Saturday, October 15, 2011

Thoughts of the Week - Finding My Religion

If you're new here, Thoughts of the Week is a series I do almost weekly where I take time to reflect on events of  the week.  Sometimes it's silly things like asking for cookware advice, but often times it's where I dig a little deeper and get real.  A small sampling would be posts like these, where I talk about the anniversary of my brother's death, woman and friendships and the struggles of parenthood.  On Monday I usually get back to pretty things...

(the Serenity prayer, the one prayer I did know from going to Alateen when I was a kid)

Art surprised me last night by coming home and proudly announcing that he had found a sitter and he was taking me out on a date.  We've been married over 12 years and he's admittedly not the best planner, so for him this was special.  I wore a pretty blouse and we saw Drive, which was great and made even better by its incredible soundtrack.  But first we went to dinner and over his Blue Moon and my lychee martini we talked of many things, but a good portion of our conversation was dedicated to religion, prayer and faith.

I think I've told you before that I didn't grow up going to church on a regular basis.  We had a church to attend that my Aunt and her offspring all attended.  My grandma played the piano and my cousin was the co-Pastor.  We made an effort to attend church on the big days, you know Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, but that was about it, and our sparse visits were made only slightly uncomfortable by my Aunt who would say every single time, "How nice to see you all here.  It's been so long"  (emphasis hers, not mine).  My parents were too busy trying to pull their $hit together to seriously dedicate themselves to our spiritual development.  It's fine and I don't blame them or anything, but it makes me only slightly envious of those that grew up in the church, their feet firmly planted in the strength of knowing God's love.  My husband is one of them.

Our conversation turned to prayer and I asked him straight up why he doesn't pray with me and he flat out said he doesn't believe in it.  "What do you mean you don't believe in it?"  He explained that to him prayer is a very private, personal moment made that much more powerful when done alone and in your own head.  "Well what about the kids, who's supposed to teach them how to pray?" I asked and he said "How about Him?"  I bring this up not to stir up a debate about what makes a biblical marriage and home, and to bring on judgement to our family, and I'm not claiming he has all the answers.  But his answer did make me stop and think.

Do we fall prey to making something that should be private and personal, too public?  Does our desire to build community and unity at all costs lead us to turn outward when we should be turning inward?  How does one really reach that spiritual level when you feel God's touch?

And then that made me stop and almost question my right to think these things when I didn't grow up in the church.  I don't know much scripture and I've never read the Bible through and through.  Who am I to even question these things?  And that made me long for a place for people like me, that are really just searching for these answers later in life because they didn't have the upbringing or parents to shepherd them to these answers.  It sounds silly but almost a spiritual training for dummies of sorts, or at least for those just starting out, because in many ways I feel so very far behind in my faith and in my spiritual development.

I find myself sometimes so frustrated reading books like this one, or reading faith based blogs or even just sitting in church.  It all seems so presumptuous sometimes.  Assuming we are all at the same place spiritually, emotionally, even knowledge wise.  Books and blogs filled with verse after verse and how my life should relate to those verses.  It's like they're teaching at college level and I'm still in 1st grade.  I want to scream out loud sometimes, "Stop, back up, I don't get it!  Wait for me to catch up please!"  Where is this place for people like me?  Where is the book that will gently, kindly help me catch up?  

But I don't think anyone can tell me that, whether you grew up going to church everyday or you've never set foot in a church.  There is no instructional manual, there is no "how-to guide", and growing spiritually doesn't require a devout knowledge of scripture.  It just requires an open, teachable heart and mind and a little bit of tenacity to find my place.  I joined my first small group at church this week.  There were only a few times I felt a little out of place, a little behind.  It didn't stop me from asking questions though when it came to spanking and its role in biblical parenting.  Dummy or not, I'm never afraid to question, to beg for clarity so it makes sense.  I think that alone would make God proud.

It was such a fun and exciting week around here, but I have to admit I'm glad to have my space back to myself now for a bit :)  I really needed to get this out.  If you are in the same boat as me or you took the same journey as me, please share.  I'd love to hear from you.  


