Spiritual Progress (rather than spiritual perfection)

I got sober in AA. And, after a lot of years of kickin’ it on my own in recovery, I returned to AA. Because I’m kind of in love with the seeking that a lot of folks are doing as they work their program. That energy, the drawing closer to a higher power, is where I want to be.

Virgo – Sometimes what saves us becomes toxic if we hold on to it. Thoughts, people, potions, food… get rid of what you’ve had your fill of. Even if it still smells good.                  —@leahtrox

Ooof.

Alright, truth time: I’m struggling hella hard with Christianity right now. Not in a theological sense. Theological stuff fascinates me but doesn’t shake me. No, I’m struggling with the Christian church. It’s a struggle that found its genesis in 1994, when I realized I was queer, and hasn’t let up much since.

So, what does a girl who was raised in the church, who is a big fan of Jesus but feels a bit skeeved by most of the folks who follow him, do? At various points in my journey, I’ve been able to jump whole-heartedly into the church vibe. But now, even with a church I love and admire—that really lives into social justice and mercy, that IS what I believe Jesus wanted his followers to be—I am struggling to fit.

And I’m just not sure I should any more.

I’ve always kind of rolled my eyes at the spriritual not religious folks. But that’s a more accurate descriptor of my current state of being. I’m in recovery, which I talk openly about (because openness saves lives when it comes to addiction). I got sober in AA. And, after a lot of years of kickin’ it on my own in recovery, I returned to AA. Because I’m kind of in love with the seeking that a lot of folks are doing as they work their program. That energy, the drawing closer to a higher power, is where I want to be. It feels like work. But good, honest work. Like meditation. It’s all kinds of hard. But it’s worth it. Managing a spiritual program of recovery iswork. And it’s work I’ve been doing all along (I wouldn’t be sober without it). But now it feels like work I need to do in community to push myself to do better & dig deeper.

And I’m not saying folks aren’t doing that at church (especially at my church, because I KNOW they are). It just isnt’ resonating with me in this place I’m in right now.

So, what’s my hang up? Why don’t I just step back quietly from the whole church business and be done with it? Why am I even still pondering this? Because of my kid.

It’s always been important to me to raise Jane in the church. I want her to have an unshakable foundation—an understanding that God made her, adores her, seeks communion with her without condition. I’ve always felt like, even at my lowest, my belief—deep down—that I was loved by God saved me. Doesn’t she deserve to have that touchstone?

Sometimes what saves us becomes toxic if we hold on to it.

But here’s some deeper truth: I didn’t really have any sort of meaningful relationship with my Higher Power until I got sober. Church didn’t teach me about God in the way that shapes my life now. AA did.

It’s so complicated, this question of how not only to impart something I hold so sacred to my child but also to find my own place of ease. Everything about parenting is complicated & joyful simultaneously… that’s the mystery & magic of it all.

I’d love to hear your (complicated) thoughts on spirituality & religious tradition and how you share that weighty and sacred stuff with your kids. But no hellfire & brimstone bullshit. I grew up with it & have had my fill. Just light & love welcome here.

 

Photo Cred: Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Author: Kendra Lee

I am smitten with Atlanta. I believe Black Lives Matter. I care deeply about housing justice, education, and transportation. I am a huge MARTA fan. I've got the most adorable second grader, an incorrigible Boxer named Delilah, and a pretty amazing husband named Simon. I've been sober for 9+ years. I heart coffee. On any given day I may write about all--or none--of those things.

6 thoughts on “Spiritual Progress (rather than spiritual perfection)”

  1. This dismantling and re-assembling of my faith has maybe been a little bit easier because I currently don’t have a kid involved. But, I’m also feeling a little bit of pressure to get it “resolved” before there is a kid in the mix. Something that keeps floating around in my head is an interview I listened to with Richard Rohr (either talking to Rob Bell or the The Liturgists, I can’t remember) where he said that in his opinion it’s easier for a kid to grow up in a more fundamental environment and grow out from there than it is to narrow their worldview down as they get older (though I think he said it in a much more eloquent/monkish way). So, I’m pondering this. I’m trying to see if it’s true in my own life.

    Over the past few weeks cleaning out all of my old stuff in our house I’ve come across note after note from all sorts of different people when I was a youth leader and then after high school when I worked at a church. And the notes all feel like they’re talking about a totally different person. Someone who was more sure of her place in the world from 15-21 than she is now. And I’m still not sure which version is better. Or if that’s even a metric I should be worried about. Maybe it’s fine that I was more sure about things when I was younger/dumber and less sure now that I’m better able to handle the complexity of reality?

    When I think about church growing up there is a lot of good wrapped up in it. There’s frustration and hurt, but there is a lot of good, and it was my entire social life for the first 21 years of my life. And I want that sort of community and support for my future family. But right now, it’s really difficult to imagine myself going all-in again. I think we’re in similar boats and I don’t really have an answer, but I love that you are considering this not just for yourself, but for Jane, too. That is, I think, the best kind of parenting.

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    1. Church was a huge part of my world as a kid. But I was all kinds of self-righteous about my faith. My world view was more about working toward the kingdom of heaven, instead of, oh I don’t know, actually living and serving here. In this world. It’s like I both want to hand her this legacy and want her to run like hell away from it. Then I wonder if all of this comes down to not trusting myself to teach her the wonder & mystery of connecting with her higher power. There’s so much joy in my connection to my spirituality that often gets muted the deeper I delve into Christianity.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. It’s comforting to know you’re thinking about this kind of stuff, too.

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  2. I grew up very religious, church three times a week, only acceptable social activity with people from church. But a lot of the people in our church are still some of the worst people I’ve met in real life, so for me, it’s very difficult to for me to encourage church affiliation for my daughter because I worry that the walls of a church encourage people, especially children, to trust everyone within those walls, even if they shouldn’t. For many reasons, I would no longer describe myself as a person of faith. That said, if our daughter comes to us and asks us to attend church, I would take her. Like you, I would find a church that works toward social justice, practices faith in a way that includes all, and I would encourage her to have her own relationship with with faith/a deity that speaks to her. But…I would do so with many misgivings.

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    1. You should see the vetting process churches have to go through to even be in the running in this family! It’s serious. Because I know what they teach my sweet girl will shape the way she sees herself, the world, and the very nature of her being. Every interaction she’s had learning about God at my church has been brilliant. Part of what is really pulling at me is that I want her to have a sense of community. And to do that, it’s pretty necessary to go all in. And I just don’t know if I can do that with any church–even one as brilliant as mine. I’ve got a lot of baggage around this (obviously)… Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it. I totally get where you’re coming from. I wouldn’t expose Jane to the kind of absolutism I grew up in for anything. Not ever.

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