The other week while gardening at my CSA "work share" another volunteer asked me, "Are you a christian?" And I stuttered and stammered. I didn't know what to say. When I was younger, this was once a question that I would have answered immediately, without a moments pause. But, back then, I was idealistic and somewhat foolish about a whole lot of things. Finally, I just sighed and told her I was from the Christian tradition. That I grew up that way, and I was just trying to piece it all together. At one time, I was ready to walk away from the idea of faith entirely. But now, I am at place where I've decided that I do believe there is a higher power at work. That we aren't alone. And, I am holding to the notion that God is love. True love. Unconditional care for humanity. Love above hatred, intolerance and judgment. Which, I sums up my feelings. Side note, this girl wasn't asking in a 'weirdo christian trying to evangelize me' kind of way. It was in the context of a genuine conversation about faith. If she'd been trying to 'save me' I would have answered yes. People pushing Jesus are relentless. And, not in a good way. Even if you profess to believe but don't adhere to their own specific belief system, they will gang up on you. Jason once went around with a women from a large church (that shall be unnamed but is really close to our house) who stopped by our house on a Sunday morning to chastise us for doing lawn work. True story. She felt that there was no way we could be holy if we were raking leaves and not attending her church (we were going to First Cumberland Presbyterian at the time which also didn't set well with her). People, being pushy and condescending is a turn off. Maybe it is those people that cause me so much discomfort is using the word 'christian.' And Cleveland, TN might just be home base for religious crazy. We have it in spades.
Anyway, back to the point of all this. Life has led me on a winding, bizarre (at times extreme) walk as to relates to faith. Truthfully, there was a time that I was dogged and relentless about my faith. When I was in my late teens, I judged people and pushed what I thought was the only life style choice onto other people. Then I started the process of growing up. I traveled the world. I saw poverity and abuse of power. I went to a lot of churches. I met kind and wonderful people. But I also encounted people who used churches to push there political or social agenda. And over and over again, I saw people try to force others into little black and white boxes. Good and evil. Everything boiled down to a simplisic yes or no. And, the more I lived, the more I realized that there is way more gray in the world. Good people make terrible choice and do awful things. And, bad people can do kind and good things. Love, marriage, sexuality, lifestyle, theology, parenting, faith, healing . . . . none of it is black and white. The church I grew up in (conservative evangelical) pushed the agenda that there was a right way and a wrong way. No room for uncertainty. I just feel like faith, for me is more fluid. More give and take. I am still on my journey, but I feel like I am rediscovering something beautiful. For me, faith in God is becoming more about grace, love and forgiveness. Our journey has led us to a wonderful little community of people in our little town. The little church we've been going to is unconventional to say the least, but it is just what we need. A group of people outside of the box. A community where it is okay to struggle and question. A place without a set theology or agenda. It is full of thinkers, artist and people that march to their own drum. Basically, we fit in perfect at the Exchange. It has caused us to do so much soul searching and inevitably revisit and revaluate the faith that I almost decided to leave behind.
I've eluded to it before, but this has been a turbulent year for my family. We've faced difficulties I never imagined we would confront. Through, quite possibly, the worst time in my life there has been this slight nudging back towards faith. It has been in small voices and little signs that has caused us to reexamine the role of spirituality in our lives. And people, it just seems like as of late, my path is littered with sincere, genuine and loving people. People who don't just embrace Jesus but also embrace love. Love in an open and caring way that is different than I grew up with. I'm not tossing aside my heritage or casting aside people who hold to a more traditional form of Christianity. I am just finding my place. A place of peace. A place of love. A place where I can talk to my boys about Christianity without negativity and cynicism. A place of beauty. There is a song they sing at church called "Beautiful Things." It is an older song. It is funny because Jason saw the band on NPR's Tiny Desk Top Concert years ago but didn't really listen to them because they were "christian." Did I mention we were a bit jaded? Henry loved this song. He will often just roam around the house singing "you make beautiful things out of us." Just that line. Over and over. While it does get a little old, it is mostly sweet. We've been talking a lot about that idea. That God is making something beautiful out of our family. Something beautiful out of two broken individuals. Since this mantra has been floating around in our heads and our ears thanks to Henry, I decided to write it out. I made a canvas with the words to hang in our home. As a reminder, that we are beautiful. That Christianity doesn't have to be a negative word. That faith can be a source of joy and companionship not just a list of do's and don'ts riddled with harsh judgments. There is something more. Something Beautiful.
I sealed this paining using a satin varnish. Which made a huge difference in the overall look of the finished work. The only issue is I should have photographed it before I put the varnish on it. It made it almost impossible to get a good photo without the glare. Lesson learned.
It is hanging on my gallery wall, which is slowly coming together. I love having this in a centeral place in our home.
We put in next to a photo of us on our wedding day. A little reminder of the beauty in us.