I hope everyone has had a wonderful Easter weekend, whether spent with family and friends, or just something quiet and relaxing. Our weekend was quiet, the way we spend a lot of weekends. We had company earlier this week. Al’s sister and her husband were here from New York. It was really nice seeing them. Then last night we had some friends over, and grilled. Today we went to church, which we do most Sundays. Back to work tomorrow.
Since this is Easter Sunday, I want to write about something that is on my mind quite a bit. It has to do with faith, religion, acceptance, and most of all, respect. I may make a few people mad with this post, but that is not my intention. I really want everyone to try to understand that we all have our own personal journeys in life.
As most of you know, I grew up in a very loving Christian family. My father was a minister. My grandparents were medical missionaries, my great grandfather was a minister. I went to church every single Sunday of my life up until the age of 18, besides a sick day here and there. There were times when I did not want to go. There were times when I fought my parents on it. After I grew up, I realized how fortunate I had been to have my parents as my guide for this journey. After I lived in different places than my parents, I tried to go to church, but I had a very hard time finding a place where I was comfortable. Nothing felt right without Mama and Daddy. I had long talks with them about this, and they were very supportive and understanding. Some people really frowned on me for this, and judged me. This was very hard for me. I hadn’t given anyone reason to be unkind to me. I wasn’t judging them, or how often they attended, or if they attended church. I was being judged for not going because I was a minister’s daughter. But I also could not force myself to attend a church where I felt uncomfortable.
I’ve always been very private about my faith. I have felt that it is between me and God. My faith isn’t really anyone else’s business. At my mother’s funeral, the minister said that Mama never discussed her faith with him. He said she didn’t have to…it was evident in everything she said and did. She truly lived her life as a very, very, kind, loving Christian. She devoted her life to my father, and their church work. She always taught Sunday school, and was great at it! She was patient, never saying anything bad about anyone. She treated everyone with respect. I know I will never live up to the person she was, but it’s something to strive for!
I don’t preach at anyone. I don’t quote Bible verses at anyone. I worked with a lady one time who drove me absolutely crazy because once she found out that my father was a minister, she tried to force me (daily) to discuss my faith, and my spiritual journey with her. She put a lot of pressure on me, and it got to the point where I dreaded going to work, and had to be in a small office space with her, telling me all about how I should be at church every week, and what my parents would think (they were both deceased by this time), and how would they feel about me being in a relationship with a black man……STOP RIGHT THERE! This “Christian” woman, who was so good at quoting the Bible not only disrespected my parents by trying to guess what they would say about me not going to church every week (she didn’t even know them), but she also disrespected Al. How Christian like was that? One Christian’s beliefs may not be the same as another Christian’s beliefs, and that’s okay, but don’t judge and assume that your beliefs are better than anyone else’s. Disrespecting anyone is not Christian like behavior.
I am happy to say that I have finally found a church home that I really enjoy. It’s the denomination that I grew up in (First Christian, Disciples of Christ). There isn’t one single person there who makes me uncomfortable, and the minister is great. It’s just a small church, and that’s one of the reasons I love it. Al has really grown to love it too. It’s full of really good people. We can’t get there every week, but we try. It’s about a 35 minute drive for us, and there are times we just don’t have the gas or money to go. Finances have been a struggle for us, and we both have to commute to our jobs. Sometimes we have to choose whether we get to church or work. Our budget doesn’t always allow us to do both! We are pretty sure that God knows this.
I thought I had gotten past caring whether or not people cared if I was at church or not. Well, recently, I had mentioned to an older lady that we were not able to get to church because we had a lot to get done at home. One of the things we had to do was clean up the yard, plant, pull weeds, mow, etc. We had been dealing with an extra amount of stress, and had been battling illness. We finally had a day to get it taken care of. I’ve always felt that the earth is a gift, and we are to take care of it, by keeping it beautiful. I always think of the hymns “For the Beauty of the Earth,” and “This Is My Father’s World” when I’m tending to the plants. There are times when I sit by the water, where it’s quiet, and feel closer to God there than I have felt in any sanctuary. Well, this woman looked at me in a very disapproving way, and reprimanded me, saying, “Sunday is the day of the Lord!” Yes, I know this, and I’m not a child. But I also know that the Lord understands our situation. Did this woman know that I stopped during my time working in the yard to give thanks for having a home where I can plant beautiful flowers? Did she know that I gave thanks for my health, and being able to see another spring? Did she know that I feel very strongly about taking care of this beautiful planet that so many don’t care about? Did she know I have a 45 minute commute to and from work each day, and Al commutes 30 minutes each way (she’s retired)? Did she know we are both teachers, and are just sometimes tired with the driving (and then to drive to church 30 minutes away)? Did she know that I’ve spent my entire life being judged about my behavior and the expectations people have had of me and my family? She may have known a couple of these things. I don’t really know if she did or not. What she did not know is what it feels like to be in my shoes. I don’t know what it is like to be in her shoes either. We all have our own journey.
The point is, no one has the right to judge whether anyone goes to church every week or not. No one has the right to judge how anyone else lives their life. We are all unique. That’s something that makes life beautiful. I know and love people of all walks of life and faiths. I know and love Christians, Jews, Muslims, Agnostics, Atheists, white people, black people, purple people, animals, plants, etc. I will never tell anyone they are wrong for their beliefs. I will never try to convince them that what they’ve been taught, or how they interpret things are wrong. I will always respect anyone who is kind, fair, considerate, and loving, and I don’t really care what their relationship is with God because it isn’t my business. It’s God’s business. It’s between them and God. If you are a Christian, then conduct yourself as such. Let it show in your actions and your words, through kindness and respect. Just because you make it to church every week, or you go to the “right” church, or you can quote a bunch of Bible verses, it doesn’t mean you are a better Christian than I am.
Be nice, people. Show each other respect. No one is better than anyone else because of their beliefs. What works for me may not work for you, and vice versa. That’s okay. Respect is the key.