Today’s coffee cup says:
“It’s tragic that extremists co-opt the notion of God, and that hipsters and artists reject spirituality out of hand. I don’t have a fixed idea of God. But I feel that it’s us – the messed-up, the half-crazy, the burning, the questing – that need God, a lot more than the goody-two-shoes do.”
-Mike Doughty, Musician
I realize that some people who only know me a little bit, might classify me as an “extremist” when it comes to God. I mean, I have strong beliefs, and they’re set in stone. They happen to be basically the same as what my parents believe and what the church I grew up in preached, but they are not my parents’ ideas. What I mean is, I have spent serious time thinking about them and evaluating them and deciding for myself if that’s what I really believe. They are my beliefs.But I also think that, at least in terms of this quote, I get to be classified as “the messed-up… the questing.” I know lots of people that would call me a “goody two-shoes,” and with good reason. But I don’t think they understand that I haven’t lived live on the narrow path necessarily for the reasons they think I have. I hate getting in trouble, and the fear of that is more powerful a motivator than guilt is for Amanda, and that’s saying a lot. Also, I honestly didn’t have a lot of opportunity to stray from the path. Well, I mean, I could have, if I had sought that out. I saw [what I thought was] a drug deal on my first day of high school, and knew plenty of people who did things with boys that I still haven’t done, or smoked, or drank, or any number of other things. I generally wasn’t interested, and was truthfully never offered to partake in any of the afore-mentioned. The closest I came to peer pressure was having to refuse multiple offerings of Mountain Dew. I know, such a sheltered life. I knew about all the other stuff that was out there, but it wasn’t right out in front of me. Most of my teenage rebellion would be considered tame to others, but to me it was still a rebellion. It was rebellion in this sense: “An act or a show of defiance toward an authority or established convention.” Anyways, that’s not what this post started to be about, and it’s quite a tangent, so I’ll just drop it for now.
A message board I read (that often infuriates me but has lately been tame and worth reading) for Christian singles recently had a discussion between two women who, among other things, were sharing a common experience of having doubts and questions in their faith and not having a place in the Christian community to work through that. I completely understood where they were coming from (though, to be fair, my last church was absolutely a comfortable place to work through that, as long as you weren’t staff, but that’s another post too, and one I recently made). I eventually came to the conclusion that I needed to create a place to do that. I’ve felt fortunate that most of my friends have been comfortable with me expressing my doubts and thoughts and feelings in terms of my faith. But I’ve also had a few friends/family who have been very uncomfortable with it, and who have unintentionally pressured me to “get back with the program,” so to speak.
But back to this forum that I’ve created for myself. I don’t have a “home church” anymore, one where I feel at home and attend regularly, where I know people and want to do social things with them, where I know that we all basically believe the same things, enjoy the same type of worship, and can basically be like family. It’s been a long time since I’ve had that. My church in Michigan was like that for the first six months, until all hell broke loose, that is. The church I grew up in was like that, but so many changes have happened that I barely know anyone there anymore, and since Mom has moved here, my connection has been even further severed.
And I would like to have a home church again, but it’s not exactly an easy process to find one. There are so many factors, like location (given my transportation situation) and style of worship and theological beliefs (conservative, but not overly so, because I’m progressively conservative, if that makes sense) and people of the right age and socio-economic class, and yet also diverse (because I don’t want everyone to be the same, and like in any family, diversity is good too). And there’s trying to find a church for myself, which would be on non-Sundays, or trying to find a church that both Prince Charming and I like are two different tasks.
Plus, I’ve been burned in the past, and am not ready to just jump in with both feet and hope a church gives me a big hug upon landing.
So tomorrow night I start attending a kind-of Bible study at a local church I attended a few times last fall. It’s Alpha, which is basically Christianity 101. I hope to… re-construct my faith in a safe environment. No one there knows me, and so the plan is to be absolutely honest about my doubts and feelings and thoughts (which I often find hard to do in comfortable, familiar Christian communities, because there’s the expectation that I’ve got my sh*t together). And while I don’t really need to re-construct my faith, per se, because my beliefs are still strong, it’s the practical application of them, and more importantly my relationship with the Christian community, that is really in need of a Band-Aid.
I will have to avoid the temptation to switch into Youth Pastor Kelly mode, where I have all the answers. I will listen, and I will ask questions. And I will not be afraid to sound heretical or blasphemous or sinful. Because how can I expect people to get to know the real me, be honest, or provide any sort of guidance or help if I am not, above all, honest and open? (That was a little pep talk for myself, in case you were wondering where I was going with that, because the idea really is a bit scary to me.)
And so tomorrow night at 6pm, I’m going over to the church to have dinner with a bunch of people I’ve never met (a terrifying prospect) and then sit down with a small group of them and make new friends. Or, at least, that’s the plan. It’s one of the reasons I’m only taking one class this fall, because I wasn’t sure that I could handle multiple classes, a Bible study, and time for my girls and Prince Charming. This is important, and so I’m making the time for it.