Belonging (Or why I’m ok that I’m not in Chicago this weekend)

26/Jul/2007

I find myself in an odd place in life. Having grown up in a church, raised with like-minded people who could recite the Apostle’s Creed by heart, there was always an abundance of people around. There was an automatic system for support, or “fellowship” as the churchy people say. I left the Catholic church for a more “progressive” church during college and found other like-minded people again. There was a social network readily available. But most importantly, there was some being in my brain, this “God” that I would speak to. I was never truly alone.

These ideals finally fell off, after a few years of questions and unsatisfying answers and even more unfortunate run-ins with “God’s People”, and I finally laid to rest the idea that God is there. I got married, I made children, I made friends outside the church. I always thought one day we’d go back to The Church, if not because of a belief in a supreme being, because there is a group of people with family values just waiting to be friends with your children. I thought this is exactly what I’d want for my children. I’d let them make their own mind up later, as adults, but it wouldn’t hurt to at least know the bible stories and eat the goldfish at Sunday School with other people their own age. You know, people that wouldn’t throw the F-bomb around like their mama.

A few more years passed and we moved to a new location. After being so fortunate to have found a few friends who shared our same values (namely, making fun of other people when drinking beer but also being compassionate enough to not do it to their faces. Ok, I jest. Well, unless you worked with us around the year 2000. ‘is all I’m saying…) I thought we’d never be THAT lucky again. I mean, what are the odds that you’d find some regular great people who didn’t attend mass every Sunday or ask you why you haven’t accepted Jesus in to your heart?

As it is, we did find some more people who are just like us. And again, they’re around during some life changes in our family, or in theirs, and during illnesses and health. And I find myself thinking how lucky we are. Lucky because I don’t believe in a Divine Hand who guides us to each other. Lucky because I don’t believe I have to have a faith to be a good person. Lucky because there are other people out there who love their kids but are able to say, “What the hell! (S)he is going to have a short life if (s)he keeps this up!” and everyone can nod because yes, of course, I’ve said the same things.

And still, sometimes, on days like today, when I’m running and my two children are quiet and there is peace and Lake Washington is gleaming in the morning sun as the mist rises off the Cascades in the place we worked seven years to return to, I find myself thanking something. Or someone. Or Whoever. Maybe it’s because old habits die hard. Maybe it’s because my body has created life but has never felt more alive than it did at that moment. Maybe it’s because in the entire whole wide world, I find people who I can share this life with, this very short and wonderfully mysterious life with and who are exactly the people I’d want to be around at this time. And I realize that there are people, those in real life and those I may never meet from the Internet, who have shared parts of me that nobody else ever has and they mean so much more to me than a room full of strangers singing the words projected on a screen in front of the congregation.

When I left the church I found all of you. I found my real friends. I found my own way, my own life, my own happiness. Once I stopped looking, I finally found belonging.

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Comments

  1. OOOOO a like minded person!  Yipee I’m not alone.  Each to their own and all that of course…. just don’t shove your beliefs down my throat or denegrate me for my ‘lack’ of beliefs… that ‘s what I say!  It is very hard in this world to get out there and say you don’t believe in religion, good for you!  I choose to believe in ‘something’, just dont quite know what ‘it’ is !  weird eh?

    By Chris H on 2007 07 26

  2. “When I left the church I found all of you. I found my real friends. I found my own way, my own life, my own happiness. Once I stopped looking, I finally found belonging.”
    Ok, I know it’s not like you were talking directly to me here but I still got all weepy when I read this because it was just so perfectly, beautifuly put.

    By Jen on 2007 07 26

  3. Well said.
    I grew up in a strong protestant family, reciting creeds on a weekly basis..I, to this day, have no idea what any of them mean(t)—they were mere monotonous sounds that came from the entire congregation, making everybody in the room feel better for not sleeping off their hangover from their sinful Saturday evenings.

    I quit going to church when I learned what the word “hypocrisy” meant.

    Let’s go have a beer!

    By Alphadaddy on 2007 07 26

  4. I understand!  I feel the same way!

    And the whole accepting Jesus into your heart thing is something I hear daily living in Alabama.  Help me.

    By Jennifer on 2007 07 27

  5. Great post! 

    I don’t believe in the diving hand guiding, as if it is something outside of us, but I do believe in a connection to that Thing you were talking about.  The fact that I’m “unchurched” and have spent my entire life in Alabama is something to say.

