I like coffee, but my family doesn’t. (an extremely honest post)

I really like coffee. I also refuse to align with any political party and I don’t think tattoos are bad. In many ways I am very different from my family. I love my family. They are amazing and wonderful and encouraging. My parents love me so unconditionally that I’m always humbled by what they are will to do for me. But I’m very different from them.

I’ve never written about this before. I think it can be intimidating sometimes to be different. To not hold the same views or to not feel as sure about certain issues. When my whole family (I’m talking about aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.) gets together, it’s hard to get a word in. They are talkative sorts and I love that about them, but when your opinion isn’t completely formed about something and you’re trying to learn about all sides, it’s hard to express that. I’m terrified that writing this will offend someone. Even when that’s not my intent, it’s just that I’m a quiet person.

I rarely speak up about my opinions or beliefs, especially on controversial topics. I just don’t really know how to. I don’t believe that issues are ever black and white. I don’t believe that you can just puts things in boxes and leave them there. The same is with God. I had a friend once ask me what my political identity was. I said independent. She looked at me and said that she thought that was going to be my answer. When I asked why she replied, “because you don’t seem like someone who likes to be put in a box.”

I’d never had someone explain me so well in so few words. It was a moment of clarity. I hate the idea of being categorized, even though you could argue that I have categorized myself as unboxed. But over the last year I’ve realized the absolute freedom in living outside of the box. But it hasn’t been all roses and self-enlightenment. I didn’t go to church for about 8 months.

I should probably explain. Two summers ago I went to Jacksonville, FL to participate in a Summer Training Program with the Navigators. About a month or so before that, my church went through a terrible division that left me confused and a bit hurt. I had loved that place and then it became foreign. I didn’t connect there anymore. Then I went to Florida.

I was both nervous and excited for this program. I didn’t realize it then, but now I see that I was hoping so much that this program would help heal me. It was my last lifeline to God in a way. I had a lot of expectations that I didn’t even realize I had. Unfortunately though, I was severely disappointed. I left the program even more confused about Christianity and a bit disenchanted by the whole thing. I still believed in God, and I still believed in Jesus, but I lost my belief in the institution. There is nothing wrong with the Navigators and I would recommend anyone to check them out. But they didn’t fit me.

Which is partly why it bugs me that many denominations believe that their way is best because if all of our relationships with various people are completely unique, then wouldn’t our relationships with God be unique as well? He reaches all of us in so many different ways, so obviously we will all grow in different ways.

But anyways, when I came back to school, I did go back to my old church, but I was more disappointed than excited. I couldn’t really explain to people why the training program wasn’t a great experience for me and I just lost interest in the church. So I stopped going.

In a sense, I needed that. I needed the break from the church, or rather, the people in the church. So for 8 months I didn’t think about it. I still went to Bible Study, but that was about it. During that time though, I began to see what it was like to not have my faith as a primary focus. I never felt down-trodden, but I felt something missing. It felt like I was a hot air balloon that had been tethered to Earth by two cables and one of them had snapped. So I was floating a little wildly.

But I never felt like God wasn’t there. As the months progressed, slowly I could feel God doing something. I began to realize that it wasn’t “the Church” that hurt me, but the people. And people are human, they are as broken as I am. Slowly I began to see God again and how He was relevant to my life. I began to see how much He and Jesus loved me and loved all of the people on this planet. Then I moved to Pittsburgh.

I think subconsciously I made a deal with God that moving to Pittsburgh would be when I gave church another chance. So I started trying out churches. I tried two. They were nice, but something was missing. During one service, the pastors tried to throw in so many jokes that the topic was completely missed. While I do enjoy a bit of humor, it was too much. Finally I went to a third church and that was it. I found the right place. It’s also practically two minutes from my house. It was like God was saying, “I love you so much that I’m going to make it ridiculously easy to go to church.” It also meets in the evening which works best with my schedule.

I don’t really know if there’s much of a moral to this story, but it’s my story. I guess what I’ve learned is that it’s okay to be a little lost sometimes. It’s okay to step back and just be. God’s not going anywhere. Honestly, I think He wanted me to just stop and not try to force myself to fit into a box of expectations. But most of all, I’ve learned that it’s okay to doubt. It’s okay to be hurt and to feel that because sometimes the best way to grow is not how you would expect.