  1. andrea, i love you!

    unlike you, i was raised in a christian home. it didn't phase me. i ran hard away from god until i was almost 19. he drew me to himself, gave me a new heart.
    although i had some(rusty) knowledge of christ from my childhood, i really sought to learn more on my own. i'm still seeking! i want to know who god is, i want to know who he made ME to be. in the "beginning" of my walk with him, the books of john and romans in the bible were huge help to me and my new journey with jesus.
    i am a sinner, clinging to the relentless grace of my savior. growing my faith in him, discovering how to be free in him and bring him all glory is my journey.
    we are all different, like you said, at different places in our walks. the best news, jesus is patient, and he loves teaching us his heart. through scripture and the fellowship of other believers.
    each of us has testimonies, experiences, that can build one another up. the lord is so faithful in our sharing together, seeking him together.
    awesome that you have a small group!!
    i'm so happy you shared this precious part of your heart today! i just adore you and want to encourage you!
    praying for you sweet friend!

  2. We are all behind, and we are all where we need to be. Even the pastor preaching the sermon, even though he may seem to have all the answers. I need the grade school level dialogue. I need it often.

  3. My journey has been an interesting one. I'm a total work in progress and trying to lean heavily right now and not rely on my understanding of anything...blind faith I think they call it. . .

  4. This is such a great post! I love your perspective, the journey of faith you've been on. I grew up in the church, then rebelled against God for several years, then thankfully found my way back to Him in my mid-20's. To me, one of the neatest things about our God is that He has given each of us His words and promises to help us interpret them with the help of the Holy Spirit. Sure, pastors guide us in the direction of understanding, but apart from divine revelation, no one can understand anything about God! You should never feel "less than" other people in church! I hope no one sought to make you feel bad in any way about your lack of scripture memorization or whatever!

    Thank you for this post!

    PS - After Jesus, lychee martinis are my favorite!! ;)

  5. I was raised in a very Catholic home and my mom took me to morning mass every day until I went to school. I'mthe only one of 4 children who grew up to practice any kind of religion. Just because others grew up in a religious environment doesn't mean they have "found God" and that you have catching up to do! Certainly people that were raised with religion know the biblical stories and how their religion is celebrated and church hymns...but that doesn't necessarily mean that they KNOW and have a relationship with God. I think it's wonderful that you are seeking Him out now!!! We are all works in progress no matter our age and I hope that you find a place that you enjoy learning and growing closer to Him and don't get discouraged. Best wishes on your journey.

    PS I love your blog makeover! So fabulous!

  6. I love your blog, girl!!
    I hope you and your hubs had fun on your date last night and that you enjoyed Drive! My hubs and I loved it :)

  7. I don't know if you've been reading my blog this week, but I've been thinking about religion a lot myself.
    Someone wise once told me that God doesn't expect us to all be in the same place spiritually, and we shouldn't expect it of others either.
    I think your greatest spiritual quality may be no fear in asking questions. That will teach you more than many people who grew up thinking they had bee taught but are too afraid to ask. Never stop asking. Then you'll find your truth.

  8. My husband feels the same way about prayer. I love to hear him pray for me, but to him it's a private thing. I have to remember, especially with him, but with everyone else, too, that their faith won't look like mine. It isn't supposed to; they aren't me. There are some core pieces, and after that, it's all pretty personal. I do think it's important to keep up the dialogue with one's spouse, though. Thanks for sharing!!

  9. thank you everyone for the support and kind words. No one has ever tried to make me feel less than for my lack of scripture knowledge, rather I do it more to myself. I guess my faith sometimes goes off of my heart and feelings, and I'm afraid that might lead me astray or on the wrong path. Like the praying together as husband and wife. Is that something I really want to do, or is it something I think we just should do because our pastor tells us we should? I have my own feelings about it, but I guess I worry that they may be wrong and not biblically based if that makes sense?

  10. I loved this post because I've always struggled with religion. I'm a skeptic, questioner, doubting "let me wrap my head around this" kind of person who craves a relationship with God. It was finally at my Initiation to Catholic faith (RCIA) when I was in my 30's that I had a priest say to me, "God is big enough to handle your doubts and questions - in fact he welcomes them because it means you want to grow in Him." It hit me like a sack of bricks. All my life I had felt GUILTY for questioning and doubting and here my pastor explained that I was the way God made me.

    Keep praying, keep questioning. That's how God made you and that's how you'll find him. He comes to those who seek him....

