Thursday, January 8, 2009

Reflecting and contemplating...and a load of questions

This post was meant to be a tribute post. But it evolved. I spill some of my guts so be warned this is a heavy one.
I have actually been putting off publishing it for ten days, here goes. I edited it a little but it is still really muddled.

Dave's Grandma passed away over the holidays and we went out to AB for the funeral. Hearing the stories of her life made me think about my life and hope that only someday I can be as outgoing and loving and accepting and supportive as she.
She was truly an amazing woman.

She lived a full life to the age of 90 and was so strong. She was always up to something and her practical jokes were loved by all. But then her resolve to always go on no matter what the circumstance has left me reflecting on life.
 What is the meaning of life?
Should we even ask this?
Is there a defined meaning?
Why do some give up?
Is there a different meaning for every person? Or does it change with the stages of life?
Or is there one meaning for all people?
What are we to strive for?
How are we really to live?
 I am a people watcher and am fascinated and puzzled all at the same time by all the different things I see.
I learned this in psychology class and it has always stuck with me and has often made me sit back and just reflect and watch.
Who really has it all together?
Does anyone or are we just good actors?

Is the answer to be a good person, help others and not harm the environment too much?
Or is the meaning of life to serve and glorify God?
According to a few books that is the most common answer.

This would put a religious spin on the whole thing and depend on how you view God.
You might write me off as a religious freak now but I want to get this out. If you don't come back again I understand but this is a part of who I am.

I grew up in a Christian home and this is something that I think about in cycles.

If the meaning to life is to glorify and serve God then I know we all fail but we can always strive.
On that note here is what I struggle with.
My religious struggle.
I see these "meeting" and church people who are so happy. They seem to have a great marriage, lots of friends who believe the same as them, nice homes and jobs. They travel with the same groups of friends to conferences and out for fun. I see this in church after church and often wonder why I have never felt like I fit into a group like this. I have always felt like the rebel and had to fake my way around them. I would say nice things and pretend I was like them while inside I was saying "if they only knew the real me, they wouldn't even look my way let alone say hi."

But...there is always a but....I can see it in some of their eyes. Things are not all that they make them out to be.  Some are fakers too or really struggle to fit in. There are cracks in the marriage, little bickers that are destroying bit by bit. Resentment building and gnawing. Condescending tones from a husband, unloving words from a wife.  Children with problems or work issues. Too much legalism and not enough love and grace.  Teens who struggle with grey areas and where to draw the line and then how to balance life and church and school.
Whether it is over secret indulgent temptations or an empty void inside, there is something just not quite right.
Sometimes for no reason at all. They feel like everything is in place but still, something is missing.

However it is never discussed. We try to sweep it under the carpet and pretend and go on as if everything is rosy. We show up at church with a smile and say that everything is fine. Inside we are dying just a little every time we speak. We lie to cover and hope it just goes away.  We try to pray or study it away and hope that time fixes it. No one needs to know....we shouldn't have this problem anyway. Our faith should be stronger right?


What about living in an imperfect world and being sinful creatures?
What about the Bible talking about us living in a sad troubled world and us not having true joy until heaven?
Why do we strive so hard to get it now?
Is living in a bubble pleasing God or is it being real and raw that pleases Him?

When I see these people who seem to have it all together, the great relationships, both with God and people I am envious but at the same time feel as though they have lost touch with the real world.  They say that looking to Christ is all that matters, everything will fall into place. OK.
Can they really have a testimony to people who struggle with addictions, relationships, doubt, fears and pain?
How can they when they have elevated themselves so high and created such a prefect little bubble for themselves?
What if the bubble burst? What if reality crashed in on them....then what? Or does it ever crash in?
What about balance?
What if their church and family split up and they ended up on the outside? The side where no one calls to say 'hi' and if they do it is with an air of accusation and judgment and a sad 'I feel sorry for you' tone.

Something similar t this happened in my family, some still struggle with the feelings of being shunned and cast out. However once on the outside I found that I felt released. Like a huge burden was lifted. No more being fake, I could pursue a relationship with God on a much clearer level, a realistic level. No more human judgment, no more legalism, just grace and love.

I felt closer and more authentic, more raw and grounded.

