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The One Where Anna Goes To Church

The One Where Anna Goes To Church

The One Where Anna Goes To Church

Oh hai thur!

In this post, I am going to blab about and publicly post some very intimate details of my life! So, nothing new here. But grab some tee or coffee and buckle up or something, we have a lot of ground to cover.

I’ll whiz you by some bullet points first.

The Beginnings:

  • I grew up super churchy, like way too churchy! It was ALL. THE. CHURCH. 24/7  Bible studying in the morning, gospel learning in the afternoon, praying in the evening, and church every Wednesday night and all day Sunday. Actually, I grew up in a cult. Ya might have heard of it. Bill Gothards infamous ATI. Anyway, that’s a different story for another day.
  • Summer “breaks” for me was my services being volunteered for church cleaning, kid camp teaching, or bible club leading, 7 days a week all summer long.
  • Also, my school was basically just more church.

The Middle-ish:

  • When I was old enough to choose not to go to church, I did. First it was because “I had to work that day” then it was, “hey, you know what?! I just think I’d rather sleep and brunch today!” and boy did I LOVE that freedom. Weekends seem crazy longer when half of it wasn’t spent churching. So pretty soon, I quit going altogether. And it didn’t bother me a bit. Nah, I loved it.
  • After awhile, I realized I had no idea what I believe on my own accord. Since I could talk, I had been taught to memorize and regurgitate scripture or prayer, and it didn’t really have  personal or deep meaning to me. Any of it. Church wasn’t an option or a choice for me growing up, it was just life.

So then there was this crazy bit:

So for awhile I was like, ” yeah, I’m just Atheist”. And I’d get a little chill down my spine because I was taught that atheist and satan are best bros. But it made the most sense to me. Also, side note, during this time I did not become a savage lacking all morals. Shocking, I know, but contrary to my prior beliefs…it’s possible!

Then I was like, “well there probably is some kind of God, but not in the form that I previously thought, and not someone invested in my personal life. And there is definitely no heaven or hell”. So I tagged myself Agnostic, because it is a pretty non descriptive term that fit me just fine, without having to go into too much details about my beliefs.

But then parenthood happened:

And it turns out, kids have a LOT of questions, and they want rock solid answers. They believe their parents know everything, and that provides them with a sense of security. And as their parent, you really want them to think you have your S!%$ figured out!

*I want to interrupt myself for a second, and reiterate that this is an extremely condensed version of the story, okay? I mean, I had put a bit more thought into my life and death beliefs then I am letting on, but that stuff is super overwhelming and intimidating and hard to solve on your own. And sadly, Morgan Freeman didn’t invite me on his trip around the world to “find God” and the Netflix documentary left much to be desired. 

 

It was easiest for me to revert back to what had been drilled into my heart soul and mind as a child, when searching for answers to give to my own inquisitive child. “Well God loves us all super-duper much and with one pretty easy prayer, we have a pretty good shot of going to a hunky dory place called Heaven! So yeah, life makes sense and we’re all good here!” But she didn’t believe it, and I didn’t quite either.  We both needed more. So I invited her on my exploration with me. I told her that lot’s of different people believed lot’s of different things, and she would have to decide on her own what she believed. I told her about heaven and hell, we read “heaven is for real” and we read scriptures together, and we talk about reincarnation,or maybe that when it’s over, it’s all just over. And I decided I wouldn’t close any doors to her, or try push her into any molds. Okay, I’ll level with you…I’m not willing to take her to a wiccan gathering, but overall, I am pretty open. So I took her to church. A variety of churches, a handful of times, nothing too committed.

We had one of these non-committal church visits this past Sunday, and we lucked upon said churches first day of “28 days of prayer” (or was it 21? I am positive it was twenty-something days of prayer).  The pastor mentioned how people run towards prayer when stuff in life goes wrong. Boy is he right about that. I’d been guilty of it myself, even though I’m pretty sure some of what I have done is better qualified as an attempt to give God a stern talking to, rather than a prayer. But I had spent a lot of time thinking about this. Years ago, I began noticing a trend on my social media where religion became more and more controversial and offensive, so much so, that you couldn’t even comment an “I am praying for you!” on someones status update, without the risk of being triggering. But as my moms cancer progressed, and we spent some time in a hospital, I noticed that no one seemed to bat and eye as pastors, priest, and prayer warriors walked the halls of the hospitals and offered their services. No protestors stood outside the doors of the hospitals chapel, many brochures and pamphlets about God and heaven were sprinkled around the hospital, and even started arriving in our mail. This only solidified my thoughts that most modern religion just served as a comfort zone for people. It felt safe and familiar when they didn’t know what the hell else to do. Even the people that didn’t ordinarily like christianity would accept or embrace it in a time of need.

