My Spiritual Path and Creed

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

As a baby I was baptized by the Lutherans, and when I was a little older the Baptists saved me twice.  I often accompanied my grandparents to a magnificent Presbyterian church with velvet pews, a massive pipe organ, and ominous stained glass windows.   The Catholics married me, the Moravians confirmed me.  I imagine I am still a member of the United Methodists.  Such is my spiritual path.  It is a compelling history, one that might lead you to doubt my upbringing and moral compass.

You can’t say I didn’t try.  I joined retreats, taught Sunday school, participated in vacation bible school and prayed.  I’ve joined bell choirs and bible studies, sung hymns and read verses.  I’ve helped with the Christmas pageant.  I’ve led youth groups.  I’ve attended both the Easter sunrise service and the midnight Christmas Eve ceremony.

My uncertainty arrived early.  In my childhood, arriving back from Sunday school, escorted by my big brother, I questioned a God who could send people to a fiery hell just for not knowing about Him.  That was what the teacher said.  She told us how important it was to tell others about Him.  If we didn’t, we would be held responsible.  That was my earliest memory of bible study.

As a youngster, the girls were ruthless.  Questions like “You don’t know what catechism is?,” “Do you believe in evolution or creation?” and statements like “I just don’t know how to feel about [so-and-so] because they’re Jewish” illuminated walls I hadn’t known existed.

National Baptist Evangelical Life and Soul Sav...

The Baptists asked me, as a teen, to raise a hand if I didn’t know what would happen if I died that day.  I raised my hand, was led to the front and saved behind closed doors.  The second time (I was only being honest —  ever the skeptic) I raised my hand again, and was again led to the front.  The third time they asked, I still wasn’t positive what would happen if I kicked the bucket that very minute, but I did know what would happen if I raised my hand.  So I didn’t.

I was a new bride when the priest asked me if I would bring up my children in a Christian home.  So I signed the paper and I did as promised.  My children would have an intimate understanding of their beliefs.  They would have the answers when the world confronted them.

When our family was young, Sunday was the worst day of the week.  It began with the prodding to get out of bed and the crying that they were tired.  Words that would never be repeated in church were yelled through their bedroom doors.  I sometimes found a quiet place — the bathroom or the basement — to pray for peace in my own home.  “For their own good,” I would repeat in my head, the scriptures of submission and honor and discipline on my tongue.

In reality we were just a normal family.  We fought, we cried, we yelled, and we laughed . . . a lot.  Yet I could not escape the contradiction between what we were and what we let people see.  Every Sunday morning we were a perfect, spiritual family; the children eager, the wife loving, the father doting.   While behind the doors of our own home, there were hurtful words and autocracy.

I became a teacher and leader of young people in a religious setting, speaking the truth I believed.  As with most mentors, I learned more from my students than they from me.  I learned that there really is no stupid question.  I learned the value of honesty, trustworthiness, and acceptance.  I learned that everyone is different, and if everyone was the same that would really suck.  They taught me that the best path is usually your own.

English: picture taken by aliencam Category:Im...

And so the teacher embarked on her own path.  I questioned.  I delighted in the differences of others, and celebrated the differences in myself.  I found the world was a better place than I was led to believe.  I liked the people who were different, and to my dismay I noticed they liked me too!  I heard my voice and realized that it was sometimes fairly wise and intelligent! Until at last, I found I could not follow blindly the paths of those I no longer believed in or trusted.

Though I won’t say I didn’t learn anything from the church, the good messages I learned cross all religious and non-religious boundaries.  I also learned that hurtful people can say anything in the name of God and few will question him.  I think humans have a need to believe in something, and that’s okay.  From the earliest days we have believed in Gods, and oddly enough they don’t look a lot different from the Gods we believe in today.  Even Atheists have convictions, contrary to popular belief (pun intended).  Chances are, some of my beliefs look like some of yours.  And it’s okay by me if they don’t.  Because if everyone were the same, it would really suck.

I believe in family; the one that came before me and the one that will live after me.  I believe in myself and all of my capabilities.  I believe in those I trust and love and the potential they possess.  I believe we influence the lives of those around us, for better and for worse.  I believe in the power of forgiveness.  I believe in the resurrection of a life lived in vain.  And the fragility of the one life we live on earth.  Amen.

Peace . . .

