My Crazy Journey in Search of God, Faith, Reason & Truth

Something happened to me in Mexico recently.  Don’t worry, this is good news.

In early December we took a trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. We hadn’t taken a real vacation for about two years. It was so-oo-oo-oo nice! It refreshed all of us!

And at some point, something happened!

I changed.  I became happy again.

Scary how much I resemble this statue!
Singing “Fa-La-La-La-Laaaaaaaaa!”

 

The last four years have been a time of major transition in many ways. One of the transitions has been the re-evaluation of my faith and religion and the loss of much of that faith and religion.  So it has been a time of deep reflection accompanied by a gamut of emotions.  But somehow, in December, I think that I moved on.  I accepted myself for who I am at this time in my life.

I also became comfortable in my skin – AGAIN! I feel I’ve lived about seven different lives or phases and each comes with its own adjustment period.  I think I have grieved over the faith and religion that I once had and I feel ready to move on with much less regret.

I hope that all my friends, family and loved ones will love me no matter what my philosophies and religious views are on any given day but I am willing to risk that. I can’t pretend to be someone or something I’m not.  I have little use for friends who are more like fickle theatre critics – friends who will only like me if I can skillfully fulfill some kind of expected role or performance.  I’ve never been very good at playing any subdued scripted role.  I can’t memorize a script to save my life and nor do I want to.  I’d be much more at home on the stage of an Improvisational Comedy show – or even better off in the circus! It’s much more of who I am.  One of my talents or gifts in life is to bring joy to others by loving and accepting them, and by making them laugh!  And I can only do that if I can be myself! 

For now, I’m sort of an agnostic.  Maybe I’m an agnostic Christian at heart.  Or an ignostic christian.  In the words of the old gospel tune, “Jesus is still alright with me! I know he’s all right.”  I don’t have a problem with Jesus, per se.  I do see a loving Jesus (for the most part) in the gospels.   However, there is so much else I find objectionable about the bible, christianity and the churches that to call myself a Christian would represent myself as part of those things.

I could call myself a follower of Jesus.  I am fine with that.  But what does that mean?  If I assume Jesus was a real person and he is accurately depicted in the gospels, I think he sets a wonderful example for us.  But was he born of a virgin?  Was he adopted by God?  Was he a product of the Holy Spirit impregnating a girl from Palestine?  Did he do miracles?  Did he rise again in bodily form?  Did he appear to many and then ascend into heaven?  (Where did he ascend TO? The moon?  Another galaxy?)  Was Jesus half God and half man?  Did Jesus exist before our material world and help God create the world in six days?  Although these things are all POSSIBLE, they are not PROBABLE.  Maybe in later posts I can discuss the many problems and inaccuracies of some of the bible’s claims and the doctrines of orthodox Christianity and why my rational mind cannot swallow them whole. 

I just can’t assent to believing all those things.  And I can’t struggle to try anymore.  I can believe in some magical things about Jesus and God.  I still have a little faith left.  And that is where I am on this journey of faith and doubt.  And I am at peace with that. 

***************************

This may sound funny to those who know me because those that do might say, “Hello? Didn’t you leave christianity and church a long time ago?”  Well, sort of. 

It’s been over two years since I resigned from my former church and took a leave of absence. I had served as the youth pastor, was a part of the worship band and have played in many other roles there.  My husband was on the church board.  It’s been more than one year since I stopped visiting churches trying to find a new one.  My recollection may be poor – it may be much longer since I left my church and stopped looking for a new one.

But I didn’t feel settled or at peace until now. 

For a long time I haven’t been sure whether God is real and whether Christianity is what it claims to be.  That is one aspect of questioning and doubting one’s faith.   Another aspect is the need to resolve the emotions, sorrow and fear that accompany that loss of faith and to find an alternative outlook which enables one to continue their journey.  I think I have wrestled with the deep questions of life and faith and have a working philosophy that enables me to be at peace, for now, and to keep walking this road of life.

I just don’t know whether there is a god. I don’t know if the Christian God is real and if Jesus was a real person as depicted in the gospels. I do know that the bible as an accurate, consistent, cohesive, continuous depiction of a NEVER-CHANGING god is a farce, at least to me and many others.

Many years ago, I committed my life to the Jesus of the gospel stories, as I perceived him to be.  Perhaps I focused on the good parts only – maybe MY picture of a loving Jesus in the gospels is irreconcilable with the text (assuming there is anything trustworthy about the gospels we’ve received).  However, if Jesus and God are real and have ever spoken to me in a voice of love and kindness, then I think I’m still following that voice.  THAT voice tells me to accept and love others.  Add that to accepting and loving myself and that is about all I can do right now.  .  .  If Jesus and G-d are real, then I hope they are happy too.  It’s the best I can do with the information I can access and understand combined with the spirit of hope and goodness which I hope is G-d.

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Comments on: "Something Happened in Mexico" (9)

  1. Love this, Erica. I “get” so much of this. We keep meaning to talk and every time I interact with you I become more sure of that! Will read more of your blog soon. Would love for you to come peek at mine; I think we think similarly in a lot of ways. And are you “short?” You look petite in the photo! I am 4’11″… 🙂 hugs to you, sweetie!

    • Thanks for the comment! And I do peek at your site and love, love love it! (Pretty sure I’ved linked to it on my blogroll)! The kids just don’t let me get much time on the computer (so I’m always tweeting from my BlackBerry!) And yes I’m a shorty! I am under 5’2″ which was always such a pain to find clothes growing up!

