On church…

I don’t go to church.  I was raised Catholic and find many good virtues in the religion.  I get comfort from many of the traditions and have been blessed with a strong sense of Catholic guilt.  I lapsed a bit in college, high on my new found freedom to do what I want, going only when I felt lost and needed a sense of community.  In grad school I left the church completely after attending a neighborhood church.  Reading their bulletin, I realized they were the ones picketing the Planned parenthood down the street.  Regardless of my views on abortion, I resented those picketers.  They scared off people who were going for cervical screening, treatment for STDs and birth control to protect against unwanted pregnancies.  My political ideology and views on women in general were never quite in line with the interpretations of Catholicism, but I ignored them for the general good values I respected- things like being kind to others.

I like the idea of religion.  I enjoy the community it brings and I think most religions all share the most basic core beliefs.  Some sort of spirituality and belief that we should be good, kind people.  I dabbled a little bit with Unitarian Universalism.  I still feel like it is the closest to my beliefs, with its welcoming of all walks of people and its liberal views.  I still go to Catholic church when I am with my family for holidays like Christmas and Easter.  It pleases my father.  But I respect the religion enough to stop taking communion, something reserved for believers.

When I was pregnant I tried to reestablish a connection with a church.  I thought I could use some community support and religious guidance when we learned Mabel would have Down Syndrome.  My friend took me to her childhood Episcopal church in my neighborhood.  It was very reminiscent of a Catholic service- similar prayers and structure, but more liberal in some of their views.  I sat there watching the small children’s choir, trying to picture my unborn child in years to come, up there singing with them.  The service was nice, but it didn’t feel right.  I returned to the Unitarian church I had tried in the past.  I was enjoying the service and was joining in song with the congregation, when a wave of sadness overtook me.  I grabbed my things and ran to the parking lot, trying to hide my tears.  I couldn’t get myself under enough control to return inside.  I went again a few weeks later and had a replay of what had happened the last time- uncontrollable waterworks.

After we learned that I had low fluid, making Mabel’s prognosis poor, my work was kind enough to give me some time off to adjust.  That time coincided with Christmas, so we visited my parents.  As tradition dictated we all bundled up to go to mass on Christmas Eve.  I walked in with my brothers and aunt, while Chris and my dad parked the car.  I picked up the hymnal and started singing some Christmas carols with the rest of the church.  I’m unsure whether it was the words of the songs, the rejoicing in God or the act of being in a church for the holiday-something that brings up childhood memories, but tears came on suddenly.  I was pregnant with a child I wanted so badly and that child would likely be taken from me.  I couldn’t understand how this God that we were celebrating would let that happen.  I hurried out of the church grabbing Chris along the way.  We spent the rest of the time walking around the neighborhood.

I haven’t been to church since.  We had Mabel baptized by the hospital chaplain at my father’s request.  We had a Methodist minister preside at her funeral, not realizing how Christian a non-denominational service would be.  In retrospect I wish I had contacted the Unitarian Church for her graveside service.  We wanted some structure and the Unitarian minister could have provided that with words more aligned with our beliefs.

I don’t know what I believe now.  I wonder at how this is just in any God’s eyes.  I don’t take comfort in God needing another angel or having a higher plan.  I suppose I would have needed to already have some sort of strong belief before anything bad happened to receive solace and guidance.

This I know: I need to believe that there is good in the world and if I continue to be a good person, good will happen to me too.

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8 thoughts on “On church…

  1. Meghan, we don’t know why God allows things to happen. They are so meaningless and sad and without explanation. To us. Not to Him. I know you believe in God, I can hear it in your words and in your grief. So in believing, you have to believe He has a plan far greater than we could ever understand. His thoughts are not our thoughts, his ways are not our ways. And so we are left to struggle. But we do not struggle alone. He is beside you every single second of your life. As far as church, don’t worry about where you worship and praise Him. That can be done at home or in a building with others. You may one day find a “home” church you love. I am Catholic and still looking for the right fit. I have a strong sense that it will eventually be in a church other than the Catholic church. God is not punishing you, or testing you, or any of that. There is no guilt. There is pure love and faith and grace. You are surrounded by all three. I believe in time you will be strong. And God will be there waiting for you. He’s already embracing your little one right this minute.
    God Bless you Meghan.

