Believe it or not, this blog post began as an explanation of eating habits. I started writing about discipline, and found my thoughts on belief and religion really merited its own post. So here you go…
First, Some Background
My dad is Catholic and my mom is Methodist. Growing up, we had a deal: we were brought up in the Catholic church until we attended our first holy communion – long enough to ensure to my father that we would get into heaven. Then at the wise old age of 8, we were allowed to choose. We had to go somewhere on Sunday morning, but they didn’t particularly care which parent we went with.
From a very early age, I felt empowered to make choices about religion. I recognized that there were differences in denominations and that there wasn’t wrong or right, just different. We would discuss what we learned at church over Sunday lunch, and I remember being amazed at how often the bible verses discussed were the same in both sermons (looking back it’s not that surprising, there are a standard set for holy days such as Pentecost, Palm Sunday, Advent etc. which take up much of the year). Also, I spent my early elementary years attending a Lutheran private school. So add that to the mix.
I have always had reverence for Catholic tradition. I think it’s extremely poetic that in Catholic mass, we’re often speaking the same words that were spoken by biblical ancients, Renaissance monks, etc. Part of me loves the comfort that it is the same as it has always been. This is the same part of me who decided to go to Texas A&M University after attending one tradition-entrenched football game and studied Latin for six years knowing I would never speak it to anyone. I have sung in the two largest cathedrals in the world – St. Peter’s in Vatican City and St. Paul’s in London. Hearing your voice echo off structures that beautiful is enough to stir emotion in even the most doubtful of us.
St. Peter’s Basilica, The Vatican, 2005
And then there’s part of me that lives my life every day. The part that lives with a man she’s not married to and likes to sleep late on Sunday morning and drinks boxed wine (pretty sure Jesus drank from a jug). This is the part of me that thinks that it doesn’t matter if Jonah was really swallowed by a whale or if Mary was really a virgin or any of that – what matters is the message. That’s the part of me I listen to most of the time.
I like what John Wesley says about morality – that you can’t follow the bible or religion blindly. He says we need to take into account REST – Reason, Experience, Scripture, & Tradition. I love that Reason and Experience are half of the equation – and that Tradition made the cut. It’s up to each of us to make our own way, using the tools we have.
Youth Group Board Retreat, 2003
I spent my childhood at the First United Methodist Church of Coppell and I wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s where I learned to sing, got to act in musicals, and met some of my very best friends. But nowadays I’m not plugged in to one congregation like in the past. I spend more time reading books (recently The Year of Living Biblically, my favorite is still Blue Like Jazz) and things I come across (recommend my mom’s pastor’s blog When EF Talks) and soaking in all I can.
What I Believe
No matter where I am in my life, there are a few things I find truth in all the time:
It’s not by chance. The events that have led up to life as I know it – the fact that the world came into being, humans evolved, my ancestors survived, my mom met my dad, and I grew up healthy and now live the life I’m living… cannot be by chance. Something greater than me had to set it all in motion. I call that thing “God” spelled G-O-D but some people may call it something else. I think this is empowering and puts responsibility on me to do something with my life to make it all count.
I am thankful. I am blessed for more reasons than I can hope to count. Even on my worst days, I am alive and healthy and loved and safe. And it just doesn’t make sense to take any of that for granted.
It’s better to do the right thing. Whether you believe the “right thing” means eating kosher food or praying three times a day or going to church on Sunday morning, we all have a moral compass that tells us to treat people and the world around us with respect. It all comes down to love, and it’s just better to love.