I know this post is a few weeks late. I am definitely behind on this project. At first, I felt very guilty about it (like everyone else who has skipped church at some point in their life, I’m sure) but I realized, this is my project and I make the rules! I wanted a break, so let’s break down what happened and why:

My emotions are all over the place. My best friend moved away, a lot of structural changes at work have made things chaotic, and I wake up every day either feeling amazing and energized or completely defeated and broken. Some days I stay in bed for hours, some days I am up at 6 AM and manage to study, work out, clean and get some work done before noon. I think it’s a really weird combination of feeling like all of the changes in my life have given me a clean slate, and also feeling like part of identity has been erased.

The additional change of trying to engage in a spiritual overhaul is sometimes too much to ask of myself. I still think about God all the time and consider my position on faith, but I’ve only gone to church one out of the last three weekends. One Sunday I pulled up to a church and saw everyone filing in and started to irrationally panic. I was alone, everyone going in looked so young and put together and friendly, and I suddenly didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to engage them or explain myself. So I walked back to my car and drove home. I felt a little bad but I know my mental health is more important than almost anything, so I’m willing to give myself a break sometimes.

The one church I did go to is a cute little catholic Church on the border of Grandview and Dublin. It is called “Our Lady of Victory” and the sanctuary features a large portrait of Mary. Catholic services don’t heighten my anxiety as much as a nondenominational or new-agey church does. Catholic services are very rigorous and don’t require much interaction. I can go and count on it to soothe me instead of requiring me to engage in something new and unknown.

This isn’t to say I love the Catholic Church. I recently rewatched Spotlight (which is a very heavy movie but I would recommend it to anyone) about the Boston Globe’s tireless reporting in the 90s about the systemized sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church, like any powerful organization, has its problems. Corruption and greed being just a few that turn me off. The lack of female leadership is another feature I don’t particularly love. But what I’ve been settling into recently is accepting part and not the whole of anything. I don’t have to figure out my feeling about every piece of the gospel right now, I don’t have to work through all the problems with the Catholic Church as a whole to enjoy going to a local service. I can believe in the spiritual good from the Bible and ignore hell. I can do that because, much like this blog, I make the rules about my own spiritual development.

I’ve felt gross about picking and choosing what I like about faith and what I don’t like since I started. If I cherry pick parts of faith I like and ignore the rest, am I essentially just creating my own religion? Is that logical? Is that dogmatically sound? Probably not. But to me that feels so much better than blindly following something that feels wrong – and parts of the Bible do make me feel very wrong. The Catholic Church is proof us humans mess stuff up pretty often, and assuming that we have divine support can only make things messier. I think about all the time how, if God is real, how many times have we all misinterpreted Her message? How many times have we spread the wrong message with the best intentions? I think the organization of religion is going to have flaws like any other, and I think acknowledging those flaws and continuing to pursue a spiritual life isn’t dumb.

I’ve almost felt stupid lately. I always relied on my atheism to give me a sense of intellectual superiority. I didn’t believe any of that illogical Bible crap, I was smarter than that. Now that I’ve acknowledged my own ignorance and I’m exploring religion more, admitting it sometimes makes me embarrassed. I don’t have that intellect to fall back on, and I don’t have any proof. Admitting that I go to church and I’m trying to find God is admitting that I’m knowingly affiliating with this thing that has some serious flaws. It carries a lot of implications I don’t necessarily want to project. That isn’t to say “omg now that I say I do Christian stuff I’m going to be persecuted.” I don’t see it as persecution, but I do see it as any other stereotype where I don’t want to adopt as my own persona. Explaining this journey and blog to anyone in my life is such a chore. Like “I don’t know how I feel about God but, like, I am looking into it and writing about it but I promise I am not going to encourage you to be religious or like invite you to a Bible study or anything. Please still like me.”

Just because it’s hard to explain and come to terms with doesn’t make me want to stop. It makes me want to take breaks, it exhausts me, it scares me, and it challenges me, but I think all of that is proof that it’s important I keep going. Friends, family, thanks for dealing with me through this and encouraging me.

Tory Fields2 Comments