  2. Ours views couldn’t align more. I was raised to believe that you didn’t need to go to church to be a good person. People often times think I’m “religious” because of my empathy and treatment of others, but I don’t know what I am! There will always be good in the world, it just might be something you have to search out. You have provided good to the world by sharing your story and helping other people who are going through similar struggles and reminding them they are not alone. Wishing you peace and love 🙂

  3. After years of “church shopping” after leaving the Catholic faith, I also found UUs most aligned with my beliefs, yet the services I liked best were United Church of Christ. We joined a UCC church in VA and I really loved it; we joined one here in the Chicago area and love it. I don’t believe everything, but their motto is “God is still speaking,” (with the comma!) and questions are encouraged. But mostly… losing Ander destroyed my faith. I have a lot more to say on that on my blog… coming eventually. I actually wanted to go to church after we lost Ander so I could be mad at God. God was more present in that church, and I was SO ANGRY at him. Prayer had always “worked” for me in the past, but in that moment I needed it, and when so many people were praying for Ander, it failed me. And all those platitudes of “everything happens for a reason” etc. etc. mean NOTHING to a grieving babyloss mom. I hear you.

  4. Meghan – I don’t claim to have answers. I don’t imagine that human answers/understanding, no matter how authentically biblically based they are, can satisfy in the face of such tragedy. Even the strongest, most devote Christians, seem to struggle desperately with their faith in the aftermath of the death of a beloved family member (C.S. Lewis on the death of his wife is an example, although very different from losing a child).

    The deaths of my sons has made me question and inspect everything I believed to be true about my faith and my relationship with God. I am still searching. I asked some of my questions “aloud” in a post on my blog (maybe you already read it)… http://lostboysandbearings.blogspot.com/2014/04/me-of-shaky-faith.html

    Thinking of you and your precious Mabel.

  5. I thought this when you mentioned it earlier, but “non-denominational” doesn’t mean “non-religious.” It’s actually a term for “Protestant” but without distinct ties to any one Protestant church. So the fact that it was a Christian service doesn’t surprise me, but I can see how that might’ve confused you.

    I also believe there is good in the world–great good! but I also recognise good things don’t always happen to good people, just like bad things don’t always happen to bad people. What’s good and bad may even be facades for all we know. It’s hard to deal with, I know all too well. (I try to remind myself that it is a greater good that my child lived for a brief time than never existed at all; my heart will always be emptier for it, but I’m glad I got to know him. That’s a good shrouded in bad, I think.) My coworkers keep reminding me (as they grumble about the evils the supervisor has done to me, now that it’s come out) that “what goes around comes around,” but right now that isn’t a great comfort to me. I know she’ll “get hers” someday, or at least I trust she will, it doesn’t look like it right now and I’d rather everyone was just good to us now instead of getting even later.

  6. I don’t like when people tell me that everything happens for a reason. Or that God makes bad things happen. I don’t think he does. I see God as good and great and awe-inspiring and more than my tiny mind can comprehend. But I believe that there is an opposing force: evil, bad, Devil- pick your name. There are senseless and inexplicable things in the world. One of the best things one of my pastor friends told me was that God cries when you cry. It’s okay to be mad at God. Get pissed off, rail against him. But I know that when I’m ready to lean on him once more, to believe that he’s looking out for me and standing beside me and crying with me, life feels a little more comfortable. Who doesn’t want to believe in good? Lots of love from a Lutheran in SC. I hope you find your place and community- wherever that may be.

  7. I watched an episode of “Call the Midwife” this weekend and after a tragic event one of the nurses couldn’t understand what type of God would allow an event like this. The head nun responded with something similar to this, “God is not in the event, but in the response to the event. He is in the love that is shown and the care that is given.” I feel similarly to you in my religious beliefs and this quote was comforting to me. I wish you never had to experience the loss of your daughter and the accompanying grief but I hope you feel loved and cared for.

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