  11. i love you, lady. thank you so much for this incredibly honest post. i know a lot of people will benefit from your humble, real words. your last paragraph is right on, maybe more than you know. teachable, questioning, seeking the truth. just seek to know Him, and you'll be more than fine. not a church, not a pastor, not a person, not a blog...just Him. religion is all about man's efforts to reach God. having a relationship with Him is slowly understanding the ways He's reached down to us. all that to say...stop trying so hard :) He sees you, and knows these things take time. hugs.

  12. I just wanted to say that I could have written this EXACT post (except I grew up going to church every. single. Sunday) but my husband's feelings on prayer, my thoughts on faith, etc... all very much the same as yours. I have this topic on my "things to blog about list" I just haven't done it yet.

    Thank you for sharing this!

  13. fully enjoyed reading this post and appreciate you putting it out there -so to speak. It's not easy to talk about religion or one's perspective on it when one is surrounded by those who are firm in their foundation. However, even the firm stand on shaky ground at times. We all struggle with what we should be doing, how we should be doing it and why. I think that's what makes us human. I truly feel that a relationship with God is very personal and should be explored individually. Praying is something I enjoy and do with my kid and on my own. Sometimes with the hubs if there is a lot going on but he's very much like your hubby and feels its private and I'm okay with that.
    I pray for your journey and wish you well in your new church group.

  14. andrea, first of all, can i just say how glad i am to see you "back"? :) i loved your giveaways, but it was so nice to see your own words here this weekend.

    i'm one of those who was raised in a christian home, so of course, our experiences are a little different. but my brother and i were talking just the other day about thoughts like yours. he's working to get his master's in theology, and he's the only one in his particular program at a christian university who has his undergrad from a state university. he was talking to me about how he felt so intimidated, so out of place. but here is what i love about christianity and about what we see in scripture: god uses everybody. he uses everyone's story to display his grace. and just like he's using my state-university-educated sibling, he's using you in your family and among your friends and at your church. your story is so vital to your faith, and this "spiritual inferiority complex" (a term my brother and i coined, lol) can hinder stories from being told. i love that you are comfortable enough to be honest and genuine and open to asking questions, because that's how we all should be, no matter how long we've been "in church." and, for the record, there are so many things i still don't know the answer to... and i think it's supposed to be that way. the older i get, the more i realize we're not supposed to know all of the answers. that's the miracle of mystery.

    (and, sidenote, jordan and i do pray together, though maybe not as regularly as i thought we might once married. i will say that jordan often talks about how grateful he is for when we do pray together, because he thinks women pray differently than men, and he likes hearing how i talk to the father. i agree with your husband, too, though, that prayer can be such a private thing. that's why i'd emphasize praying on your own -- i pray in my car a lot, lol -- coupled with prayers together as a family and a couple. i am glad i got to see my parents pray together growing up. again, i don't think it has to be this regularly scheduled thing, and i don't think when you pray together it has to be as deeply intimate as maybe "one-on-one" prayer might be. but i do thing there is something special about praying together, about becoming a little vulnerable and humble before the father together. just my two cents. :))

  15. I grew up in a 3 times a week church family. To this day, my parents are still incredibly involved and all of their friends are from their Sunday School class. With that said, public prayer sometimes still freaks me out. When someone offers to pray over a meal, I can't help but wonder if they just want to be "seen" praying. I know questioning their motives is a sin, but honestly, that's just not the way I pray. I'm happy to pray in public, with friends, etc, but to pray at a restaurant sometimes just makes me have the heebie jeebies. : (

  16. I grew up a "special occasion" catholic church goer. My husband and his family are Christian and whenwe first started dating I kept picturing heavy evangelical bible thumpers. My own pre-conceived notions were completely off. We go to church time to time but I never read the bible. During catholic school (K-8) we wrote out scripture but it was more punishment not for our own quizzical developing selves.

    After my miscarriage last year, and the sudden death of my cousin's husband - I really grew a lot of doubt but felt this strong pull to look more into following my faith. But I resisted because I felt "silly" but maybe looking back now it's more of intimidation.

    My mother in law knew of my struggles and asked me to join her in a bible study with her church. She knows everyone there. I knew 2. Talk about intimidation!!! But those were the best weeks. It was amazing being able to talk openly, ask my questions and not feel judged. I started the study being 6 weeks pregnant and terrified I'd suffer another loss. I ended the study at 17 weeks and appreciated the support and prayers from the women around me.

