February 10, 2017 by acontraryspirit
Over the last few days I’ve been listening to Part One of the ‘Lost and Found’ episode on The Liturgists Podcast. This is the episode when Science Mike (Mike McHargue) and Michael Gungor sit down and share their stories with their listeners about when they fell out of love with their faith and with god as they knew him, and how they started to find a new way with their faith and god.
As I listened to this episode I couldn’t help but think about how comforting and refreshing it was to hear these men speak about thoughts and feelings so similar, if not the same as what I have experienced over the last 10 years. I think McHargue put it really well when he said there is just no way that an atheist or someone who did not grow up with a strong sense of faith and belief and relationship with god can understand the grief that follows when you lose that. In my experience, he is so right about this.
When you are in a church and you are constantly speaking that god language and striving to live your life in a godly way, you are surrounded by people in the same boat, striving for the same thing, using the same language. It doesn’t matter where they work or go to school or what kind of family they have – there is a tie that binds us. But suddenly, when you are past that moment of realizing you didn’t have it all quite right or you didn’t have it right at all, past the moment of for the first time seriously considering there may not be a god, it’s as though you know no one who speaks your language anymore, it’s like the tie breaks and you begin to question if it was really ever there at all.
Your friends and family from church look at you like you have six heads, like you are speaking tongues. So maybe you do what I did; you stop talking to those friends about these thoughts and ideas, and you make new friends who aren’t so concerned with the god stuff because at this point it is just so exhausting to even think about god and what that means. I mean, it is emotionally draining particularly when you are on your own, when it’s a one-sided debate to your friends and family who are trying to win you over.
And not talking to these friends and family was okay for me for a long time. It worked especially well for me because I could easily find a new group of people I thought I had things in common with. I was starting to understand and explore my sexuality in college and I found a great group of people who were dealing with the same things I was – coming out, meeting people to date, even questions about what the bible had to say about us – everything except questions about god and a personal relationship with that god. Maybe because we were too hurt by most of our past personal relationships at this point.
And some of those friends lasted, but then I met my future wife, and her friends. And we had fun and started our careers and so I had work friends. I had my groups – I had gay friends, college friends, work friends, married friends…some were all of the above. But none of them shared the language of my religion and I finally got settled enough to realize I missed that.
So I went back, kind of. I went back to the church, just a different branch of the same family. The challenge with that is we still don’t quite speak the same language. First of all, I’m 10 years out of practice. Second of all, I didn’t grow up following the church calendar with Lent and all that so the god language I am out of practice in isn’t even quite the same as the new one I’m trying on. And it is challenging. Sometimes a fellow parishioner or even the pastor says something during service, and I cringe because I just can’t get behind that statement or action. But then I remember that there is some translating I have to do, that I can no longer take what is said at face value, that I’m not fundamentalist, and most of these folks aren’t either. It’s a major learning curve.
But I’m hopeful that with practice, with more conversations, the translating will take less time and more of the words will be coming from me. For now, I have work to do. I take Sundays as a day to rest and to listen at service when I attend. And then I have to take my time through the week to figure out what this means to me. What does it mean to me to be going back to church? What are these words to me now – Jesus, God, salvation, the Eucharist? The meaning of these words as they were taught to me cannot remain with what I have learned and seen in life. The meaning of these words has to be so much bigger than the boxes I had them neatly tucked away in before my questions came flooding in and my language started changing. Listening to The Liturgists, reading the books and blogs that I have, I’m starting to have hope that the meaning of these words can be and is so much bigger, to fit all of us, maybe even me.