    By Heather on 2007 07 27

  6. This is a great post.  I know just what you mean too.  It is disconcerting at times to discover that you’ve managed to survive without the church you grew up in, and you’ve even made good friends and managed to live a good life.  I like it - knowing I can do that without a place that always made me feel slightly false, like a big faker!

    By heather on 2007 07 27

  7. Lovely post, which also remins me of one of my favourite jokes:
    A couple move into a new area, and don’t know anybody, so they decide to go to the local church, thinking it would be a good way to integrate themselves into the community. They went to talk to the priest, who said they welcome to join the church, as long as they proved their commitment by abstaining from sex for 6 weeks.
    6 weeks later, they returned to the church and the priest asked how it went. The husband replied, “well, it was going brilliantly until a few days ago, when my wife dropped a lettuce onto the floor and bent over to pick it up. I saw her behind, all perky and round, right there in front of me, and I just had to take her, there and then.” The príest replied, “Im sorry, you won’t be able to join our church”, the wife, “who cares about the church? we’re not allowed into Wal-Mart anymore!!”

    Hahahahahha.
    well, i thought it was funny…

    By Kathies on 2007 07 27

  8. Oh, what a a great post. I too left the church (Presbyterian) after horrible encounters with so-called God-fearing people. I realized that while I understand why some people have faith, I cannot understand the abundance of hypocritcal behavior so prevalant in the church.

    I rarely fit in. I don’t belong very often. I, a black woman, married a white man. I don’t speak slang or like rap music or eat fried chicken or watermelon. I went to college and I have a Masters and will start my Phd in a year.

    The people I meet in my everyday life try to put me in a box- they call me a sellout or say that I am smart for a black girl. And they automatically assume that I have accepted their god into my life and they have no problem telling me that losing my daughter at 19.5 weeks was God’s will.

    I got tired of trying to make my life appear acceptable in the eyes of the overly oppinionated. I, too, found my freedom online. I too found others who did not want to fit into that box.

    My faith is in people. In real life ordinary people who struggle to make it through the everyday. Those who understand that our lives are mysterious enough without add a divine power into the mix. These people are my religion.

    And you know what? I have never been happier. LOL.

    BTW- did you hear about the book Parenting Beyond Relief? It talks about how to raise moral children withot religion, and I love it.

    By Kristina on 2007 07 27

  9. Oops. It’s Parenting Beyond Belief- not reflief. LOl

    By Kristina on 2007 07 27

  10. Great post.  It’s such a hard thing to figure out what you believe… what YOU believe, not what the people around you believe or what you WANT TO believe.  I’m still not sure I know the answers, but I’m working on it.  I do know that the most important place to start is honesty.  Good for you for having the courage to tackle it!

    By Absolutely Bananas on 2007 07 27

  11. Ok, I just saw your FlingHer thingy and ... count me in!  I’m a Seattle blogger and I’m totally into hooking up!

    By Absolutely Bananas on 2007 07 27

  12. Honesty is incredibly important and that’s what I admire most about this post.

    I’m clearly the minority here in that I’m a Jesus loving, faith having, Bible believing guy, but I came to be this way by going through what Mrs. Flinger here describes.

    The post makes me sad, not because of her (or any commenters) choice of beliefs or faith, but because it shows how badly behaved the western church is. If I had the ability to apologize for all Christians who are hypocritical asshats, I would!

    Sadly, I can just say, that we’re not all that way. When Mrs. Flinger writes “they mean so much more to me than a room full of strangers singing the words projected on a screen in front of the congregation” that sums up a large failing of the church… as if the building were important. sigh.

    The irony is that espousing any belief, or lack thereof, means you get attacked these days. Though people here are saying how hard it is to admit you don’t believe, I dare say in the age of Atheism 2.0 (its a sort of Nihilism combined with the Daily Show, extremely entertaining but just as judgmental as any irrational fundamentalist Christian asshat), its just as difficult to admit you do believe, something I’ve experienced much scorn from in some circles.

    So a tip of my hat to Mrs. Flinger who’s table makes room for the atheist, the believer (of various faiths, not just Christian), and those in-between.  What I’ve always appreciated about her friendship is that the person is foremost, the beliefs 2nd, and your ability to out drink her 3rd!

