I’ve been getting to know God lately. And it’s been kind of weird.
I’ve labeled my faith in many ways over the years. For a while, I was calling myself a “semi-practicing Buddhist Pagan with strong Jewish and Unitarian influences.” (There’s one in every town, right?)
Sometimes I’ve called myself “agnostic.” But that’s never felt right. More recently, on dating sites, I’d been going for “spiritual but not religious.” That seemed to encompass my feeling that there’s a higher power, compared to which we humans are just tiny blips of ego and emotion and desire.
Lately, I’ve been calling that higher power God, and it feels natural and correct to do so.
There are so many angles from which to approach this, and I don’t know where to begin. I could tell you about how I read a book about neopaganism while living in China, and then had a dream in which The Goddess visited me. She took the form of a gigantic, benevolent silver spider spinning a protective web outside my window.
I could talk about how I have relatives who are Unitarian, Buddhist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Jewish, and Atheist (yes, with a capital “A”), as well as one who’s a minister in the United Church of Christ. And how I was raised to see equal value in all belief systems, since at their best they create community and spur humans toward greater acts of love and courage.
But the bottom line is that, earlier this year, I took a tour of a mosque, and walked out of there with a strong desire for a spiritual community, and in particular, for a Christian community.
So now I’m going to this conservative Baptist church where I feel more at home than in any other church I’ve ever visited.
It’s very odd.I was never told directly, growing up, that I should run like the wind away from evangelicals. I just never knew any (or maybe the ones I did meet were closeted).
It was always implied to me that it was OK to be religious, but not too religious. You wouldn’t want to become a fanatic. (And indeed, I don’t.)
But I’ve blundered into this community that hit me with a wave of love and joy from the moment I set foot in their door. It’s dismantling my stereotypes about Christians. It’s making my heart expand.
Part of what I love about this particular church is the openness everyone has shown to my questions. More than openness: the delight they take in answering my questions, or in telling me how and why they don’t know a particular answer.
Perhaps that’s one of the traits that separates the healthy communities of faith from the unhealthy ones, from the cults: The cults don’t want you to ask inconvenient questions.There are many moments when I’m out of my element. The vocabulary is new. Being “convicted” is a good thing: it means you believe something strongly. (Where I come from, you get “convicted” only of a crime.)
At times I feel like I’m looking at one of those Magic Eye posters from the 1990s, where if you could cross your eyes just slightly, you could see the 3-D picture, but until you mastered that eye-crossing, it was just a chaos of lines.
Other times, I’m scared about what’s going to happen when the unstoppable force of my attraction to this church collides with the immovable object of what I believe, versus what this community believes. There is a lot of overlap. But there are chasms between us, too.
I have no idea what blue lagoon of belief this Christianity water slide is going to dump me out into. But along the way, my soul is getting watered for the first time, and a lifetime of seeds sleeping in its soil are beginning to sprout.
If you have thoughts on all this strangeness, let me know. I love to hear other people’s stories of belief, unbelief, and the burning question marks of faith.
All photos by Anya Weber, except for:
Second photo: Blue hour at the Nineteenth century black church at Budir, Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland, by Diana Robinson, via Creative Commons
Last photo: lagoon, by feryswheel, via Creative Commons