Four months ago, I returned to the Catholic church as an act of will. I was given the external validation I needed from a priest at a retreat, who said God would meet me where I was. Alex and I attended a seven week Discovering Christ series and will be joining small groups and the Following Christ follow-up series this spring. Yet I feel no closer to the Catholic God.
I know better than to start running away again. Basically, I've made my peace with being Catholic-light, if you will. I won't split hairs and get into discussions with devout Catholics who would try to challenge me to question my religious identity. No, I'm happy to be where I am. Culturally, I'm Catholic. That won't change. Theologically, I'm probably some sort of Deist. Spiritually, I believe that I am a mom.
Yup, I think that motherhood has become my spirituality, if not my religion. I don't mean that I worship my daughter. I mean that I worship God through parenting my daughter. I see God in her. I see God's will for both her and my potential in our mother-daughter relationship. I see the best chance of me becoming a better version of myself coming not through religious rhetoric but through being cognizant of the best interest of my daughter.
It is said that we need to look at what's important to us, what we dedicate our time to, to see where our faith is. So let's see...
Holistic living, even if I'm not very good at it, is important to me. I value the perspective of those going against the grain. I see they have a lot to offer me on my parenting journey and life journey as a whole. Thanks to holistic literature, I've taken on attachment parenting, gentle discipline, and home education. Environmental concerns have always been dear to my heart, and they fit nicely with an aspiring holistic lifestyle.
Social identity issues are important to me. I'm learning a ton in a transracial adoption facebook group I'm in, both about race issues and the perspective of adoptees. My daughter has a unique background, and so I don't simply get answers handed to me prepackaged. I have to wrestle with what I learn in order to find the relevance to our situation sometimes. But overall, I'm finding that I need to get off my white privilege high horse and consider the lived experiences of others. This isn't all that hard for me to do, as I've long thought of myself as an empath. I've always rooted for the underdog. Now I'm learning the tools to use and the issues to stand up for, rather than just being vaguely in favor of justice.
That pretty much covers it for me. I read and learn about race, identity, adoption, social justice, green living, attachment parenting, and homeschooling. These topics have taken over whatever time I previously dedicated to religious pursuits. These topics seem more real, more relevant, than philosophizing about God. These topics help me to live my life, rather than just think about its meaning.
My challenge now is to consciously find God in the midst of what interests me. Even though I'm not religious anymore, I do still believe in some sort of Creator-God to whom I owe everything. I believe that gratitude is the one way I can worship God "in spirit and in truth". It's more challenging without the benefit of a religious tradition. I certainly try to lean on the Catholic tradition when I can, but at times I feel a bit boxed in and distracted by the dogmatic rhetoric and have to take a step back to regroup.
Probably the most valuable lesson I'm (still) learning is to stop assigning labels to everything. I like labels. Labels make things clear. I like to know what's what. The problem is that this isn't actually the way the world works. Objects and facts may generally be placed under certain labels, but living people cannot. Religion, race, gender, sexuality - I am finding that all of these are continua, not mere black-or-white concepts. Labels are limiting. Labels say you must choose one over another, when real life has taught me that most times, it's both or neither, not this or that.
I think I need to start by considering what role religion has played in my life, and why that approach no longer serves me. Religion was equated with God. To question religion was to question God, an obvious no-no in my mind. But I'm slowly realizing that this is not at all the case. God does not belong in a labeled box any more than human beings do. If God isn't Christian, why should I think I must be a Christian in order to be a child of God? I am a child of God by virtue of having been made by *Him*. Period. Grace, a free gift. Undeserved. My reaction to being alive needs to be a life of gratitude. Christianity has somehow shifted the focus from this basic idea that only the most staunch materialist atheists can argue, to the exclusionary theory of salvation via Jesus's cross.
I don't need to be made to feel guilty for my shortcomings in order to come around to a life of gratitude. I don't need to feel guilty before I can be compassionate. I don't need to be afraid of God in order to abide by God's will. God is the air that I breathe. We sang this recently at a Discovering Christ talk. How moving it was to sing those words while breathing, to actually inhale the Divine and exhale back words of glorifying *Him*! This is the God I know to be true at the core of my being. It is a God without a name, *He* is simply "the I am".
I was sure I'd be a spiritual seeker for the rest of my life. Perhaps after my daughter is all grown up, I will revisit religious and spiritual pursuits, but at this point I think they'd be a hobby. They wouldn't gnaw at me to hurry up and figure out the truth so that I can start living right with God. I am already where I need to be. I just need to wake up. God is already here. Already guiding my steps.
There is nowhere for me to go, no other religion for me to convert to or out of. Religion is simply there for my benefit, to peruse what I find meaningful at any given time, and let others take advantage of whatever tickles their fancy. I don't need to find everything about Catholicism meaningful. Not everything has to resonate with me. It's not a religion custom-made for me. That's what I've been looking for. Instead, I need to stop looking for religion period, and start looking around at all the places where I see God, hear God, smell God, taste God, touch God. God is. I am. Everything else is interpretation, opinion, and commentary.