When it comes to religion and faith, I have lived my life with self diagnosed Religious Schizophrenia. My Father was raised in a Jewish household. My Mother, with inactive Protestants. Both left their childhood faith in young adulthood and became Mormon. After my sister and I were born, disenfranchised with the Mormon faith, they both left the church. From that point on, aside from sporadic trips to church with well meaning families wanting to save our flailing Jewish, Protestant, Mormon souls, we didn’t attend church. Organized Religion was a sore subject for my mother. The feminist in her couldn’t get past the diminished role of women in most forms of organized faith. And, for me, regardless of the church I attended with friends or other families, the experience left me wanting. The porridge was always too hot or far too cold.
In high school, I dated the son of a minister. The church was a Born Again sect called, Christian Renewal. As a shining example of the divine wisdom of high school girls, I went to church with my heart pounding for the son of the preacher man and not the son of God. I attended weekly. I studied their movements, I learned the songs. I so wanted to be touched by whatever power was touching this congregation. It did not touch me. I started to wonder if I was missing something. Where was God? Is it possible that I was born unable to feel faith? The biggest question of all; What does faith feel like? How do I find it? Will I know it when I’ve found it? Will I go through my entire life without it?
I married a devout Catholic. He is a wonderful man. I know that his faith is part of what makes him so amazing. He was raised Catholic in a large, respected, church-going family. His faith is multi-pronged. It is familiar, but, he also has a strong, independent desire to nourish his faith and spiritual relationship with his church outside of his upbringing. While I fully acknowledge that this faith helps make him a wonderful husband, father and human being, I do not feel the connection to Catholicism. I feel the community in the church, I appreciate the devotion of the congregation and I marvel at the faith of the man I married, but, sadly, faith is not transferable. I want to feel the call. I want to feel the pull. I do not. My husband and I discuss, quite frequently, his faith and even, his interest in the Priesthood. Ultimately, his desire to marry and have children was stronger, but, if The Catholic Church ever allows men of the cloth to also be husbands and fathers, he would consider taking those revitalized vows. All of this is great, but, it leaves me dubbed, The Agnostic Wife of a Catholic Man. No one has written a song about that…yet. I’m assuming I should attend Agnostic Anonymous meetings where I would start with, “Hello, My name is Bethany and I don’t know what to believe, but, I do know all the lyrics to George Michael’s, Faith!”
When we had children, we agreed that he would take the lead on matters of faith and that he would raise our children as Catholics with my full support. Who was I to argue? He has something I desperately want and admire. Clearly, he was the obvious parental choice for spiritual guidance.
|Picture our oldest drew of her going to church with Daddy. Mommy? Not pictured…at home in PJs.|
All four of our children have been baptized. The two that are school aged attend Catholic School. My only request has been that they be allowed to explore their own feelings of faith and that, if, at any time, they wanted to explore outside the faith of my husband, we would be supportive and encouraging. We would recognize that it is not his or my choice to make. We would support their individual decision to participate in a faith that speaks to them. Their faith would be theirs. He agreed. See, an amazing man.
My son is in pre-school. Matters of faith are new and come home in the form of songs and coloring pages. He is not feeling the faith; He is learning it. My daughter is in Kindergarten. This is more complicated. She is exploring her faith. She is asking hard questions. She is having feelings that lead her toward prayer and, she is asking me what all of it means. Of course she is. I am her mother and her primary care giver. I am the adult at home when the questions in her brain beg to be asked. I answer her questions using my background in the ONE World Religions course I took in college, life experience, the tidbits I’ve gathered from my husband’s religious knowledge and well, faith…in myself. The questions she asks are huge and loaded. The answers I give? Entirely based on my love for her and with respect for her personal journey. I am supportive and gentle in my responses, but, I know I do not have the answers she’s looking for.
|Christmas Morning 2011. She started drawing the nativity scene on the playroom chalkboard…on her own.|
|More unprompted home drawings of religious figures.|
A: “Mommy, when we die, does our spirit stay in our body after we’re buried? Does it go straight to Heaven? Will I see Grandpa there? Will my family be there?”
Me: “Well, some people believe that your spirit…what makes you, you and me, me leaves your body and goes to Heaven. Some people believe all our loved ones that died before us are there waiting for us.”
A: “Cool! I wish there was a book I could read about that!”
Me: “There is.”
A: “AWESOME. Mommy, do you believe that?”
This is when I start asking if anyone wants a frozen lemonade. That works, for now. What I want to say, what I want to say more than anything is that there is absolutely nothing I’d love to believe more. I want to say that the thought of this being all we have, the thought of only having this one lifetime of unknown length to be with her and love her is so heartbreaking that every cell in my body needs to believe that this can’t be all there is. That, yes, absolutely, I will be waiting for her and that Daddy will be there too and that we will be a family, always. I can’t promise that. So, we get a frozen lemonade and save this talk for another day.
I am not completely devoid of awe and wonder. I have had profound moments with feelings of “connectivity bliss”. I felt it at the birth of all of my children. The blinding feelings of love, fear and joy. In those moments, I am aware of a power bigger than me. I am praising the universe. Is that feeling faith? Is that what is being felt in Holy places of worship?
Right now, when it comes to faith, the only truth I do not doubt is my faith in my children, my husband and the love for my family, those still here and those gone. As far as my personal journey, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for, but, I refuse to stop searching.
‘Cause, I’ve gotta have faith, faith, faith…