I have been thinking that perhaps I should change my perspective on God.
I was baptised at the grand old age of 30. Having had a wavering and formless faith for many years I somehow found myself in Church on a more than regular basis. I had started attending my local Church (on the recommendation of my parents) and the people seemed friendly and welcoming. I was was invited to attend an Alpha course – so I went along to all of the sessions. I especially remember the Holy Spirit day – a day of peace of serenity somewhere in Essex. Afterwards I took the opportunity to visit the The Church of St Andrew, Greensted-juxta-Ongar. The Church was doing baptisms that autumn and they asked me if I was interested. I was. I got baptised. I still had many significant questions and doubts but I lived in hope and I was encouraged to just ‘go for it!’
I am not sure when it all began to change.
10 years on, I have not set foot in a Church except for the obligatory social ceremonies. It seemed my faith fell as quickly as it rose.
Part of me think that perhaps that I was disappointed in life – mine and the whole world. I wondered what type of God would allow all these terrible things to happen. I wondered this in the context of other people being so sure that God would answer their prayers. I wondered this in the context of other people being so sure that God was not only listening to them but also speaking personally to them and guiding their thoughts and actions. I wondered this in the context of other people proclaiming the blessing that God has bestowed upon their life yet not seemly noticing the tornado that was blighting the lives of other people around them.
I understood that God ‘works in mysterious ways’. I understood that it was all about the relationship and dependence on God. I understood it was all about being vulnerable and open. But some parts of my mind just did not get it or would not accept it. I knew I should not judge God or the religion on the actions of the flawed people around me but I am human and I did.
It was not all bad. When I was part of the Church – I volunteered a lot. Sunday school, homeless kitchen, supporting various Church run courses and visiting people in hospital. It was a great experience. Taught me a lot about myself. Taught me about respecting other people’s beliefs and values. Taught me the importance of just being myself and letting things flow naturally. It humbled me to a certain extent.
Then I gradually pulled out of all these activities. Mostly due to exhaustion. But also a feeling that I was not feeling the levels of faith that I had felt when I started the journey.
The last time I went to Church – I had spent the afternoon in a study group discussing the concept of heaven and hell. I was amazed at the passion with which I disagreed with the speakers. I was uncomfortable with the allegories that they used (but maybe I was being oversensitive). Despite my misgivings I stayed with the group and went onto the early evening Church service with them. I can barely remember what triggered it (perhaps my life circumstances at the time) but pretty soon I was crying my eyes out. A gentle quiet sobbing so as not to disturb the faith filled congregation. I must have been a real pro! Not one of the people that I sat with , the ones I had in the hour before prayed with, paid any attention to or acknowledged my distress.
I was quite shocked and disappointed. I never went back to that Church or any other since.
It was of course not just that single incident but a build up of a catalogue of inconsistencies that I had been aware of but had brushed aside ‘because nobody is perfect’ and ‘we are only human’.
However the gnawing has returned. The little voice saying “think again Bunmi!”
And what is that voice telling me?
That perhaps it was not what God could do for me. But what could I do knowing God. Perhaps it was about how should I value myself knowing the value He has for me. How should I value others knowing the value He has for others. Maybe I should be looking outwards and not inwards. Maybe I should stop talking to other people about my faith because it is as personal to me as my DNA and cannot compared with other people’s experiences. My atheist contacts laugh and shake their heads at my ‘childish and magical’ beliefs. They tell me religion is for idiots. My religious contacts do not seem to understand my doubt and wavering but persist in pushing the ‘message’ and praying for me. The thing is, they act how they believe – they are consistent and I should not blame them for this. It is me that is floundering and in two minds.
I am still not sure where to go with this. I have thoughts of picking up the Bible again or returning to a Church service. However I know I will just get annoyed with what I hear and see and my questioning will continue relentlessly. And at other times I am not quite sure what the fuss is about. Is it that I want to belong to some kind of club? Do I want a solid identity that I can hold onto?
In the meantime I listen with interest.