Friday, January 17, 2014

Do you miss those things?

When I started thinking about doing this I wasn't sure how comfortable I'd be with actually putting it out there for others to read. Writing has always had a therapeutic quality for me, and part of me wondered if others would care or 'get it' (see 'Prelude' for conclusions I guess I came to...) or I worried about whether others reading might hinder my ability to write as the truest version of myself. (What is a true version of ones self? For future entries.) Another concern in using this avenue was that IF others found interest and wanted to engage in a back-n-forth about some of these things would I have time and wear-with-all to do that? Well, sort of.  So, Lily, here's a bit of a reply...hoping to respond to your question.

You said: "I occasionally lament my lack of spirituality; I envy the anchor, the path that God provides (do you miss those things?). But I can't convince myself to believe."

Last summer my dad came over to help finish painting the exterior of our house. We had lunch, I served him food he usually wouldn't cook himself, and he enjoyed it. Then he said something, something I'll never forget: "Son your mom and I were talking the other day about something you'll probably not want to hear; We feel that you won't find your niche' in your career and feel satisfied as an individual until you come back to the faith." Before you want to vilify my dad for this, that, and the other, know that besides this mis-step, he's always been extremely understanding and compassionate toward my doubts and ultimate renouncement of the faith. It must be hard to show grace as your son walks away as an adult from the belief system you've spent your whole life cultivating and believe IS the way, truth, and life.

Without expounding upon my reply, I can basically sum up my response with these words that I'll probably drive into the ground well before I should: Dad, it's much more complicated than simply returning to the faith.

Though I hated being unable to have sleep-overs on Saturday nights, I generally loved being a Pastor's kid. My dad was a bona-fied small scale rock star! He stood in front of 60-100 people every Sunday and shared his peace and wisdom about every issue applicable from the Word of God. Sometimes he pounded his fists for emphasis. Sometimes he glanced intensely at his audience over his glasses when he needed us to zero in on exactly what was at stake in his words. (This look still makes me shutter today because it's the same look I received when he needed me to know exactly what was at stake in his words.) Often he would tear up because the Word is about suffering and judgement, compassion and sacrifice, life and death. Not easy topics to bring new light to week after week and year after year. He sang solos in a high tenor on holidays. He greeted and got to know everyone who came through his doors.

On top of it, I had ultra-perfumed, grandmother figures kissing me at every turn, hand shakes from distinguished elderly gentlemen with wise eyes that reflected the joys that lay ahead for me as I grow up, and sprawling families hugging generously and welcoming me as one of their own. Both my parents sang in the choir, what they lacked in numbers they made up for in heart. The holiday crescendo to Christmas...forget about it! Of course a major role in why I get so pumped for the holidays. This was my life every Sunday and then some.

But amidst all of this, as the trust of youth began to shed itself, I started to realize that though I loved all these aspects of the community of faith, the reason to have faith no longer seemed real or made sense to me.

Do I miss it all? I miss the sense of belonging. I miss the idea of life having a purpose beyond the here and now. I miss the emotional vitality that faith seemed to provide.

But most of all, I really miss the sense of wonder that comes with youth. Youth is what really gives these ideas wings. How people transition into adulthood and maintain faith as their compass doesn't quite make sense to me. For me the foundation starts to crumble with what seem like the simplest of questions. Everything that once seemed true and right, even the absurdities that believing requires, all stem from the trust I put in those around me as a child. Were any of these ideas presented to me as an adult without the experience of my first 33 years I think there's no way I would even consider them as possibilities.

(If I were able to be an anthropologist I'd love to interview people who were raised without any semblance of faith and chose to believe in adulthood, I'm sure their stories would be worth telling.)

The only mantra I try to hold onto is a chorus I wrote that seems like ancient history in the life of my band:

Seek joy while breathing.


  1. Have you ever considered a UU congregation? I attended one sometime last year, craving that sense of belonging. Their values matched with mine well and I felt very welcomed, though I ended up deciding that I wasn't ready for the commitment of joining a church at the time (though, the future is open and I like the idea for an older-Lily).

    Do you feel like your dad still has that sense of wonder that youth gave you? Do you feel that those who have lost that bright hopefulness or even just that sense of belonging will gain it back one day through means other than faith? I wonder sometimes as I chase my dreams, many of which promise the idea of a more meaningful life, if I will feel different once I've fulfilled those aspirations or if having a life whole and rich-with-meaning is simply a state of mind not dependent on external factors. What do you think?

  2. Hey Lily, for a slew of reasons, the idea of the UU church is off-putting to me. But perhaps I don't fully understand their philosophy. I sort of feel that those longings we've both mentioned (belonging, security, etc.) are permanently linked to a version of myself that no longer exists and trying to recreate them would just feel hollow. My dad doesn't necessarily have a youthful sense of wonder; He gets some of it back marveling at the grand-kids, but that happens to most everyone, faithful or not. I think belonging can happen at every stage in life depending how open we are to accepting others. Without church or school, my life lacks a gathering ritual. Theoretically shows are supposed to be that way, but they don't translate the same. Perhaps in adulthood we've gained priorities in such a way that connecting with those around us is no longer at the forefront. As a kid I just befriended whoever was sitting next to me, no filters. There are moments where I feel the old sense of belonging (with the Rev guys, fam), maybe they're just not as abundant, whereas school/church was an every day/week thing. I imagine we can evolve to find a state of mind that sees 'richness' regularly, but for me the weight of responsibility is ever present in the back of my mind blurring my vision. I don't really think there is a finish-line where once we accomplish goals we'll suddenly feel 'whole', but having goals and working for them is surely rewarding in itself. Candy and I are hoping/trying to make 2014 a year where we really bolster outlets for creativity so the vitality sucking times aren't as heavy. Here's to hoping and trying...and dreaming!