Sunday, November 12, 2006

Naming God

Having come full circle on "going to church," I find myself trying again to name the thing that I'm once again admitting to myself as spiritual belief.

I used to love going to church as a kid. My family was Episcopalian, and I enjoyed the somber ceremony and formal beauty of our services. For a while. Then I just really liked being somewhere as a family where we couldn't fight. And Mom always had Breathsavers wintergreen when we just couldn't sit still. For the most part, we kids were ushered off to Sunday School -- they weren't kidding when they called it that. We had lessons to do and worksheets to fill out, and after completing each one, you put a star on this little chart showing your progress. As a compulsive overachiever -- I learned a lot in a short amount of time. I had to! We were incredibly intermittent church goers, and more often than not, I had to dig up my folder from a separate box, where they put all the little-used folders of all the kids whose families didn't come all that often. Very embarrassing. I don't remember interacting with anyone, but I still loved learning all the stories of the bible.

Then when my parents got divorced, neither one would go back to the church. Too embarrassing, I guess. My father stayed episcopalian until his new church decided they wanted to be bigoted and separated from that denomination in order to keep out gays. My mother turned to New Ageism. She's now a curandera and a white witch -- subtle distinction to be sure, but it's there. When she planned to miss the birth of her first grandchild, she instructed my sister to squeeze a crystal that she'd infused with her good energy whenever my sister needed her. (Needless to say, that crystal never made it in the room.)

I begged to go to church with friends and neighbors. For quite a while I attended a Presbyterian church. I liked the optimism and good cheer, but I was always a little suspicious -- where were people with dark sides? Certainly I couldn't fit in here, coming as I did from a broken home with secrets. And the emphasis on Jesus was a bit much. I never really thought he was a personal friend. Still, there was a tape of songs about God that I loved, and I remember singing one at night and crying because it was all so beautiful -- this whole world and our being here to love it.

Then an adult friend of the family told me once that I didn't believe in God because I only believed in the universe and energy. I accepted that I was an athiest for years, especially because as a teenager, I wanted as much distance from those happy fanatics as I could get, going so far as to announce on tv at my high school graduation that I didn't believe in God. I didn't think it was a big deal, but I found out quickly how theistic my non-church-going family really was.

Now, I go to the UU church, and I find myself tearing up almost every Sunday at the power of people coming together in a spirt of support and hope. UUs are realists; we talk dark side. We talk politics; we talk war. And so I search for books and sources of inspiration and sustenance to grow this little spiritual side of mine. I haven't found much that moves me. The affirmations and sermons provide the most steady stream of soul food. Being a scholar, though, I want the printed word.

Christine challenged us to create our own book of revelations, a compendium of readings that speak to us -- nurture, calm, inspire, console, and sustain. That seems daunting, so instead I'm going to compile the names for this "god" of mine that can sum up or shed light on what it is I do believe, if it's not a personified being.
  • impulse toward love and growth
  • powers of healing
  • spirit of peace
  • place of sustenance
  • community of the wakeful
In this space of indirection, I'm thankful for the time to hear my breath and listen for a soul.

No comments:

Post a Comment