Saturday, December 1, 2012

The One Where I Lose People

This will be the entry where I lose and anger people, and the entry where people start to question what kind of person I really am.   I deliberated, agonized really, about putting this one out there in the interweb---but here it is.    It relates to a topic that I'd rather not discuss, at all really and certainly not in public, and I will likely never discuss again, but today, I need to.  And I need to discuss it right now before the opportunity for revisionist history creeps in and the story begins to morph into something a little more palatable and a lot more simplified.

I will explain how I arrived at this point.  I will explain why I chose to write this and why I chose to share it. I will say that these thoughts apply to me only and by no means do I project them onto anyone else.  And I will ask a great favor from each of you.

First, though, I should tell you what I'm actually talking about.   I'm talking about religion, and about religion affecting my daughter, and about how she and I found our way into a church on a Friday afternoon. It's about a decision that was ultimately made in a split second, but that I've been mulling over for 4 years.  Or 37 years.  Or something in between.  It takes on a different dimension when kids are involved.

I should take a step back.

I'm not religious.  I don't go to church and have not gone (outside of weddings and funerals) since it ceased being a requirement for graduation.  That's not my parents' fault.  They tried.  They made sure that I received all of my sacraments.  It's no one's fault, except maybe my own.

Maybe.  But then, again, maybe not.

The problem is that I don't really know what I believe.   Like, as in, I have no idea.  I want, perhaps desperately, to believe in something.  I believe in good people and I believe in good people doing good things.  I believe in service above self.  I believe in miracles and hard work and perhaps even the evidence of grace.

But I'm just not sure where I fall out with respect to religion.  Though not recently, I've tried different churches in the past.  That experiment has not really worked out for me, thus far, and it probably won't ever.  I may be religionless and I might not be able to tell anyone exactly what I believe in, but that doesn't mean that I believe in nothing.   I'm okay with my being noncommittal and searching. In some ways, being without a team makes it easier to be open to different viewpoints---I have nothing to defend.

Belief is personal, and I'm fine with where I stand.   I have close friends that cover pretty much every religion under the sun- I have Catholic friends, Jewish friends, Muslim friends, friends from practically every Christian faith, Atheist friends, Agnostic friends, spiritual-but-not-religious friends, Born Again Christian friends, Quaker friends.  You name it.  I've befriended and had interesting discussions with the Jehovahs Witnesses that stop by every 3rd Saturday. I ask people to tell me about what they believe and I listen.  I am respectful of others' views, while having few of my own.  I try really hard at that, actually.

That's me- but now, I also have HER.  I have Little M to think about, too.  

And since I've received feedback like "Don't ruin her because you're a mess" (yes, someone actually said that to me), I've thought about it even more carefully.

When Little M was born, I made a few decisions with respect to this:

1.  She has the same right as everyone else to decide what she believes or doesn't believe.
2.  She has the same right as everyone else to ask questions and arrive at her own conclusions.
3.  I wasn't going to tell her what she was supposed to believe.
4.  I would take her to any church/synagogue/mosque/meeting/fellowship that she ever asked to go to and encourage her to investigate that which she found noteworthy.
5.  I would tell her that no matter what she believed, I would love her unconditionally, all the time, no matter what.
6.  I would not baptize her--because I want her to choose for herself.  This is her belief system, and not mine.  And because I wasn't going to stand on an altar at a house of worship and lie to a person in the clergy and a room full of people about how I was going to raise her.   Religion probably isn't for me, but I would never go to a place of worship and be disrespectful.

As you can probably guess, these decisions have made me pretty popular.

Flashing forward to now.  Little M and I love to go to a very cute French bakery---we eat croissants and all sorts of French pastry and pretend to speak French.   Across the street from the bakery, there's a beautiful old church---it happens to be Episcopal.  That part really doesn't matter.  The first time she saw it, she asked to see the beautiful castle. She's 4.  She loves castles.  I explained to her that it wasn't a castle, but a church.

"Oh, a church.  Like God's house, right?", was how she responded.

She asked to go in.  We walked across the street and I tried to show it to her.   Unfortunately, it was the middle of a Friday afternoon, and every door was locked.   So, I took her to another nearby church that looked like it---which, of course, was also locked.

She asked me why God wasn't home, but then started talking about cupcakes.  I exhaled a huge sigh of relief.

We went to the bakery again yesterday, and again, she asked to see the church.  LOCKED.

This time, though, she looked at me with her sad little 4 year old eyes, and asked why God was never home when she was looking for him.  That was all it took--I grabbed her hand, and we prowled the premises (trespassing, really) until I found a janitor.  I begged him to let us in.  I told him that my 4 year old wanted to say "hi" to God.  He let us in.  We stayed for a bit.

On the way home, she asked me all sorts of questions that I am not qualified to answer.  I tried anyway.    Progress.

She's why I wrote this entry.   I owe her the truth and I owe her the reasons why I do things the way I do.  She deserves to know what was going through my head when certain things happened, without me glazing over certain elements after the passage of time.  Someday, she will read this blog and hopefully, she will understand...if not agree.

And here is where I ask you a great favor.  I realize that many of you will disagree with me and how I'm doing things.   I'm asking for you to keep the criticism off of this blog- if only because I don't want Little M to read it.  Tell me in person or over the phone, tell me on my Facebook page, write emails about it.  Tell me all you want- but, please, keep her safe.

I don't have any answers of my own, but I think a Live song best captures what I do believe:

I don't need no one to tell me 'bout heaven
I'll look at my daughter
and I'll believe.


  1. Hi there~
    Not sure if you remember me from our Iowa Summer Writing Festival workshop last summer. I recently started a blog and then I remembered, hey I know someone else who blogs! So I went a searching and here I arrived!
    Anyways, I was perusing your entries and this one got me. They're all fun to read and show your insight as a parent and as a woman trying to navigate the world and all of its nuances, for both you and your Little M.
    As for religion, I feel like I'm in the same boat. I am somewhere between wandering & confused Hindu and spiritual agnostic. But I love when I get to share a spiritual experience with one of my children, and we can bridge the gap between uncertainty and understanding just a little bit more.
    Beautiful experience I'm sure, just for her to say "hi." Every step is one more piece of the puzzle that I agree they all need to solve on their own. With our support and guidance, of course.
    Anyways, enjoyed reading some of your entries, this one particularly. Keep posting and I'll try to follow.
    Best regards,
    Hiral Tipirneni

  2. Thank you so much for your note! I just saw it now! Hope you are doing well, and please send me the link to your blog!