I don’t know if that was a good ending, but in a sense, there really isn’t an ending because this isn’t a post of me saying, “I went through this period of whatever, but now I have everything figured out.” Nope. That’s not me. The thing I love most about the human existence is that we are always changing and evolving. That’s what I love about Christianity too. God is always changing us and guiding us through things. So, this is where I am.

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3 thoughts on “I like coffee, but my family doesn’t. (an extremely honest post)

  1. Here is a relevant bit of wisdom from alan watts, a buddhist philosopher:

    “…And there’s a very interesting mystical treatise of the fourteenth century called “The Cloud of Unknowing”, showing how the highest form of prayer, contemplative prayer, was that in which all concept of God had been left behind … where in other words one completely let go of clinging to God. And this was the supreme act of faith. So that you don’t any need any longer an image because this gets in the way of the reality. But the moment you insist on an image, then you have the church as a huge imperialistic vested interest organization. After all, if the church is the body of Christ, isn’t it through the breaking of the body of Christ that life is given to the World? But the Church doesn’t want to be broken up; by Jove no, it goes around canvassing for new members. See, the difference between a physician and a clergyman is this: the physician wants to get rid of his patients, and he gives them medicine and he hopes they won’t get hooked on the medicine; whereas the clergyman is usually forced to make his patients become addicts, so that they’ll pay their dues. The doctor has faith in turnover; he knows that there will always be sick people. And the clergy also need faith in turnover. Get rid of your congregations! Say, “Now, you’ve heard all I’ve got to tell you; go away. If you want to get together for making celestial whoopee, which is worship, alright.” When I was a chaplain in the university, I used to tell the students that if they came to church out of a sense of duty they weren’t wanted. They would be skeletons at the feast. It would be much better if they went swimming or stayed in bed, because we were going to celebrate the holy communion and I meant celebrate. But somehow or other you see, we take religion in a kind of dead earnest. I remember when I was a boy at school, how wicked it was to laugh in church. We don’t realize, as G.K. Chesterton said, that “the angels fly because they take themselves lightly.” And as Dante said in the Paradiso, when he heard the song of the angels, it sounded like the laughter of the Universe. Why, what are those angels doing? They’re saying “Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia”, which doesn’t really mean anything. It’s sublime nonsense. And so in the same way there are Buddhist texts and Hindu texts which are the chants of the Buddhas or the divine beings which don’t mean anything at all and never did mean anything. They are just glorious lallying: glosso lallia. So the point that I wish to make most strongly is that behind a vital religious life for the west, there has to be faith which is not expressed in things to which you cling: in ideas, opinions to which you cling in a kind of desperation. Faith is the act of letting go, and that must begin by letting go of God: let God go. But you see, this is not atheism in the ordinary sense. Atheism in the ordinary sense is fervently hoping that there isn’t a God. [that is not descriptive of most atheists btw] But I’m afraid, you see, that this movement is going to issue in what someone described as Christian secularism: the assumption that there is nothing at all to life except a pilgrimage between the maternity ward and the crematorium, and it is within that span that Christian concern must be exercised, because that’s all there is. Well, it is true that’s pretty much common sense these days. I very much doubt whether most religious people believe in their religion. Not really. It’s become implausible. You know even Jehovah’s Witnesses are really polite when they come round to the door. If they really believed what they were talking about, they’d be screaming in the streets. If some Catholics believe what they’re talking about, they would be making an awful fuss. They would be having the most horrendous television programs that would make Batman look like nothing. They would have full-page ads in the papers about the terrible things that would happen if you didn’t, and more so if you did, and they would be very serious about it. But nobody is.”

    More of him, if you want:

    http://mysite.verizon.net/vze1s8au/charlie/religion/watts.htm

    As for myself, I think trying to believe is the trap people fall into. Devote your energy to understanding, questioning, seeking truth (whatever it may be, not one version of it). It is far more productive than believing in my experience.

  2. Thank you for sharing your heart and your story. It can be very difficult at times. Being a little lost is hard, but I’ve found that it tends to strengthen my faith and encourage me to seek God more.

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