Then this pastor asked if we believed what we prayed for, truly believed that God would do it. Now, I don’t use it often, but I believe this would be the right time for the term *triggered*. I flashed back to sitting in a pew wedged between my parents, barely peering over the row in front of me at the pastor up front. Our pastor was preaching that if we only have faith like a mustard seed, we could move mountains. Our sunday school lesson which was prior to the main church service, had coordinated with the theme of the day and each of us children had the chance to gaze upon a tiny, ity, bitty, mustard seed. I don’t remember what the “mountains” in my life were at that early age, but whatever arbitrary thing I had chosen to pray for, I couldn’t imagine why God wouldn’t do it. Now I am fairy certain I was trusting God to make that sermon end, and fast forward to lunch time, but regardless, I had all the faith of an innocent (or ignorant?), determined child, and yet nothing happened.

So I reasoned with myself that I mustn’t even have the faith of a tiny mustard seed. That was upsetting to me, but at least I had my mom who was the opposite of my faith lacking self. She had the faith of a bajillion mustard seeds. Some could say, it was a fault. The answer to every single thing in our life, from financial woes, to sicknesses, to test anxieties, to Christmas wish lists, was PRAYER. If we wanted it, we would pray for it, and if it didn’t happen, God had answered no. But even if God had answered no, my mom never ever doubted that He had answered, and it was all for the best. And somehow, that worked. Our life kind of played out like a good drama or thriller movie. Things would get super intense, but then at the last moment, thing didn’t blow up in disaster and they were kind of okay even.

When my mom first received her cancer diagnoses, she wouldn’t tell her family. She didn’t think it mattered. She knew what the Dr.said, but more importantly to her, she knew what God had promised her. One morning shortly after she was diagnosed, she awoke with the words “this sickness is not unto death, but unto the glory of God”. (John 11:4) on her heart.  She firmly believed…with her unwavering faith, that God had promised to heal her. She believed it so wholeheartedly, that she praised and thanked God daily for his healing that she had “already received”. She believed it so strongly that she inspired those around her. She believed it so much, that the thought of marching back to the Dr.’s and proving them wrong, and showing them what her God had done excited her. She believed it so much, that the last day she had the strength to play music at the nursing home she visited weekly, she promised them she would be back soon, because she would be all better soon. She believed it so much that she turned away people who came to visit her on her deathbed, if they tried to say goodbye, or if they didn’t believe in her miracle with her.

So on Sunday I stood in that church fighting back tears, and thought of when I had quit believing in her miracle with her. It wasn’t my faith that made me believe it could happen at first, it was hers. I believed that just like the rest of our lives, if she knew God had told her this, than it was true. But at some point I quit believing so that I could protect myself. I didn’t have to tell her I had given up, but I could prepare myself…as much as possible, for losing her. I quit believing at a point that I thought if God had allowed all of this to happen to her, for her and all of us to walk through hell, only to heal her at the very end, than that was cruel.

* anyone who has been hanging out here with me for awhile is probably beginning to realize I have been writing about my mom a lot…like a lot, and clearly, I am going through some stuff and should probably get a therapist. Well, writing is my therapy so welcome to the draaaamaaa!

 

After we lost my mom, I didn’t blame God. How could I, if I wasn’t even convinced He existed? If anything, the events confirmed to me that God was not interested in our daily lives, we are here to figure things out mostly on our own. So when well meaning friends said to me, “it’s okay to be a mad at God”, I thought, I’m not! But, I am a little mad at HER God, He betrayed her.

I know that doesn’t exactly make sense, it’s all very confusing, you see?

So if you ask me today what I believe, I can very confidently answer: “I don’t know!”.

I feel like a hipster in terms of describing my religious beliefs. “I just don’t like to label things, man, I’m like spiritual but not religious, like I am open to good vibes and positive energy and stuff, you know?”

Wait, was that HIPPY or HIPSTER. I don’t even know, I am such an old mom.

But I think I could get used to this weekly church thing again. Mia loved it and hasn’t stopped talking about it, and I think it’s giving her some answers she needs. For me, It seems like a good way to hit refresh and recharge for a new week, and I guess I have some questions that need answers too. We’ve begun to incorporate prayer into our loves, although for me it feels completely different than the type of praying I did growing up. For now, our prayers are moments of gratitude for food, and health, and family before our meals. My prayers at night are thoughts of well being and peace and comfort for my friends. My prayers for my family, during the day and at night our moments of focusing my intentions, and speaking into existence my hopes and dreams for each of us.

Truthfully, I hope to have more answers soon. I feel like my faith now is half baked, or mid-journey. We’ve got some progress to make.

Meet me back here for updates?

 

 

 

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2 Comments
  • Hannah says:

    Anna, thanks for being bluntly open and honest. I’m so glad you’re going on the journey with Mia! I think that’s awesome. And yes, we all come to that point where we have to figure out for ourselves what we believe and what that means for our lives. It’s an interesting journey but exciting too with kids if our own 😉
    If you ever want to get together and talk, in here. Working through this journey (though slightly different spot) on my own as well.

    • AnnaAngenend says:

      Thank you so much Hannah. It is an exciting journey, and I love the discussions I get to have with Mia and see what her thoughts and beliefs are at such a young impressionable age.

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