    I learned everyone is always in a different place with faith but no one ever feels they're "done" and I think that keeps me strong to keep after my studies because ill never be done.

    Wow I rambled lol. But re:prayer. I feel embarrassed saying it out loud. Mainly because I wonder if some things I pray for/about are too minute in the grand scheme of things. But. Do wonder how we'll pray with Aubrey. Will we teach her one thing to sa over and over? Tell her to just talk to God? Not sure but I'll appreciate reading your journey!!!

    -melissa (@Melissa_Dell)

  17. Well, I'm a little late, but wanted to weigh in on this anyway. First, let me just say, love the blog makeover. I follow you regularly although I rarely get the opportunity to comment. I'll have to do so more often. And of course, I love, love, LOVE you Andrea! (I hope you already know that, though.)Thank you so much for being so open and vulnerable here...both qualities of a great blogger in my opinion!

    It sounds like you've already had some great encouragement and advice, but since this is a subject near and dear to my heart I thought I'd throw in my 2-cents worth.

    My hubby and I both come from Christian backgrounds, but very different in their expressions of faith. As the child of a pastor, public prayer and other expressions of faith were a way of life for me. I was blessed to have parents who walked the same walk at home as they "talked" in public, so it was not big contradiction for me...just a public display of what we lived out privately. Hubby on the other hand comes from a very private family and their faith, which is very genuine and deep, was not something to be shared publicly. It's actually one of the things that first attracted me to him...he was the "real deal" even more so than some of my Bible college friends.

    While we share the same faith and the same goals for our family, we express it very differently. I've spent years trying to figure out who's "right" between us. :) Here's how I've come to see it: it's not so much either/or as it is both/and. My relationship with God is like any other relationship...there's a private part and a public part. If I isolate either from the other the relationship becomes lopsided. If I only related to my husband in public, but froze him out at home, it would be a very hypocritical relationship. On the other hand, if I was very open with him in private, but shunned him in public that would be a very dysfunctional relationship too. My public relationship with him is just one aspect of the whole thing. The majority of our talking, sharing, and relating to one another happens at home, in private. When we have a happy, healthy relationship in private, it's easy and natural to relate to one another in an open and loving way in public.

    All that to say, I guess neither Hubby or I are right...or maybe we BOTH are. ;)

    I hope that makes some sense and maybe even helps a little. Love you, Andrea...keep asking the deep questions! :)

  18. Great post, friend. I'm nowhere near where I want to be in my spiritual growth, and it doesn't help that my husband and I are NOT on the same page, but I work on it daily.

  19. Oh gosh, sm I with you. I had a wonderful childhood, but we used the "too busy" excuse, and sis become members of a church when I was in high school, but missed out on the basics. My husband, on the other hand, went to church 3 days a week. Now I wish so much that I knew more about the bible, knew more scripture, and even knew what to pray when I feel like that's what I need to do. My husband and I feel like our girls need to be raised in faith, but have yet to join a church. It really is all a work in process, and good for you for joining a small group. I think the older you get, the more support you need in your life, and support in faith is so important.

  20. Hey there! I so appreciate your transparency and honesty. I think lots of people feel like this.
    I didn't read through all the comments, my kid is right her with me so I am trying to do this quickly, so someone may have covered this very topic, but I feel drawn to bring it up, so I am. I would encourage you to seek out a Bible study that does just that studies the Bible, a section of it, and gets deep into that section only. Those studies are helpful to all regardless of what their past knowledge is. I've been involved in a study like this it's Community Bible Study (often called CBS). It is a national, actually international interdenominational organization. Each year a certain part of the Bible is covered. Last year my group studied Luke; this year Job, Hebrews, and Corinthians. We are given notebooks with questions that we answer as we read the Bible. We answer what we read right there in the Bible, or what we think, feel; but not what our pastor or certain denomination says. Then we get together the next week to discuss the lesson in small groups and at the end of that all the small groups gather together to hear a lecture over the lesson which often gets into historical details and evidence as well as the Biblical truth and applications taken from the lesson. There are classes all over the country and even in many other nations. I know of another organization called Bible Study Fellowship that is supposed to be similar and again groups can be found all over the nation. I'm sure there are others that I don't know of out there, as well. Anyhow, I think it would be worth looking into. These type of Bible studies where God's word is really being sought out and where people are welcome right where they are can be very powerful.

