2018,  Musings,  Religion

Musings: I’m Dating Religion

I have been, on and off, for a long time.

But now, with more time on my hands, I can actually continue courting the religion that best fits my beliefs.

I’ve actually been wanting to find the right fit for a while. It is intimidating. Maybe that’s an excuse, but I do feel overwhelmed when it comes to religion. The topic is polarizing and somewhat taboo, so it seems intimidating to find the right balance in persons to talk to about it all. Also, I haven’t truly made it a priority, even though I’ve had this nagging feeling it was something I want in my life. However, I still don’t know exactly how I feel about religion, which has made this journey so hard. I’ve never actually dedicated myself to my relationship with religion. I do know that when I raise a family, I want there to be a religious structure used to help in my child(ren)s upbringing. What it will be, I have yet to decide.

Over the years I’ve struggled with how religion and my beliefs intersect. For a long time, and still, partially now, I feel like I should believe every aspect of whatever religion I chose to practice. However, I have yet to find one that aligns with this all or nothing mentality. So, maybe that is the key issue at hand. I have also, yet to spend the hours it takes to invest in learning all the different religions there are. I won’t learn every religion, I don’t have enough time in this lifetime for that. I will allow myself to gravitate to the ones I have access too and feel somewhat aligned with, to see where it will take me. I don’t ever talk about religion on here, because of its a very touchy subject, like politics and money. One of those taboo topics, you just leave alone. I also feel like I lack the knowledge base to have constructive conversations about this topic. Also, I am scared of your judgment of some of my beliefs. I shouldn’t be, but I am human, and I am.

As I’m trying to develop and work on myself, I realized my faith is something that is important to me. Why not share it with you? A little back history on my experience with religion, it mostly lends itself to the Catholic religion. My Grandma was a devout Catholic and enjoyed sharing and incorporating her beliefs into our upbringing. I can remember spending weekend nights at her house, knowing we’d be up early for Mass at St. Mary’s, then we’d be rewarded with Mc D’s or TB afterward. We’d bide our boredom during Mass with tic-tacs and goofing off with whichever cousin was with me or Lil. I was never baptized, nor did I ever receive my First Communion. My parents were not married in the Catholic church, for their own reasons. For all intents and purposes, I feel aligned with most of what Catholicism represent, but then again I don’t. I think a lot of what I feel is nostalgia for the memory of my Grandma and continuing her legacy in some type of way. My parents never forced religion on us either. I used to think this left me at a disadvantage when it came to figuring out my faith. Now, I see it was just the path they allowed me to find for myself. No forced ideals or notion I had to believe anything. For that I am grateful, but also, for that, I find myself intimidated and easily allow myself to shy away from dating religion. My father was raised Catholic but has not practiced for many, many years. My mom attended a Methodist church, but also, as has not practiced for many, many years. This journey is solely something I am doing for myself.

When I mentioned I have some internal conflict regarding dating religion and what I believe, there are two topics that stand out for me. My belief on abortion and homosexuality stand at the forefront of my internal conflict. Over the years, I’ve realized most religions are based on very similar principals, all of which do not generally support these two things. While some do not condemn them, they definitely do not support them either. Granted, some religions are more accepting (not quite sure if this is the right word) than they have ever been, but they aren’t something that is openly and positively discussed within many religions. In talking about these two topics with random friends who are more spiritual or religious, I’ve realized I probably won’t ever find a religion where I believe and support every single thing that a religion shares. I’m not sure why I feel the need to be such a purist when it comes to religion. As it is with many things I’ve been recognizing, I think my ability to be more open and let go of this type of mindset will be important in my courtship of religion. It is a little scary to share my belief on these topics too. Fear of judgment, maybe. But as I write this, these are my beliefs and I feel okay posting this.

It’s really hard to write about all this, especially since it’s still such an internal struggle within.

I’ve said I’ve been dating religion on and off, but really it’s mostly off. I enjoy going to Mass, but I don’t know all the verses and things, so I feel like a fraud. I know you don’t have to be able to recite and memorize scripture to be religious. Again, this is just one of those perceived expectations that I need to work on within myself. I like structure, so Mass seems like it would align with my personality. But, sometimes I find Catholicism very rigid. Which is why I really enjoyed my time experiencing the Newman Catholic Center in SLO. I don’t talk about it much, but I did attend Mass most Sunday evenings when I went away to college. I tried the more traditional Mass at first but found a connection with the Newman Center. I also enjoyed that it was on Sunday evenings and felt like a lovely way to end each week. The sermons were relatable and I enjoyed my relationship with religion while I was there.