In the last 8 years I have been to more churches than I can count. All have good and bad and that is fine, there is no perfect place. What I learned though is that we all struggle, some openly some secretly. The churches I went to where people were open about their struggles, whether with marriage, porn, adultery, lying, cheating, drinking, coveting, or a multitude of other issues there was real growth.  Always adding members, huge outreaches and charity work.  You could feel the spirit move and it was so powerful.  People were raw, they could connect on a personal level with each other and anyone else in the world. They never stood on podiums but were really street level. Normal people. 
I learned so much. I learned that legalism holds back. Wearing dresses and hats to church is pretty. It doesn't win souls.
Learning the scripture and being full of Biblical knowledge doesn't mean you know how to apply it in a daily practical manner.  

Now at this stage in my life I sit with friends in all walks and religions.  I am comfortable, I sit for drinks (well before being prego) around a fire and don't feel fake.  I share life, gaze at the stars in wonder and amazement of Gods creation. I have no bubble. I feel free.
However I long for a church where we live now that would be as comfortable.  I miss breaking bread weekly and this makes me want to go back to 'meeting'.  However I do not believe that I should be asking someone if I can.  That is between me and the Lord on a weekly basis.
And then the cloak of legalism and traditionalism is heavy.
For this reason I lean towards open brethren.

But then I miss the weekly practical growth of the church we moved away from.  I know though that what we need is to find a place where we are happy with the basic teachings and take our kids there. We have prayed and prayed and maybe it is that we are just such big failures in the Christian faith department that we are blind but we haven't felt led anywhere.

Maybe my thought process is all wrong and the answer is in that bubble!

The meaning of life.
It is such a huge question, I don't even know why I brought it up now.

But sometimes it just feels like I am forever in a hole.  Digging and searching. Never settled.  Is there really that happy place I think exists? Are the bubbles real?  What if I lived in one?
What then?
I think I once had a taste of a bubble. I was in my late teens and dating a 'meeting' guy. I read my Bible all the time and felt like I was in the Lords will, relying on Him for every moment. It was superficial and it was sweet, like floating above the chaos of the world. Kinda like being high on love or something. People I worked with said I was weird, out of touch and a freak. I soaked it up.
Then it popped.
I am so glad! 
What kind of testimony is that. I couldn't connect with them, I might have felt dirty. Now I am one of them with a story.
Having the bubble burst exposed me to a life filled with far more pain and sorrow but I feel truly closer to the Lord.  In a nitty gritty kind of way.

I don't think I want that bubble really makes heaven sweeter in my mind. Way sweeter!

In all this I don't know that I have found the meaning of life but it took me on a journey anyway.
Food for thought.


Brooke said...

Hi Anna, I think we all struggle--I know we all struggle. And I know that we have a God who has been "touched by all infermities". He KNOWS all the struggles. And no matter WHERE we go--we go there for Him, isn't that wonderful? He WAS perefect--in every way. And He never felt dirty speaking with the most terrible of sinners. What an amazing concept. It is a wonderful thing that you want to be such a witness--I will be praying for you as you witness to those around you in so many ways! By the way, congrats on the new baby--so fun!

Kori said...

I don't see what you are doing/saying as "witnessing," but instead just telling YOUR story, your thoughts, your feelings. I think the important thing is to QUESTION our beliefs; I really, really think that God doesn't want us to join just any old church and believe everyhintg they teach, nor do I think we are supposed to believe everthing the Bible says (except maybe the red parts) just because it is there. Of course, I also believe that we are "supposed" to do the best we can on a daily basis and try not to hurt anyone deliberately along the way. To say and act like we are sorry when we do. To love and cherish not just the people we like, but every person. I fail a LOT at this, but I get the chance every day to try to do better-what greater blessing is there than another chance, not just to do better for ourselves but to maybe make a little difference to someone else? Thank you for posting this, and for sharing your thoughts, and I am sorry to hear about Dave's G-Ma. She was beautiful, wasn't she?

Glenda said...

Heh Anna girl - I sent you a loooong email so let me know if you don't get it :) - I am sorry to hear about Daves G'ma, soundslike she was a wonderful lady!

Madame Bluestocking said...

You've been in my brain, my love.
I never quite fit in and hated making myself go to church until a church started here where everyone there had felt that way in their previous churches. It's oddly freeing to have church potlucks with beer and teaching that emphasizes questions and conversations rather than rules and absolutes. I've learned more about being like Christ in that environment than in any regular church. I wish you could come to our church.
Chin up, hon. You're better off for having independent thought than for blindly following.

Hannah said...

Firstly, I'm sorry to hear about Dave's Grandma passing away. She sounds like an amazing woman.

