Since when did I become religious? As I write this I’m listening to Bob Dylan croon away about knocking on heaven’s door. In my youth, I attended congregational church with my mom. I liked the sense of community we had there.
As I got a little older, I changed. My mother supported my exploration of other denominations and faiths. I was so curious. Faith is such a personal thing and I wanted to see where I fit in. I went with friends to evangelical churches, baptist churches, catholic churches, and a pentecostal church. I just wanted to know, to see.
Years later, in my ultra-liberal college days I left that quest far behind me. I had changed again. What I heard about church and faith came from horrific tales from the Westboro Baptist Church and Jerry Falwell. Christianity, as it seemed to me, wasn’t about love. It seemed like punishment and judgement on those who were different. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the same Jesus who loved sinners, disciples, and prostitutes, persecuting same-sex love. What kind of religion is against love? In those days, it seemed that religion just wasn’t for me. “To each his own,” was my motto at the time, and it still is in many ways.
Early in my marriage, I had another change. It seemed that family was my religion. Love was the thing I turned to in times of strife. Let others have their own beliefs. I believed in Luke and me. I thought whatever brought people comfort, was good for them. As Bob Dylan would say, “Don’t criticize what you can’t understand.”So I didn’t. I also didn’t think about it much.
When we adopted our children, everything changed. I was trying to show them the kind of unconditional love they hadn’t experienced before. As they went through tremendous struggles, I began to sink into the depths of their trauma. The times, were indeed, changing. As Bob Dylan would tell me I had to start swimming or I would surely sink.
My mother started flying into our little New England town from her home in the midwest to help us wade through the quagmire of trauma we were sinking in. She had become Episcopalian so she took us to the Episcopal church in town. I felt so welcomed and so accepted. I’ll admit that the tradition and structure of the service was hard to follow. I did my best. After the service, my children asked me, “God really loves us? He doesn’t even know us.”
Eventually my mom went home, but I kept going to church. I was walking the “40 miles of bad road” that Dylan sang about, but I didn’t feel so alone. My children started to learn about a different kind of love. A love so big that it could handle whatever mistakes we humans could make. Our church didn’t disparage anyone that was “other.” Being gay was accepted. A parishioner has an incarcerated son who was accepted, loved, and prayed for. A former alcoholic was accepted, loved, and prayed for. So was I. So was our family.
Over time, I started to believe that there was more than just me out there. I didn’t have to have all the answers. My kids changed when they started to believe that God’s love was so big it could last through anything. We weren’t just crazy parents talking about this weird unconditional love thing. Other people felt it, too.
Finding faith has been an interesting journey. Some days I still feel like I’m not there, yet. But I’m working on it. Some days I get mad at God over what my kids have been through, among other things. When I pray, I express that anger. My reverend says that God has big enough shoulders to handle my anger.
Our church supports us. I believe God supports us. Everyone (even my children) will have their own beliefs, and that’s fine with me. Differences are OK. Bob Dylan might find his religion in music. I find mine at church. Find your own where you will.
I’m still the ultra-liberal girl I was in college, I’m just also a person of faith. I’ve changed. And as Dylan would say, “There is nothing so stable as change.”
**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.