Someone close to me just joined a church.
A different church than they grew up in.
A different church than I belong to.
A different church that…
is really REALLY different than other churches.
And I was there for their baptism into this church. A service just for them with some of the leaders of the local ‘group’. Several well-dressed young, self-important, men. A couple of their friends and myself and a couple other family members, and I in the front row.
I listened as several people spoke. Shared scripture. Several scriptures that I did not know from books with strange names.
I sat politely as they prayed using King-James-esque language.
It was all so…
I knew most of the people there, at least as passing acquaintances, as parents of kids who went to the same school as my kids. A couple teachers, too.
And they all shook my hand. They all patted me on the back. They all told me they were proud of loved one. I nodded and said thank you in a way that seemed really awkward…
And it was a really nice service. Even if I felt insanely out of place.
And I told my loved one I was happy for them. That I support their choice. That I hoped this was helping them find their place in the world.
And we went home.
And now I’m dealing with my feelings. Feelings that really have no effect on my loved one’s choices and spirituality. Feelings that don’t honestly mean anything in the overall scheme of things.
But I feel I need to express them.
I have sought solitude and silence to pray. Pray for my loved one. Pray for the people at this different church. For myself and other family members as we witness the direction this person is going on.
And here I am.
I am happy this person feels they are able to choose their own direction. I am happy they have found accepting people after the circumstances of their previous church.
But I’m also hurt.
I don’t know what.
My own spiritual path is not straight. It twists and turns through experiences with church camps and John Wesley and Jesus Freaks (the self-titled movement as it existed in the 80s), through a mountain of cassette tapes by Petra and Keith Green, through experiences with speaking in tongues and church councils and girls and The Stone/Campbell Restoration movement…
And it’s still stretching before me.
And a lot of my feelings are based on teachings of what churches are ‘right’ and what churches are ‘wrong’. At times, teachers have told me that only a very few are ‘right’, one even told me only one ‘denomination’ was ‘right. Others were more accepting and taught ‘most’ were ‘right’. But there were always some that were ‘wrong’.
And the different church my loved one joined is one that I was always taught was ‘wrong’.
And it bugs me.
It irritates me.
It angers me.
Not that they joined this different church. Not even that it’s ‘wrong’.
It buts/irritates/angers me that I FEEL THE WAY I DO.
In all the twists and turns in my spiritual path, I’ve come to be much more (but not quite entirely – not yet anyway) “universalist” than I used to be when I was taught which churches were ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. I have built this online community of thousands and I know that among the more than 5000 people here there are more than 5000 different belief systems, more than 5000 different spiritual paths some that are just starting, others that have stretched on for decades.
If I welcome that many people, each on their own different path, into my little corner of the web, then why am I so squeamish about ‘different’?
Why do I feel like my loved one might be on the WRONG path?
Who am I to dictate what is ‘wrong’?
And why is it ‘wrong’? Just because it’s different?
Really REALLY different?
I’m trying to avoid pointing fingers. I’m trying to not just scream “THIS IS ALL WRONG! YOUR TEACHINGS ARE FALSE! YOU’RE MISLEADING PEOPLE INTO HELL!” (and I’m not even sure I believe in an actual ‘Hell’. )
Especially since the people I know in this ‘different’ church are among the friendliest, nicest, warmest, most loving, most generous people I have ever met. None have ever ‘pushed’ their belief on me. Indeed, I can’t think of a single one that has ever even brought up their belief to me (apart from a few strangers that came knocking on my door).
But I still can’t get past ‘different’.
I can’t get past the….. I don’t even know what to call it.
And I don’t blame my loved one. I don’t blame their new church family. I don’t blame the teachers that taught him.
I blame myself.
My feelings are mine. They may be legitimate feelings. They may be “dude, you’re totally over-reacting feelings”.
But they’re my feelings. And I hate them.
And I have no idea what to do with them.