Let me begin by saying that the title of this blog should really be about my faith transitions.
Plural. Because I didn’t go from one religion or faith practice to another. I went from one to another, to another, to another… and I’m still going.
It’s not that I take faith and religion lightly. Exactly the opposite – I approach it with a high degree of respect and importance! That’s why I’ve explored so many different avenues, trying to find the right fit for me. I never wanted to fake any part of my beliefs or practices so it was important for me to move on when I didn’t feel things align.
But it’s not always easy to move on. Far from it! A change in religion or faith can uproot your life and change your relationship not only to yourself but with others closest to you. So let me share with you what I’ve learned along my own path. Perhaps it will give you insight and let you know that you’re not alone.
1. My experience of religion changed as I grew.
When I was a little girl I grew up in a church that had Jesus front and center. I remember depictions of Jesus being really warm and friendly. In cartoon character styling he was typically surrounded by children and the occasional lamb, bunny or dove. He seemed like a real friendly guy! Everyone’s buddy. He was always smiling and loved “all the little children, all the children of the world.”
But then as I got older the vision and message changed. It seemed like if you really wanted His love there were rules. Be baptized. Do your communion. Go to confession. Get confirmed. And definitely don’t be gay.
This last one stood out the most because I was in high school and one of my best friends – a truly tender-hearted person – had just come out of the closet. I wanted nothing but the best for him. I couldn’t comprehend that the sacred, unconditional Love I had known now seemed to have a lot of conditions.
2. My choice of religion and spirituality changed as I moved.
In my lifetime I have moved more than the average person. Following college in northern New York I moved out of state to get my Masters degree and then Texas… then Arizona… then Utah to pursue my career.
And as I moved I found my access to the churches and practices I loved most changed. Currently, there is not a local church or meeting house for my chosen religion near by. The closest meeting house is 2 hours away in another state. Sure, I could practice my religion all alone in my living room or seek out an online version but to me community is a big part of my practice.
My access to community has deeply impacted my journey. Perhaps you grew up in a country, city or neighborhood where everyone believed the same. If you follow a mainstream religion you might have access when you relocate. Or your churches might disappear completely. Many people have this funny sensation even without a relocation -like many of my previously-LDS clients who leave the church and suddenly find themselves alone despite living in the same neighborhood and city.
I am lucky that my family gave me the love and autonomy to find my own faith and religious practices. And Iam grateful for the upbringing I had where faith brought people together in a spirit of loveand service. I still seek that out now even though my beliefs are different.
I love the freedom I have to serve others by volunteering, donating at blood drives and teaching my children to be good stewards of the earth. And I have notexperienced spiritual or religious abuse as some people have. I’m privileged in someways to have been kept so safe and to be given freedoms I’ve enjoyed.
And not everything is easy. I worry sometimes about teaching my children aboutreligious concepts such as God, heaven, etc. I know that if I don’t tell them somethingthey are likely to hear it on the streets or school bus… and I don’t want to leave suchimportant concepts to strangers (however well meaning). And there are certain rituals Imiss. As always, it’s my responsibility to find a suitable alternative and I know there are books and resources to help me. This will continue to be a part of my journey personally and as a mother to my children.
Are you going through this too? You are not alone.
There is so much more that I’ve experienced in my journey. I’m lucky to have traveled the world and seen so much beauty and goodness come from a wide range of faiths and practices. I also know from my professional work and daily life the pain and trauma caused by abuse in the church or under the cloak of a “spiritual” program.
Wherever you are on your journey, I know that you are worthy of love. I think that you are full of unquestionable value and capable of deep, transformative growth. Take care of yourself and always know that you do not have to justify your beliefs to anyone, anywhere. Protect your heart and invest in your spiritual self care during this amazing journey.