Thursday, May 7, 2009

Uncomfortable religious moments

This is a tough topic, very charged, very personal. Everybody has their beliefs, opinions, experiences, and convictions. This is my experience and I have been coming to grips with it and examining my relationship with God intensely the last couple of years. I have been coming to understand facets of my personality that I didn't before as a result of age, maturity and most importantly, therapy. Therapy has helped me understand psychological processes that affected my beliefs growing up. Who knew I would learn about my spiritual life when I showed up to talk about my inability to stop eating? But it has been broken wide open for me to get a handle on and I'm so glad to be going through this painful yet enlightening process and it is bringing me closer to God, a God that I can embrace.

I was in a church book study recently and the discussion rolled around to denominations, God centered vs Jesus centered and so on. I had an aha moment of all of the diverse and uncomfortable moments of "religion" that I had experienced. I felt I have been a little warped when it comes to religion lately and I think for good reason. These moments have been forever etched in my mind. I grew up as a Methodist but have had exposure to many different denominations including several Baptist churches, Catholic masses (including ones in a psychiatric facility!), Russian Orthodox, Episcopalian, Jewish services and then some non-denominational meetings that were not in a church building.

One of my first FEAR remembrances from church was sunday school talk of Armageddon and the second coming, with some devil thrown in as well. I think at this same time and continuing were some hellfire and brimstone style sermons. I had a major level of discomfort sitting through these services and distinctly remember them. It hit my psyche and not in a positive way and hasn't let go. Also, sometime in my tween years, I can still vividly picture sitting through revivals and at the end there were altar calls, where the pianist
played the last stanza of the hymn over and over and over again to goad persons to come to the front and accept Jesus. I had already accepted Jesus but didn't want to walk up to the front of the church in order to do so. I was a reserved, shy child and can still be a reserved adult. I was not comfortable in that service at all, but I continued to attend worship services like that for years because of where I lived, my family and who I dated. Some other experiences were a small group gathering where persons spoke in tongues (more uncomfortableness), attending a heaven or hell play production which gave me no further understanding of God but scare tactics and more calls to come down to the front and be born again. God has been with me from the beginning and the process is me becoming aware of his presence and relying on him and I don't need to be born again. These were examples to me of a god that was to be feared, not a God of love. I didn't understand all of this at the time, just felt it in my gut.

It has taken me a long time to let myself believe what I in my gut believe about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. There were circumstances in my life that made me feel that I had to believe a certain way about the Bible and God and now I am slowly freeing myself of them and it is fantastic. I don't want to fear God, I want to talk to God in a relationship that is open, a God that is more about love than rules. There is much love with God, but also with that love is pain, and events in life that we have no control over. It is our relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit and our community of faith as well as complete strangers that help us survive, thrive and move on.
When I began understanding why I had felt obligated to believe in a certain way, and having guilt for not believing in those certain ways and judgement that I felt from others, I then turned it around and began to judge those whom I had felt judged by. Not a good move for me, but one of reaction. I have been working to let this go as well. The more secure I feel in my beliefs, the less all that matters. My goal is too let go of worrying about denominations, and what other people think. I am embracing for the first time, my own beliefs from my heart and gut. Peace to all. Amen!

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