Over the years, I’ve been to a handful of Christian churches, attended a Mormon service, and even experienced John of God (talk about different). All of which, I went into with an open mind and heart. I honestly tried to leave any judgments outside of their doors and challenged myself to see if it truly felt right within myself. However, none of those felt like the right fit for me. The closest one that I felt connected too was in SLO, but I didn’t find that connection to the one here at the Sacramento Newman Center. However, to be fair, I should have given it another go before they changed it to a student-only situation in 2016. Funny anecdote for my first time experiencing the Sacramento Newman Center, it was Bless Your Pet Day and also their Quarterly Update day. Needless to say, I was not used to be surrounded by animals of all kinds and financial numbers during Mass! I am actually really bummed they don’t allow non-students to attend anymore, as were a lot of East Sacramento and 600+ people who attended their Masses.

Recently, as I’ve been exploring my new ‘hood, I’ve seen a lot of signs for Project Church. I realized this was an additional location to the Project Church Downtown, where a friend attends. I asked her if I could join her on Sunday, as I wanted to start dating religion again. I liked the proximity of the one in West Sacramento but ended up trying out the one at the Crest Theater for my first Project Church experience. This was so different from Mass, which is essentially the only church I’m used to attending. It was like a concert + church. I really enjoyed my experience with Project Church, even though it was very new AND different for me. The group attending was a huge mix of young and old, but many were around my age. The other difference I noticed was how relaxed everyone dressed. Again, I’m used to dressing nicely for Mass — caveat, not everyone dresses nicely for Mass. The sermon was based on a series they’ve been focusing on, Lighten Up. I really enjoyed the pastor’s words focusing on complacency and her relaxed and relatable sermon. She was passionate and had some great insights from passages from the Bible and related them to us, to me. It was very different. Not in a bad way, but also not in a way that had me running to come back each Sunday. I will go back and try it out again, but I’m not sure if this is my forever church.

I was going to post this after I attended a couple of different churches, but I decided I’d rather start the discussion now. Maybe one of you may have a suggestion of where I should check out, or let me tag along with you to a service. I find it much easier to go with someone for my first time versus going solo. The small percent of the introvert in me manifests when it comes to dating religion. So, if you have any suggestions, please feel free to comment below or reach out to me in some type of way.

Here is the short list of where I know I will be checking out soon: Bayside Midtown & Unity of Sacramento.

From the app.

My fears around dating religion has never really changed. I think my perspective needs too, however, which is why I am taking this time to really date religion again. My friend recommended a great app that I’ve been trying out, The Bible App – YouVersion. She knew I wanted to educate myself more about the Bible, my fears about religion, how intimidated I am by all of it, and my desire to find the right fit. I think this app is something that touches all the things I’m looking for. What I really like about the app is that you can set ‘Plans’ for yourself. Plans are organized in different themes (i.e. dating, anxiety, marriage, new to faith, leadership, prayer, etc.) and vary in lengths. Each day they start with a devotional and then there are bible verses that relate to the ‘plan’ topic and the devotional. I found this really helpful for learning more about the Bible and feeling as if it is applicable to my life and the different things I am currently going through. Of course, the ease of use of the app is amazing. You can set it up to send you daily emails or notifications for daily verses to read, alert/remind you about your plans, and a variety of other functions I have yet to use. I think this will be a great tool for me to truly immerse myself in my decision to date religion.

In the end, I am looking to find a church that fits with my beliefs. I also hope to grow into my belief in God, whatever that looks like. I am trying to stay open minded and not judge myself harshly during this process. I realize my relationship with God is not dependent on where I practice or where I worship. However, finding the right fit for this will be easier to work at understanding my relationship with God and my intersecting beliefs.  I think this is just another part of my journey as I learn more about myself and the woman I am destined to become.

This journey feels a little unsure, as does the rest of life, but I am doing life exactly as I am supposed to be.

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