  2. Hi Erica

    I’m really glad to hear you’re happy again. I can identify with a lot of your statements as a fellow agnostic and ex-christian. There is a book I like which I’ve referenced on my blog somewhere called “After Atheism”, which is a nice short work on being an “agnostic christian” and why he didn’t find either fundamentalist christianity or atheism satisfying.

    I realise it’s ‘cos I’m looking for them, but I am finding a LOT of people out there with similar paths and beliefs.

    Warmly

    Jonathan from Spritzophrenia 🙂

    • Hi Jonathan!

      I always love hearing from you! I will need to check out that book! Perhaps we are hardwired to believe in something but when I experience peace and joy it feels so natural to attribute it to something higher than myself! Or when I feel love for my spouse and kids, it’s hard for me to just say, Of course, I am just a product of evolution and these feelings are just electrical mesages in my brain! So basically I agree that something in between atheism and fundamentalism feels much more satisfying to me!

      I always appreciate your friendship J!

      Erica

  3. Hello Erica,

    You state,

    “I also became comfortable in my skin – AGAIN! I feel I’ve lived about seven different lives or phases and each comes with its own adjustment period. I think I have grieved over the faith and religion that I once had and I feel ready to move on with much less regret.”

    I can truly relate to this. For me I went back and forth between belief and atheism/agnosticism for several years. It was the process, for me, of letting go of something I cherised and treasured and identified with wholeheartedly and learning to wake up as an adult into a world of learning.

    I have found, for myself, that I can still have my cake and eat it too. I attend a UU-like “church” (Fountain Street Church Grand Rapids) where I have met a significant number of other intellectuals, skeptics, and agnostics. This has helped me maintain the ritual of the week and close connections with other peoples.

    • Peter,

      When we have believed ourselves to be in close relationship with God for 10-20 years I think it is only natural that we take our time to “test the relationship” to see if it is really valid or to test whether God is really there!

      Just like in the breakdown of a long-term human relationship I don’t think most of us would jump ship at the first sign of trouble but since we took time developing the relationship we try to hang on to it and nurse it back to health if possible.

      It encourages me to see others, like yourself, who seem a bit farther down the same path as me, and gives me hope that there is a future beyond religion!

      I think I may end up at a UU like church too someday. We will see! We are social beings and most of us desperately need to be part of some community. For now it is all my virtural friends like you, Jonathan, and Cheryl! Thanks for being part of that!

      Erica

      • Hello Erica,

        You state,
        “When we have believed ourselves to be in close relationship with God for 10-20 years I think it is only natural that we take our time to “test the relationship” to see if it is really valid or to test whether God is really there! … Just like in the breakdown of a long-term human relationship I don’t think most of us would jump ship at the first sign of trouble but since we took time developing the relationship we try to hang on to it and nurse it back to health if possible.”

        This is a good illustration, and it brings me to another related thought. I am often told by fundamentalist Christians that I was never really, truly, authentically a Christian because, if I was, I wouldn’t have “walked away from Jesus.” I know that my experience was as sincere and authentic as anyone’s Christian experience, but, largely due to the American Evangelical iteration of the eternal security doctrine (aka “one saved always saved”), it is nearly impossible for some Christians to accept that a person can know and then forgo Jesus. Well, I did “know Jesus” – I walked with Jesus in a deeply fulfilling relationship.

        Developing further on your illustration, when bumps and doubts occurred in my relationship with Jesus, I tried hard to hold it all together. Jesus was my identity, Jesus was everything to me, and to forgo the peace of mind and identity anchor that Jesus was would have been a form of catharsis—social and psychological suicide for me. So, I waived for years. Even recently, last year, I tried to put aside doubts and rediscover the Personality that pervades and evades detection. I have found repeatedly that whatever that Personality is, it is not the mundane deity present in the Bible. I can make this Personality into whatever I want—scientize and moralize it with an assumed malleability like a ball of clay, but then I am left with the end observation: if this Personality is Real (and not just my human tendency toward patternicity and personification), then why am I the one calling the shots, reshaping the Being into a Master Dodge Ball escapist who avoids the fiery darts of doubt and skepticism by shape shifting according to my needs. I find that I am merely repeating the mistakes of the biblical authors: making a God in my own image.

        Technically, I am agnostic. There might be a God. I am utterly open to that possibility. But, because whatever that God is escapes my detection, I think that it is more likely that 1) God does not exist or 2) God does not care to be known. Maybe God is yet to be revealed….maybe we are to a future generation thousand of years from now what Christians consider Jews or pre-Christian peoples—unenlightened and awaiting a revelation of fullness. This could all be. And, frankly, there might be fairies living at the North Pole (meaning, all of this seems unlikely however appealing).

        UU is a mixed bag. However, one aspect of UU that I like is that they are majority humanist and agnostic. There are, though, and not mutually exclusively, pagans and New Age types as well in UU congregations. We happened upon an independent church in Grand Rapids that has deep types with the American Baptists and the UU’s: Fountain Street Church. On Sunday mornings I attend a book discussion group were we discuss Spiritual Envy: An Agnostic’s Journey. I find that I am not alone in my thinking and my experiences. It is rewarding.

  4. wow…sorry, at work, please forgive the typos!!

  5. Your picture makes me ridiculously happy 🙂

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