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About Jean

Trying to make sense of it all and . . . for the most part . . . doing it. View all posts by Jean

25 responses to “My Spiritual Path and Creed

  • NotAPunkRocker

    I identify as agnostic and went to numerous churches as a child into my late teens, trying to find what was “right”. For now I realize I am OK with not knowing, or deciding, but I am fascinated to hear others tell their stories of faith and religion. Well done! 🙂

  • El Guapo

    Faith arrived at through questioning and examination is the best kind of faith there is.
    Rock on!

  • izzwizz

    A thought provoking post.
    I do though think that it is possible (right) to live without having faith in something out there, and also that atheists don’t have convictions in the way I think you think we do. And I’m not at all sure that having a belief in the power of forgiveness isn’t exactly the same as having a belief In something out there….
    People who have lived their life without any religion at all really do look at the world completely differently!

    • Jean

      You sound like you speak for all Atheists when you talk about convictions, or lack thereof. Be careful when you speak for other people. I think we all look at the world from completely different glasses, don’t you?

      I believe that offering forgiveness is generous. I believe that accepting it can be very healing. Of course you must realize it is a play on the apostle’s creed. Right?

      • izzwizz

        I don’t realise it’s a play on the apostle’s creed because that has not been part of my culture. I don’t know what you mean by that because I was brought up as an atheist. That’s all I am saying, that the assumptions can be completely different if you have not been brought up with any religious belief.

      • Jean

        That’s interesting, izz. I can imagine you have a very different experience. I hope you find my story interesting as well.

        Yes I misspoke when I said “of course you realize.” I was distracted and commented in haste. Forgive me. 😉

  • izzwizz

    That’s really no problem. Yes, it’s a hugely different experience and I always like to hear peoples’ different perspectives.
    Different time zone too, so I am off to bed! Enjoy the rest of your weekend x

  • insearchofitall

    Interesting post. I would be as interested in what brought it to the surface. I’ve also had a meandering path. Raised by an atheist and an agnostic, I searched and still search for my own path. There are so many kinds of people, why would there be only one path. I’ve had some very unusual experiences along the way that changed how I think. It’s made me more accepting of the differences, less judgmental but more discerning. I’m always interested in what others find on their path. Thank you for sharing yours.

    • Jean

      “less judgmental but more discerning” — I like that.

      I can’t remember exactly what brought it out, but it was something like, “I want to write about [such and such] but I can’t until I tell the story of [such and such] and to tell that I’m going to have to explain my religious upbringing.

      I wish my parents were alive so I could ask them what they really believe. I think they wanted me to believe in Christianity, but I have a sneaking suspicion that if they were pressed to answer, they would say they were agnostic. Yet, we must be careful not to put words in the mouths of dead men. Ooh . . there’s a post…

      • insearchofitall

        You make me smile. It’s a tough, tough subject to write about. You did a good job. It’s what in searchofitall is really about but I keep skirting around the subject. You’ve given me a bit of courage. I’ll get there yet.:)

      • Jean

        It is hard. I try to stick to my experience. It’s hard for someone to come along and tell me that my experience is “wrong.” Right? I’d love to read some of your thoughts on your blog when you make your mind to do so!

  • Lois Field

    Jean, you have more guts than I do. I have tried to avoid writing about religion and spirituality or where I stand on the issues because it tends to be black and white with so many, just like politics. You did a marvelous job.

    • Jean

      I don’t feel like I have a lot of guts. I choose my words very carefully and tread lightly. And as I said to Marlene, above, if you stick to your own experiences no one can challenge that.

      • Lois Field

        No, you have guts. I remember your post about leaving your children’s father. That takes a lot of strength to do. I won’t write about my spiritual beliefs, but very much enjoyed reading about yours.

        My family would have given you a run for your money. They refused to accept what I felt and constantly gave me a hard time, even going so far as to try to scare my children into “saving me”.

      • Jean

        *smiles* I have a certain respect for that. After all, if you truly believe someone’s eternal life is in jeopardy, you would do anything it takes to save it. I’m also very good at smiling and nodding and then going off to do my own thing! 🙂 I’m not really great when it comes down to arguing a point.

        Thank you for your support, for sure! I will need it as I progress . . .

      • Lois Field

        Like you, I can smile and walk away but hate when small children are dragged into it.

        I will always have my support, Jean.

      • Jean

        Oooh yeah, then the mama bear comes out, right? 🙂

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