I grew up in a Christian household (for the most part). My dad was on-again, off-again religious, but my mom was always on. She had a strong faith and believed in holding those truths close. She instilled in my sister and I a strong faith as well from a very early age. However, I didn’t grow up going to traditional church until I was in middle school. My mom and her family didn’t believe in organized church, so instead we went to house gatherings and revivals and there was always the push for self-study, prayer and journaling. I remember always feeling like we were the weird ones, and to be honest, we probably were a little bit. When we finally did commit to a home church, the end experience left a pretty bitter taste in my mouth and should have tipped me off to the dark side of organized religion but I was a naive high-schooler, just wanting to fit in. And in middle America, church was what you did.
Fast forward half a decade, and I was still involved in church, in fact I moved across the country to help start one, but the allure of “community” was starting to wear thin, and at some point around the age of 24-25, I threw in the towel and quit. My faith was jaded, I didn’t trust anyone who labeled themselves as “Christian” and I was sick and tired of feeling guilty, not good enough, rejected, and judged by a group of people that I wasn’t even sure if I liked. Throughout my late 20’s and early 30’s, I attempted to get back involved in a local church that I felt was safe. I missed the challenge to my thinking, to my beliefs. I enjoyed the teachings, the music was good, but I still couldn’t connect to the people. I finally stopped trying (again).
The thing about church that always appealed to me was the community aspect of it all, kind of like the pack mentality. Having a group of friends you could trust and build friendships with. You could build a new family there. Unfortunately, I found myself never able to fully let my guard down with those people after being hurt so many times by the various churches I had attended in my lifetime. My friendships in my everyday life were always stronger, more dependable and accepting of my flaws, mistakes, joys and questions. And most of them weren’t religious at all.
As I finally accepted the fact that church was not going to play a role in my weekly life, I started grappling with what role faith would play. Looking back on my growing up, I cannot help but to be immensely grateful that my mom raised me to believe in my faith first, and church second. I have watched other people get so burned by the church and leave their beliefs/faith/values altogether because they couldn’t separate the two. I’m not saying it was easy for me to retain my faith right after the blows from my “Christian family”, but eventually, I was able to sift through the muck and find my core, the foundations that were instilled in me which had been refined, filed and worn throughout my years.
But, I still didn’t (don’t) want to go to church. It prompted me to examine what I truly wanted, what was my soul asking for.
I am, by definition, a very curious person. I love absorbing knowledge, learning new things, following a rabbit trail through various subjects. My hobbies and interests seem to flit about more often than they should, as I’m always finding something new to peak my interest. Couple that with my drive and determination, and you get a formidable person. The challenge I could get from a weekly teaching in church was always fun for me. I love taking something I know about, or believe, or trust and having someone make me think differently about it. I love the mind and heart exercise of turning things over and around and really figuring out how I feel/think about them, wrestling through pre-conceived thoughts, dealing with emotions I don’t know how to articulate. This curiosity drives so much of my inner dialog and so many of my writings.
A month or so ago, I was scrolling through Instagram of the accounts I follow, Alicia Keys being one of them, and she had posted a quote from a website she follows called Brain Pickings (www.brainpickings.org) and gave the site address. I liked the quote and my curiosity drove me to go check out the site. Once I was on, the site asked if I wanted to receive the weekly newsletter which I agreed to and supplied my email address. About a month went by where I received the emails on Sunday and just let them sit in my inbox, telling myself I would get to them. Between people visiting, being hungover from Saturday night, and other random reasons, I was feeling lazy.
Finally, I had a Sunday morning free where I woke up early and put the coffee on for a leisurely morning in bed. I opened up the email and began to read. And my life changed. This newsletter was everything, speaking to my soul in ways I haven’t had in ages. The topics were relevant, my intellect was stimulated, my heart was engaged, my creativity was flowing and I. WAS. IN. LOVE. From that moment on, I began to devote each Sunday morning to that newsletter, sometimes reading the current one and an older one that I had skipped in that first month, or clicking through the links she provided for further reading into the subjects.
And so now, every Sunday I look forward to that quiet morning ritual where I get to ponder on things I hadn’t thought of before, or maybe I haven’t thought about recently. I get to learn new facts about random topics, and about interesting people who have lived before me. This is my new church. This is what makes my soul happy. I encourage everyone who reads this to go check out her site and sign up for the newsletters. My next step is now creating a list of books she references to read. Needless to say, it’s beginning to be a pretty extensive list. I also hope to start journaling while I read through the newsletter on the things that I find myself drawn to, maybe questions that come up in my mind, or thoughts for further ponderings.
I’m so grateful for this site, for all her work, time and energy that she pours into the articles and the expansive works she links to for a seemingly endless learning endeavor. I’m thankful for the positive experience this reading brings in a world of news that is so dark and negative. No, I’m not attending church and I may never attend again, but my faith remains intact, and while this site doesn’t reference Bible verses or Jesus’ teachings, it does speak of love, creativity, friendship, attitudes, being a better person, giving back, etc. and I am hard-pressed to think that doesn’t count.