Secondly, thank you for sharing your feelings in this post. I'm a worship leader at my church, and I tell it like it is. I get up the front and I say, "man, this week sucked ... but I wanna praise God!"
I think people appreciate the honesty. I refuse to stand up there, plastered smile on my face, pretending that I have the perfect life. People need to know that I struggle with stuff too. They need to know that they are free to be vulnerable as well, that they can come up the front and somebody will pray with them, and they will not be judged. They need to see their fellow believers with their MASKS OFF, their hurts exposed, their hearts open. This is true Christianity.
Finding that balance is hard sometimes. It's not easy, finding the right church where you feel at home, but free to share and learn and grow. I am blessed to be in a very loving and accepting church family. We have welcomed all kinds of people through our doors - drug addicts, alcoholics, mentally unstable people, recently released convicts, etc. Nobody bats an eyelid. We just love 'em. It's hard to find churches like that. Oh, and our church is NOT perfect, we have other issues & struggles. But NO church is perfect. So it's a matter of finding one with imperfections that you can live with, imperfections that simply show that it is 'real'. I hope you find that, Anna.

Angela Fehr said...

A church will be the reflection of the people in it - and so I've always believed that we need to "be the church we want to attend".

The other thing I've learned to respect is that not everyone is at the same point I am - while I am pretty willing to be honest about my struggles, not everyone is comfortable opening up that way - they need a HUGE level of intimacy that is rare in most churches.

Part of the problem with our churches is a problem with our society - in a society where we live in our bubbles of work, home and entertainment, we don't know how to build the kind of relationships that are described to the early church. Of course, early church relationships had some issues too...

We're all in the same boat, Anna!

bethany actually said...

I am so sorry to hear about Dave's grandma. She sounds like she was a really neat lady and I bet she will be missed. I am glad to see you have photos of her and that you have good memories! I'll keep you guys in my prayers.

As for the rest of it, Anna, it's totally normal to have those doubts and struggles! I think it's kind of like falling in love and getting married, in a way: when the weather is good and your beloved is treating you like a queen and you're caught up in the excitement, you will follow your love anywhere and promise him anything. But when you're sick or the excitement has worn off or that bubble bursts, then love requires an act of will, remembering the promises you made in the sunshine. Not to mention, you have to have faith in your beloved, and in his love for you, that he will not let you down even when things are rough.

(I firmly believe all the emotional gifts God has given us, like falling in love, can teach us more about God and his relationship with us, if we're paying attention, but that's another conversation for another day.)

Anyway, my point is that you are normal, and that everyone in any church you go to is going to be at a different point in their walk of faith. There will be people who are great saints, who have a gift of strong faith, and there will be those who are babies and still require much coddling and patience because they are still growing up. Most people are somewhere in between.

You have hit the nail on the head, it IS hard to be honest about your struggles. Pride is a common human sin! And it's also hard to find a new church home. I grew up in a great congregation and even though I've not lived in my hometown for 15 years, we still struggle each time we move to find a church where I feel halfway comfortable.

Sorry, I am kinda rambling. I wish we could have a conversation about this, I bet it would be easier. :-) Thanks for your openness and sharing! I love getting to know you better.

Anonymous said...

Hi Anna,
Thank you for letting your readers know how wonderful Ruth was. She was my mother in law, but in my heart she was my mom, my friend and the best person to have fun with. Many people go through their marriage with in-laws that they don't like. I am so fortunate that not only did I have Ruth but I still have Bill.
We always have questions about our faith, where we are going, are we doing the right need to feel confident that you are a great mom and wife.
The same thing that I said about mother in laws can be said about daughter in laws and I want you to know that I love you and know that you will always do the right thing, not only for your children, but for my son. Being spiritual isn't only about church, it is about how we live our lives. How we treat others and how we respect those with differences. You do a great job of all of those things.
I am very proud of David, you and my grandchildren....keep up the good work! And thanks for being there for me at the celebration of Ruths life..
lots of love

Anonymous said...

Hey Hon !
I'm sorry to hear about your grandmother passing on.
My thoughts are with you and your family.

I too started to think on that same topic in the last few months. My own grandmother celebrated her 90th birthday .... after she was in the hospital last summer and we all thought it was her time.

I don't have an answer for your meaning of life question...

But I think I know what its NOT ...
its not money, not the big screen TV, its not the corner office or recognition or status...

Its not a paint scratch on your porsche..

I think its family, and friends but most of all yourself. ( well ... for me anyway)

I see people with money, and country clubbers with their sports cars and fake smiles and such and I think of homeless people and kids that don't have a decent meal to eat...

