Sunday, February 13, 2011

Are You There, God?

I can't pinpoint when it started. Like my ability to remember things, my faith in God has diminished with age. Perhaps both are related to getting old. I don't know.


What I do know is that my faith, fostered first by a staunchly Catholic mother, has only recently been in question. Through all those years when I didn't go to church with any degree of regularity, I still held strongly to a belief in God. I even maintained a strong, unhealthy dose of guilt for not going to church regularly.


We baptized the first two in England in the Anglican Church. When I found out I was pregnant with Youngest, I upped the ante. I found an Episcopalian church run by an amazing priest, and I started attending regularly. We baptized Youngest in that church. And we started attending as a family nearly every Sunday, particularly pleased that they had introduced a children's service.


It felt wonderful to be back in the fold. But then the kids "aged out" of that service and it wasn't enough, so I switched to the 9 o'clock service, a family-friendly one without the grand pomposity of high services. Slowly, I let the older two and their dad out of going, and soon it was just me and Youngest going every so often. Until we mostly just stopped, partly due to the priest retiring and partly due to apathy and partly due to, I see now, a dwindling faith.


I used to pray nightly, even having my own set mantra in place to say before asking Him to take care of specific people in crisis.


I don't anymore. It feels artificial. It feels...not true.


Doubt has crept into every crevice of my mind and heart and, if I were to believe it exists, my soul as well. I will die and that will be that. Within 75 years, maybe less, everyone who might remember me will be dead. And it will be as if I was never here. And there is no there. "There" is nothing. Dirt. Decay. Energy force joining with other energy forces but no memory of who I was and what I had done and who I had loved.


I don't want to feel this way. I truly don't. I want to be a believer again. But I don't know how.

10 comments:

Eluciq said...

i am NOT a religious person...not one bit. it is all history, stories & has people bound into a social ritual. one that sometimes makes you feel guilty or afraid. okay then...there you have my feelings.

i hope you find what you are looking for and can believe once again. i think i am very spiritual & have a bit of a "hippy" outlook on life...but obviously i respect others and their dedication to their religion...but it makes me nervous when they try to sway me or tell me that i will not be saved...ummm okay!

geesh i sound kinda full of myself, huh? i really do hope that you find what you need and have balance in your life.

Patois said...

Eluciq,

I hope so, too. For the record, even when dedicated to my religion, I never tried to sway anyone to my side of thinking. (Um, if you don't count my kids!)

Thanks for hoping I find what I need. I like the "hippy" outlook. Perhaps you can sway me?

Jeni said...

Although I am not the kind of parishioner ministers especially like -meaning I don't show up at church every Sunday or for every special holiday, etc. I go when I can wake up in time to get there, be able to stay awake and also, if/when my little side issues (health-related) don't have my system in an uproar. But I went through a phase back in the 80s mainly where I rarely went to church. I did see to it that my kids went to Sunday School, had their first communion classes, got confirmed and attended church when they wanted/needed to be there. I still don't know what caused me to stay away from church over those years but I don't think I ever "lost" my faith -maybe it just went to sleep on me for a good long rest or some such. But my faith today is stronger than it was before whether I get to church or not. I hadn't prayed regularly -not in the sense most people think of as being prayers -probably since I was in high school but for the past several years, I find myself saying those old familiar prayers with extras put in for people I know who are in need and finally, as my granddaughter now says when she says her "now I lay me" prayer every night, her "God Bless" prayer consists of praying for God to bless all the people of the world and then, for God to bring peace to all the people of the world. Works for me, ya know! (Her prayer was entirely of her own doing which makes me feel very good about her thinking processes there.) Maybe my change towards my religious side has something to do with the Bill Cosby line about being an old person just trying to get into heaven? I dunno but I will say I am much more content within myself today that I have ever been in all my 66 years on the planet so I figure I must be doing something right -at least for myself anyway. Try "shopping" around a little bit, checking out other churches, congregations that seem to have similar attitudes that mesh and blend well with yours. You'll find it, with a teensy bit of looking I think.

Patois said...

Jeni,

I, too, thought the closer one got to old(er) age, the more appealing she would find God. All that fear of death, like the saying "there are no atheists in foxholes," would be true. Maybe I'm not quite there yet.

Marivan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sian said...

Patty, I've been a Christian for over a decade, attended church regularly throughout those years and among the many things that this has taught me about both the human and the divine is that faith comes and goes in waves - tsunami and ripplets. This may well be a tide on the ebb and it will in all likelihood turn again.

Don't force it and don't worry. We are all in God's hands, whoever we concieve him to be.
xx

Tara R. said...

I know exactly how you feel, having gone through this same thing... I call it my crisis of faith.

I have so many questions that no one has been able to answer save with rote responses that don't even begin to address my issues.

Organized religion has been on a steep and rapid decline and I'm tired of all the hypocrisy.

Patois said...

Sian, I desperately hope you're right.

Tara, Amen, sistah!

JTS said...

Dear Patty,
This was an incredibly honest and open post. I think it speaks to all of us of the changes and transitions we go thru in life. What we know, what we feel, what we believe changes along with our age and experience. I know everyone is going to have a different response to this post, we all come from different backgrounds and beliefs.

I was raised as a Lutheran - one might say a heretical branch of Catholicism, and not all that different from it except in leadership. Very dogmatic, very ritualistic, very sin and redemption oriented. I have gone thru many religious experiences since then, various Christian denominations as well as what some would consider an Islamic sect. I've believed in nothing and I've believed in everything and most often somewhere in between. Here's where I am at this point in my life...
I believe that faith and religion are not the same thing. I consider myself to be a faithful person. I do not consider myself to be religious. I believe in a Creator, something greater than myself, and beyond my ability to fully comprehend. The source of infinite love. I do not believe in a god of vengence and eternal damnation. I believe in a God of forgiveness and grace. I believe that when we die we return to our Source where all that is spirit resides in harmony and light. Maybe we get to return in another life. Definitely we are able to visit those we loved in this lifetime. Having had many negative church experiences, I prefer to remain unchurched. Too many wolves in shepherds clothing for my tastes! I believe in the power of prayer to change things. I don't know how it works, I just know it does. I believe in miracles, they happen around me every day! I believe in the power of love and hope to transform lives. I believe we are here for each other, to help each other on the journey we call life. I believe that I am never truly alone, even when it feels that way, and I have learned that the darkest times in my life will end and new good things will come. I believe that I am loved.

I think sometimes we have to listen to our hearts and find our way gradually, step by step. It isn't something we can force to happen or force ourselves to believe. I'm betting that if we return to this question twenty or maybe even ten years from now you will feel differently than you did today. I like the saying "let go, let God". "Life is not a problem to solve, it is a mystery to experience." You will find your way. Faith and hope are essential to life.

Patois said...

Sophie (AKA JTS), Goodness, but I love your thoughts on my post. I so hope I am able to listen more closely to my heart to see this way through. I'd like to stop believing that I will just be dirt. I do want to believe I will go on. I want your faith (and I also want to have faith without the weight of religion).

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