I just got back from Ash Wednesday services at our church. I use the term "our" loosely because although I became a member so my children could get baptized and confirmed there, I don't feel embraced by the experience. It's not because our church isn't welcoming, they are. They are accepting of "my" involvement as limited as it may be. I just feel like an outsider on nights like tonight because it's not something I can fully accept into my life. When everyone and I do mean EVERYone goes up for communion and I stay in the pew, I feel a little out of place.
I was raised with a sense of self and a more spiritual attitude. My Dad believed in the Native ways of spirits guiding you and my Mom believed in the more traditional sense of God and what he represents. My Dad who didn't make a hard stand on much when it came to our upbringing, took a stand that it would be our choice to pick which route we wanted. My Dad randomly spoke of different things. My Mom sang Amazing Grace to all of us and other hymns. I knew who God was, I just never had any formal teachings. It wasn't something that bothered me much until 4th grade when one of my friend's moms asked me where I went to church, they were Catholic. I told her I didn't. She asked if I was baptized, I told her I wasn't. That was the last time I was asked to stay at their house. She told me in school that she wasn't allowed to hang around with me anymore because God wasn't in my life and she really didn't speak to me again. I couldn't put into words my exact feelings at the time but now I can say it, I was sincerely hurt by the experience.
I attended church fairly regularly with my friend Julie's family through middle school and I can honestly say I took little from the experience other than it was something I did if I wanted to sleep over on Saturday night, I didn't think I was a better person for going and they never judged me, they simply let me tag along and exposed me to something different and I appreciate now because it gave me a positive experience with church. I remember sitting through brunch after and her Dad asking about how we interrupted the sermon. I thought it was kind of silly at the time but now realize he was just helping us figure out what the words really meant in a real life experience and I thank him for that because he made sense of it for me.
But it happened again in high school with my first boyfriend's parents. Why wasn't I baptized, why didn't I go to church? That time I was angry that not only myself but my family was being judged. That we were somehow not good people because we didn't attend church on holidays, what both of those families had in common. They weren't regular church goers, they were hypocrites is what they were.
So when my children started asking questions about God when they were little and both their Dad and I gave different answers, I decided to bring them somewhere that would give them information and they could decide for themselves and I dropped them off, grabbed a bagel up the street and picked them up 40 minutes later because I still had no interest in organized religion. But that relationship has been over 11 years now. I have done some volunteering during those years but my children have attended Sunday school regularly, Claire sang in the choir, took junior high classes, were baptized, had first communion, Max was confirmed and still chooses to attend and Claire is in the final weeks of confirmation. My children feel a sense of comfort there, I can especially tell with Max and that makes me happy. Another place, another option that can help them through tough times or simply lighten their load.
But I don't take communion, although I am welcome to. I don't take it because they put in the work, learned the scriptures and read the bible and are entitled to have that reward so to speak. I'm not going to be a hypocrite and stand next to them and do it when I haven't invested myself completely like they have. So instead I sit there and watch them and my feelings of discomfort are erased by a feeling that I gave them a sense of self too and I'm proud of that. I'm proud of them.