In the last few weeks, I have told you that I believe in reincarnation, soul mates and telepathy - so would it surprise you to learn that I was once a very religious person?
When I was a kid, my mom would take us kids to church if we wanted to go. We weren't forced to go. I went till I was about 7 or 8 I think. I didn't really enjoy it and I couldn't figure out why some of the same kids who teased me at school were nice to me at Sunday school. So I told mom that I didn't want to go anymore.
In junior high, I started hanging out with some of the Christian kids. They were nice girls and frankly about the only ones who didn't tease me or make fun of my low vision. A couple of them wanted me to come to a young peoples group that hosted a Coffee House every couple of weeks in a local hall. I finally agreed to go one Saturday night in April, 1973. The music was amazing! It was all Christian music, but it wasn't the old hymns I'd heard as a kid. This was music I could get into. The harmonies were great. I went a couple of times and started going to the Bible studies on Wednesday nights as well. as they also had a lot of group singing.
I felt more acceptance with this community than I had ever felt in my life and as a teen, acceptance and a sense of belonging was crucial. I became a Christian, joined the church and even went to Bible School for two years after grade 12. I also worked as an assistant cook at the school for a year before becoming a student. Part of the summers, I worked at a Bible camp in the kitchen and with the music program.
I tried very hard to live a "Christian" life. I made a lot of friends and loved the music, singing solos and in groups. I loved working at the camp. But the truth was, that no matter how hard I tried, I still didn't feel "whole". I felt like a fraud. I was miserable. I knew crisis of faith was a fairly common occurrence and I tried to talk to my Christian friends about it. They really didn't understand my doubts and questions. Short of offering to pray for me and with me, they didn't know how to help me. I tried very hard to find that inner peace that everyone wants, but all I felt was conflict. I drifted through my 20's trying to keep up the pretence of a happy Christian.
In my late 20's I met several agnostics and a couple of atheists. Not that unusual, but the funny thing was, that they also accepted me for whoever I chose to be. They listened to me and encouraged me to question my beliefs and figure out what I wanted from life. I took their words to heart and spent a lot of time soul searching. I was becoming more and more uncomfortable within the church. I couldn't accept some of the teachings and beliefs within the church. I had been part of this religious community/denomination for almost 15 years and I'd never been able to feel at peace with my life. I knew I had to make a very difficult choice.
I walked out of the church service on the first Sunday of Advent in 1987. I had had enough and I knew that I couldn't go back to another service. I took my Christmas tree down. I couldn't even listen to any Christmas Carols without crying. It was a rough December but I knew this was a path I needed to explore.
Over the next few months, I spent several hours speaking with my church's pastor about my concerns. I was in real emotional and spiritual conflict. My pastor was very understanding. He was a few years older than me, but we had actually grown up in the same church in the same town and came to this other church in our teens. He understood the conflict and encouraged me to find my own peace even if that meant walking away from the church for a while - or possibly permanently. He did pray for me and with me, but he also listened and encouraged dialogue. He even helped me find reading material on both sides of my conflicts. I was shocked that he would give me such advice, but he also knew how miserable I'd been the last couple of years.
Tomorrow; Finding Inner Peace - Part 2