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“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
― Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude
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It seems lately, I have been thinking more about my religious beliefs, wondering if they make sense to me any longer. I was raised a Catholic (we went to mass every Sunday and I went to religious training as well). However, it never made any sense to me. The rituals were just that, rituals. They never had any inner meaning for me. I also never felt comfortable telling the priest about my sins (although as a child, they were no worse than stealing my sister’s dolls), and although the church’s stained glass windows were beautiful, I never really “got it’. I never felt any presence that I could associate with a higher power. When I was 17, my boyfriend at the time introduced me to the Church of Christ. They actually read the real Bible every Sunday. After that was 15 or so years of pretty intensive church involvement. I taught classes, went to Bible studies and educated and raised my first four children heavily entrenched in church doctrine.While the morals taught in the church are solid (be kind to others, don’t steal, listen to your parents), I feel I did my children a disservice by having narrow views myself and not exposing them to how other people live and practice their religious beliefs. My children, mostly now adults, are fairly critical of formalized religion, and I believe it is due to my narrow beliefs when I was a young mom. Fast forward to today, I am almost 50 and my youngest is 12, I no longer go to church on a regular basis, I have been divorced for 10 years and now work full time. My change of circumstance, including divorce and going back to school, along with my profession as a trauma nurse, has really changed my view on the world. It has been a slow evolution, but now I strive to teach my two children who are still at home compassion and understanding, not necessarily any particular religious doctrine. Sometimes I feel guilty for not being actively involved in a church (it is great for support), but I don’t like the condescending attitudes and looks I get when, for example, I am not dressed “church-like”, since I just can’t afford it, or if my son’s hair is halfway down his back (!). I also really, really have a hard time believing that a loving God differentiates between different churches and beliefs. I love the teachings of the Dalai Lama, Mahatma Ghandi and the poetry of Rumi. I have also picked up the Quran, which I thought I would never read, and have found it very straightforward. It makes sense. Forget all the doctrine, treat people with kindness, honor and worship God, give to the poor. It is still hard to me say exactly what I believe right now, and I try to expose my children to how other people live and worship, so they can have a wider view of the world. I am still learning and growing. What I do know, is that we are all human and fallible, and all could use a lot of grace! Thanks for letting me share, and I would love to hear your stories. TTFN!