I know people who hate their job - but refuse to quit because the money is good and they ask me - why are you leaving your job ? won't you make less on your own ?
I might make less - I might make more- But I can't do anything that make s me miserable. If you do something you love to do and can survive- isn't that good enough?

I think its different for every one - different priorities I guess.

I find mine are changing drastically. maybe its because I'm getting older - i'm not that brash bar star from back in the day...

I guess - if you can be true to yourself regardless of what anybody thinks of you and how you should live your life (*according to them) ... would'nt that make you a happier whole person ?

I'm rambling I'm sorry ...

I look at your life and I think you have a great life... I look at mine and I'm happy with it too...

instead of envy, there's thankful-ness for all the good thats there.

Any way... give me ashout anytime you'd like to talk! I miss you and our chats!

take care..
hugs- maria

R Family of 4 said...

Hey Anna,

This was a very thought provoking post, I think every one struggles from time to time I know I certianly do, but I am glad you feel released and at peace.

Congrats on the pregnancy. I am glad to hear you are feeling better, I remember all to well those first few months.

Take care

The Chatty Housewife said...

Anna, you are brave for trying to tackle this issue and think it through out loud. I totally agree with Brooke's comment. We all struggle and the Lord understands that. I pray hard for you. ((hugs)) Your communion with your Saviour is most important. I pray you find the place He wants you to be.

bekaboo said...

Boy oh boy, did you echo so many of my sentiments. I really appreciate your putting yourself out there like that. This is such a hard subject to discuss, because it is so very multi-layered and complicated. But everything you said resonated with me. The last church I went to I had a little bit of a meltdown over someone refusing to share a Bible with me (I had asked earlier, and they had said okay, but apparently misunderstood me and then scooted far away when I tried to read with them). I know it's silly, but being by myself in a huge new church was scary enough as it was, and that just pushed me over the edge. I cried in the lobby for 15 minutes. During that time at least 10 people went by me, several of them ushers, and not one person came over to me to see how I was doing.

Later the pastor called to try to get me to attend. When I told him what had happened, he told me I needed to get over it if I wanted to have a walk with God. I'm sure that's true, but I haven't been back since.

Stacie said...

so sorry about Dave's Gramma...and I think so many people feel the way you do about life as we know it...and I admire your ability to write about it so openly. Thank you.

Tracey said...


Life is certainly a journey. Moments of clarity are beautiful and gut-wrenching. Evaluating your priorities and the facades that others put out can only help you on your own journey...

So sorry about your husband's grandma...

herM said...

hugs to you all for Dave's Grandma, sounds like a wonderful woman! as for bubbles and churches and the meaning of it all, thanks sooo much for putting it out there, I'm right there in the mud w/you :). struggling with what I want, expect, need, and get lost in the muddle. i crave being a part of a bigger thing again, but am too wary of it all for now. still sorting out the inside where it's just me and christ and god. hugs to you :)

ispeakbeanish said...

I can TOTALLY relate to your post. I too feel like I never quite fit in, that I can't be myself or I'll be looked at strangely but have longed for that church...that place where I can celebrate and grow my faith and be completely myself. For me, I think part of it has been my reluctance to let go.

We've just started visiting a church that feels different from any church I've been to before. I think we may have found that place. Now I just have to be brave enough to trust God's direction and be all the scabs and ugliness along with the joy and peace. Pray that I do so. I feel the blessings from doing so will be more than I can imagine.

I hope you find your place too.

homemom1001 said...

Just this weekend the subject of the sermon was Satan, and two days before that I read this great chapter in the book in my bathroom about the reality of the spiritual battle, then just today - before I read your post about this I read another person's blog with a list of what we get sucked into thinking that a Christian 'should be' - it is here Anyway, we are all in the same boat my beautiful friend, all in the same boat! True authenticity is hard and messy but good - and something to reach for! Authentic in the struggle, but also in the joy and the journey! Love ya girl!

BeachMama said...

My thoughts are with Dave at his time of loss. Grandma's are special and she sure sounds like she was a fabulous woman.

As for your spiritual journey, well I think we have talked about it before, that I feel so much the same as you about it all. The difference being that you continue to believe that there is that special place for you to go and worship and I have given up trying to find one a long time ago. If only we could meet in the middle and find that special place for both of us.

You are a wonderful person and your Christianity shines through. Whether you go to Church or 'meeting'(please explain that, I don't get it!) it won't matter because it only matters what is in your heart.

Bless you.

Anonymous said...

hey, finally caught up to your posts :) just wanted to tell you that i miss you and love ya!! Thanks for being real :)