I love Sundays. I look forward to them, almost crave them. I spend just over an hour each Sunday morning enjoying the talk my Minister has prepared for us and that hour goes by all too quickly. From the moment I started attending my Center, I’ve always felt like I just can’t get enough. I come home and wait anxiously, sometimes for days, for the recording of the service to be posted online so that I can listen – again. In the meantime, I listen to older recordings – over again. Sometimes I find myself at our Center several times a week. For classes, groups, other activities. I was told a couple times, “You’re so hungry for it.”
The truth is, I am.
I always grew up in church. I was initially raised Pentecostal, then attended an Assemblies of God church for awhile and then eventually attended Church of God out of Anderson, Indiana and claimed membership in that church once I became an adult, though I rarely attended. Once I moved to the city I live in now, I attended a Church of God here less than a handful of times. I was just unhappy.
Things didn’t feel right. The ideas of God that I was taught growing up didn’t make sense to me. I always felt like a fraud walking into any holy place. I felt like a hypocrite, in knowing I was being judged by God, I felt the need to judge myself – even though I have always been a good person, even though I have always loved others as I should. I went to church and held onto those ideas of God out of obligation. If I didn’t believe in God and what I was taught, I was going to be judged even more.
That’s what it’s all about, right? Subscribe to God so you don’t go to hell when you die. Even that seemed not right to me. It felt like a big show and I was to play some part, just so I didn’t spend eternity burning. It seemed selfish, self-serving, completely eclipsed the reason I would choose to have any relationship with God in the first place. It felt like a sneaky, dirty, cheap reason to choose to have a relationship with God out of obligation to not be judged, which I was anyhow, so that I can escape fire and brimstone. There was an ulterior motive. And I didn’t like it.
But it wasn’t just the judgment of myself that bothered me. It was the judgment of others, as well. I could never grasp any of it. How a God so powerful, mighty, perfect and loving would choose to send anyone hell, allow anyone to suffer, no matter how imperfect they appeared, when we were taught, “We’re all made in the image of God.” That just didn’t make sense.
After several events in my life starting adding all those layers onto me, disallowing me in being who I truly am, I threw my hands up and walked away. After a lot of my personal battles and then becoming sick and facing death I decided I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t involve myself in a lifestyle where I felt no matter how much good I did, it was all for the wrong reasons and I was being judged still, despite all of it.
I wanted to believe that God was loving – unconditionally. I wanted to believe that God was non-judgment. I didn’t want to believe that no matter how much good I did in this world that my amount of sin would add up and still be judged. I didn’t want to be judged – at all.
I think back to a time, shortly after I moved here, and went into the church I was briefly attending to seek assistance. I was temporarily without a job due to a work injury (that the company wouldn’t pay for), single mom of two, and went in seeking resources. I didn’t know any of any area assistance programs – I had only been here a few short months. I know many places keep lists of charities and resources on hand, so I thought I would try my church.
I went into the office and introduced myself, told the receptionist that I had recently started attending but that I had been apart of the church as a whole for many years. We engaged in small talk for a few minutes and then I asked, “I was wondering if you have a list of resources that might be available – I’m in need of some groceries for my young daughters.” Perhaps she could point me toward a food bank or put in a referral for me.
The only response I got, was from the pastor of the church who was sitting nearby and had opted out of any conversation up to that point. He said, “I don’t really know of anything like that, but I can give you a list of homeless shelters for when you need it.”
Wow. I was shocked. I was terrified. Hurt. A man of God shooing one of his own away out of judgement. Shortly thereafter I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s which brought on it’s own set of feelings on the matter. Out of anger, bitterness, fear and hurt that came from everything life had thrown me to that point – I proclaimed myself to be an atheist.
I held onto the idea for many years, I think the initial notion started far before my diagnosis but finally made it’s way to the surface. I didn’t want to be a part of any god like that.
But. I was lonely, I was seeking. I knew there had to be something out there – this fact, I could not dispute. There had to be some very beautiful thing out there that was a source of love, a source of that non-judgment I knew there had to be. Some source of intelligence, some great light of all-knowing and peace, some beautiful energy that flows.
There were many things I encountered on a daily basis that I would consider God, the idea of God – but would dismiss them. There were times I would be in such a beautiful place and feel such love and peace – that to me, would have been God, if only I believed. The feeling I got standing in the middle of the forest and the birds I’d hear with the water from the stream trickling nearby – that peace I felt in that moment, to me, was God. The feelings of immense and unconditional love that I shared with my kids on a daily basis, to me, was God. That little spark of conviction, deep within me that always told me that it was my job to do good in this world, to me, was God. That energy I felt that moved in, through and around me and kept me going when I was dying, to me, was God.
I finally made it to the Center that I call my Sacred Home. It was a long hard road getting there, but I found it at long last. I found a community who believes many of the same things I had been seeking for so long. I found a place of refuge in which I can allow that loving light of God shine into me so I can remember who and what I am; I found a place where I am reminded that I am a perfect expression of the Divine and am one with It.
I am reminded daily that I am loved by God, unconditionally, without judgement – just as everyone else is. I am one with God, I am one with everyone, as we are all a part of God, Creator, Spirit, Source, the Great Mind, Love and Light. There is no separation from God, only love. And that is beautiful.