Easter thoughts

Like a lot of people my age, my faith is not straightforward. I struggle to put it in words, particularly acceptable, recognizable words most people identify with faith. 

I grew up in a variety of Christian churches. Most were friendly on the outside and controlling once you were in – no instrumental music, communion every week, adult baptism only, and even restrictions about who you could befriend outside the four walls. Even though we stayed in the same small town, we moved churches several times, and it often came down to political views and leadership quarrels. I watched my parents ride the roller coaster of religious disappointment over and over again. 

During my time in a Christian college, and the years immediately following, I continued to sample the potluck of Evangelical, Orthodox, Catholic, Pentecostal and everything in between churches. A lot of my friends gravitated towards laid back churches that met in the evening, served coffee, and centered around acoustic guitar music and pastors who tried to lead with a limp handshake and an air of aloof wisdom. I split my time between a non-denominational mega-church (mostly Republican) and a picturesque traditional Episcopal chapel (mostly Democrat). And a bit of time in counseling. 🙂

After years of keeping an eagle eye out for the right kind of Christian man to marry, I met Frank, a liberal Irish atheist. He’s more of my spirit animal than my spiritual leader, and I adore him for it. Unlike many of the men I’d met in church over the years, he always encouraged me in my faith, even when he didn’t share it, and did it with a sincerity and freedom I’d never experienced. Suddenly the fear of believing the wrong thing, or having the wrong answers, or maybe having no answers at all, was gone. 

And then we had children. One, two, three lovely innocent children. I always knew I would want to raise them in my beliefs, but between having an atheist husband whose beliefs I wanted to respect, and never finding a church that particularly fit (yet?), it was a new challenge. Not only was it logistically awkward at times to get them to Sunday school, but I felt uncomfortable and unsure in what I believed as well. 

Uncomfortable and unsure. Not really words conducive to being a good Christian, eh? 

On days like today, Easter Sunday, I feel more than ever that I should be open and sincere in my faith (such as it is), not hiding it, not worrying about what people will say, but owning it. It’s a day to celebrate Jesus, His miracles and lessons and, ultimately, what He did for us on the cross. But if I’m honest, sometimes I DO hide my faith. Except, I am not worried about what everyone around me will say — I’m worried about what the Christians around me will say. And I’m realizing that this is just as bad as hiding my faith from the rest of the world. 

Here’s the bare bones truth, folks. I am a woman of faith. I believe in a powerful and loving God, a blameless, merciful Jesus, and a mysterious Holy Spirit. I believe in justice. I believe in miracles. I live by the principles of the Bible, the 10 Commandments, the New Testament teachings and the wisdom of the prophets and apostles – but I also believe it was written (and re-written) by human men and it is not infallible. I believe some of it was written for its time and its cultural traditions. I believe a lot of it is obscure. I believe the more I learn, the less I know

I believe in trying. And with my kids, I am trying. I teach them the stories, I teach them to pray, I sing them the songs, I talk to them about things that don’t make sense, I talk to them about loving their enemies, and I try not to pressure them to believe exactly as I do. And I try to pray for them a lot, that God will be with them, and watch over them, and stir in their hearts. 

I personally shrink from the word “Christian,” because of what it currently conjures up to a lot of people in the world, including me. I shy away from being corralled into a group that incites violence, abuse, control and denial. But I also defend the word “Christian,” because I know hundreds (no exaggeration) of really wonderful people who identify with that label and do their best to live by it and perpetuate love, kindness, self-control, humility. If I’m really put on the spot, I will say my beliefs are Christian, but I know that my actions do not entirely fit the bill, either positive or negative. 

However, I hope I never shrink from the word “Christ,” even if I’m tempted to, just because I feel like I can never live up to the ideal. (Who can, really?) At the end of the day, it’s not about me though, is it? It’s not about earning heavenly brownie points or scoring 100 social media “likes” for Jesus.

My beliefs make me who I am, and I believe 100% that God holds onto me even when I want to throw the lot of it into the trash because it’s just too hard. But, even when I’m holding on by a fingernail, my life is about something more than just me and what I want, because I think that when you believe in a greater, almighty power, you want to do your bit to make the world a better place to live. You want to look after the planet, and the people and creatures on it. You want to bring glory to the beauty.

So that’s it. I believe in keeping it simple and choosing not to fight over the details. It’s not perfect, and I’m not perfect, but that’s why we have grace. I know quite a few people who have left Christianity all together, and others who are sticking to it stronger than ever. Both sides have probably stopped reading by now. 🙂 Honestly, I think I “get” both sides, even if I’m not in either camp.

Today I am celebrating Easter, what God has done with my battered old heart, and the freedom I have to be whoever I’m meant to be. I hope wherever you are, and whatever you believe, you are celebrating this beautiful day, too. 

Happy Easter!

(If you’re Irish and you made it to the end, well done. I promise you don’t have to start going to Mass or stop cursing to still be friends with me. To thine own self be true. :))

3 thoughts on “Easter thoughts

  1. Happy Easter, Maryann. It all sounds fine to me. So long as you practice empathy and are kind, I really don’t think it matters all that much what faith/belief you are. I was raised Church of England, tried being a Quaker (very nice people but I was never sure if was OK to mention God) and Catholic. None of them are perfect. As long as you avoid the people who are certain they are right, that’s OK in my book.

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