Last weekend I found myself in the most unlikely of places - invited to the house of a friend, I expected to be '' meeting new people'', but in fact discovered that of the 8 families there, I knew 6 of them, and all bar two of the adults sat somewhere on the ''faith scale'' - a pastor at one end, and...well...probably me at the other.
Conversation with two (whom it turned out I have known since teenage youth group years) turned, as one might expect to things spiritual. Was I going to church and if so where? No? Oh, why not? I found myself frustratingly clumsy in response - mumbling about being ''churched out'' and ''taking a break from formality'' - and feeling more than a little deceitful with it. Because although both of those things are true, the story is rather more convoluted than that. Like many things - the complicated questions can have simple answers and the simple questions often have (very!) complicated answers!
Part of the annual spring clean (which I tend to do over the summer break) includes a tidy up of social media, emails and so forth. My blog has sat largely untouched for a long time, for a bunch of reasons, including that I write a lot for a living and so don't really indulge in it for pleasure much these days. So today, as I was scrolling through the half-finished posts, deciding what could stay and what could go, this one caught my eye, still in draft form from 2014.
Since I wrote the lines above a lot has happened in my life and world view of things spiritual. I've been grappling with whether I even need to be writing it down for posterity, but it's interesting to look back on these things...so here it is.
Not long after writing those words, I found myself back at church. It was an 'of course I'll go with you' kind of thing rather than a conscious effort on my behalf, coupled with a vague idea that if I could get my kids interested again it might be a good way to get them into the youth group. The problem was, I'd sit in church feeling grumpy and resentful that I was there, being all judgy about the people in the room (and wondering how many were there with the same motivations as me) and really not communicating at all with the God I was supposedly there to meet with, and in whom I wasn't sure I believed in the first place.
I came to the conclusion I was better to stay away - echoes of the 'better to be cold or hot than lukewarm' bible verse in my head. Time went on. I reached the conclusion that God wasn't overly concerned about my lack of Sunday commitment. More time passed...I accepted that the beseeching I had done of God in the previous year or so had had absolutely no effect at all - either I wasn't asking with a pure heart, or he didn't care or maybe didn't exist...
And now, in 2020? I want to believe there is a God because I don't really want to have to accept that the world is just some kind of cosmic accident (and ergo, so am I). But do I believe that God is interested in me? That I can have some kind of personal relationship? That my eternal life is dependent on this Judeo-Christian belief I have had around me my whole life? Nope, and I don't know if I ever did.
What I do know is that I have a responsibility to do my best by the world - which means to walk lightly on the earth, be kind and generous with others, respect myself, all those things that make us good humans. Does God fit in there somewhere? Possibly, but not in the way I thought and not in the form I've always reverted to imagining.
It seems to me that the Christian version of God is one of many. A truth perhaps, but not THE truth. It's just a way of us mere humans making sense of the world. Just as every Muslim or Buddhist or Taoist does. When I do the Beliefnet quiz I almost always get 'Sikh' as my most closely aligned religion - seems strange until you read what the framework is.
The thing I just can't get my head around is the New Age type stuff. It seems it is a never-ending, self-perpetuated cycle of self-improvement that has little to do with others - that is definitely not the religion for me.
I read somewhere recently that to be spiritual is just to have an awareness that life is bigger than we are. You don't have to say you're a spiritual person (ick), or 'act' like one. That the rest doesn't really matter. I think I like that.