Matthew 24, no one knows the day or the hour when Christ will return. I’m gonna keep working until he does. But as a rule, I don’t buy the whole rapture thing. Left Behind was a disappointment to me…. I read books 1-11 and then 100 pages into 12 before I got mad that Jesus came before the end of the book. Also, I’ve learned later as a student that the Rapture has very little Scriptural basis. Some of it’s pauline theology which the Church tends to put too much credit in.