    Whatever you do, best wishes in your journey to seek Him and His will in your life!

  21. Interesting post. Good luck continuing your spiritual journey.

  22. Wow, what an awesome, transparent post. Know you are not alone in a lot of that.

    I want to say, as someone who was raised in the church, NEVER CEASE QUESTIONING!!!! If the people around you discourage questions or, on the flip side, if they welcome them but always have the answers.... I'd beware.

    My background in church gave me a foundation to stand on and I was more comfortable in church/with my faith as a young adult than you describe here because I did know the answers. Or so I thought.

    It was only after becoming a missionary and going overseas did I really begin to wrestle with my faith, ask tough questions, and really face head on that quite a bit of what I was taught and then regurgitated (sp?) to others was not setting well with me and sometimes, I failed to see the truth it was supposedly rooted in. But, who was I to question those who knew so much more than me? Who had authority over me? Who had been to school, BIBLE school!? :)

    But, eventually, I did. And a lot changed for me.

    The God I know today is much different than the one I thought I knew then.

    I encourage you to listen to your spirit, never feel inferior because you lack a background in the faith or do not know all the stories or scripture, and, again, keep asking those questions. THEN, maybe even more importantly, weigh the answers offered to you carefully.

    The only other thing I would add is I think faith is a very personal journey (kind of like your husband said) and will look different for everyone. And that's okay.

    God gets us and is way more understanding of us than I think He gets credit for. He respects our free will and our individual personalities/journeys I think. After all, he created us all unique and gave us all free will, right? To me, it's almost like He has a lot more faith in us than we Him sometimes. :)

    For me it's all become quite simple and I don't wrestle with different theologies/biblical interpretations like I use to. I no longer feel such a need to "know" more but to simply "be" or "do" more. And I don't mean do more as in staying busy as a bee and signing up for every church volunteer opportunity, etc. It's as simple as allowing myself to be loved and, in turn, to love others.

    I guess it's about three things I see repeated in the Bible that wrap it up for me:

    (1.) God loves us immensely, right now, just as we are. We are worthy of that love and it's ours, without our ever asking for it. He just loves us. After all, God is Love. (1 John 4:16). And I think Corinthians 13:4-8 gives us a great picture of what God, Who is Love, looks like.

    (2.) We are to love others with that kind of love. Mark 12:31 is one of many verses addressing this. And it's the marginalized and "unlovable" (prisoners, widows, orphans, those considered 'unclean' - Jesus spent a lot of time with those folks so I think his example speaks volumes) God seeks to pour His love on most.

    (3.) When we really love others (like Corinthians kind of love), it changes lives/the world as it points others to God's unconditional love and grace for them. Who couldn't use some of that in their lives?

    It's simple, it's not deep, and there are people who have told me I've oversimplified it and left out important truths. I understand their concern because I know the doctrine stressed in the particular denominations I was churched in (Assembly of God and later as a Baptist). But, again, what's important is my personal relationship with God and I can say it's intimate and it's personal and I'm at peace.

    So, seriously, kudos to you for your efforts to hash out your own faith and personal relationship with God and your courage in sharing it here. I look forward to reading more on your blog.

  23. Visiting from EE's Saturday Evening Blog Post. My own childhood was ... complicated, but suffice it to say I wasn't formed exclusively by Christianity. My journey to however much like a Christian I am today was ... circuitous.

    With that said, I don't really have an answer, but an observation. When Jesus' followers asked him for a prayer he gave them one. As an itinerant teacher in an oral culture, he probably gave it to different groups on many separate occasions (and we see slightly different forms preserved in Matthew and Luke). He taught them to say it together (which is what they were asking him to provide, so any other response would have been pretty odd) -- literally recite in Luke -- and the prayer has an interesting aspect to it.

    It's plural. Our Father. Give us. Forgive us as we forgive. Lead us. Deliver us.

    We shouldn't make a show of prayer to receive public acknowledgement for our piety or, as Jesus notes in the Sermon on the Mount, that public recognition is the only reward we will receive (it seems because that's what we desire and have chosen -- another case of God letting us have what we want). But I think it's hard to reconcile the idea that all prayer should be private with what Jesus actually taught and what we see in Acts.

    Like I said, just a thought.


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