    At the risk of being a bit preachy, that’s mighty Christ like of you smile

    By Leslie on 2007 07 27

  13. I had the most wonderful chat with Leslie (who isn’t the other part of my brain, by the way, I’ve met him in real life, he’s actually named Leslie, too) Because this? “What I’ve always appreciated about her friendship is that the person is foremost, the beliefs 2nd, and your ability to out drink her 3rd!” just about made me cry.

    The biggest point here isn’t so much how horrid my run-ins with Christians have been (I have a LOT of Christian friends who love me just where I’m at and that makes ME love THEM because nobody cares if we go to church or not, my kid is also crapping in her bed, whatdoyaknow!) but that instead of going to a big building with a lot of people looking for something, there are amazing and wonderful people that I connect with out here on the Internet or in real life and usually in the most surprising places. And I’m really grateful for all of them.  I wish more people could experience that.

    And I’ll drink to THAT.

    By Mrs. Flinger on 2007 07 27

  14. Amen.

    By Skyzi on 2007 07 27

  15. Great thoughts here.  I agree in some ways and don’t in others, and feel accepted speaking up regardless. 
    I do believe that God puts people and situations in our lives to shape and expand us and I thank you, Mrs. F and others here for challenging me often to think or rethink about different things. 
    Love Leslie’s eloquence with words (and I’m adopting the word “asshat!”) wink

    By AmyM on 2007 07 27

  16. Full credit for asshat, for use in any discussion, must go to Airbag Industries and their wonderful Airbag Department of Security Blog Advisory System, a must visit page if you’ve never seen it.

    By Leslie on 2007 07 27

  17. I made my own button too, hee hee!

    I can see how it’s easy not to feel a sense of community at some churches. I am lucky the church I go to isn’t like that. People genuinely love one another and don’t act like strangers. I wish more people would find that feeling of community in a church near them, just because I get so much out of it that I would wish the same for everyone else. But I am glad you have found a community here—and I have too! It’s been soooo helpful for me to have blog mamas to share stories with since my baby was born. Even though I’m just sitting in a room alone (er, actually, right now I’m standing at my kitchen counter), I don’t feel alone.

    So nice to “meet’ you!

    By Damselfly on 2007 07 27

  18. Chiming in to say that I feel mighty blessed to know and love BOTH these amazing Leslie-people. Married one, haven’t even met the other in real life but LOVE. HER. (love you!)

    I hope some day that we can live close enough to each other that we can show you what church is really supposed to be and what a real Christ-follower really acts.

    In the mean time, I think you are doing a mighty fine job choosing Love and Good and the things that really matter. smile

    By laura on 2007 07 28

  19. I don’t drink often (because I’m cheap) but I quite enjoy being a member of your church “making fun of other people but also being compassionate enough to not do it to their faces.” I believe my ancestors were some of the founders of that religion.

    By Monica on 2007 07 28

  20. I had my own comings and goings with “Church” until I realized in a most profound way that God and “Church” are not equal. I once walked away from it all because of the hypocrisy you described and the ways people failed at representing Christ. I ultimately found my way to God because I walked away from Church and eventually found the grace of God, which is what drew me towards Him while all the religious crap pushed me away. And now, well now I’m fortunate to attend a church where I can run into the pastor’s wife at Wal-Mart and not have to hide behind rows of toilet paper because I’ve missed several Sundays due to a “thing” Son is going through. Instead, she listens to me, understands my struggles, encourages me, and replies that “family comes first” and even offers a Bible verse (direct words of Jesus Christ, no less) that supports it. She also ensures I know we are welcome in any shape or form along with our Son who is going through a “thing.”

    And now, my own faith is so strong that I can’t imagine not believing. I can’t possibly look into the eyes of my babies and think they are the result of a “Big Bang” or some such silly random thing. They are too intricate, too beautiful, too amazing. They are absolutely not “accidents.” They are the most powerful witness ever in my life that God is real.

    I relate to what Leslie wrote, and I know how it feels to be in the minority because of my beliefs. Unfortunately those who are not Christians can repeat the same unfortunate behavior that those who claim they ARE Christians display. It comes in the form of judging others and alienating them or oppressing them in the name of their belief or non-belief in Christ. Thanks for not measuring me against the yardstick of your past experiences with those who called themselves “Christians” but did not act Christ-like.

    By MGM on 2007 07 28