Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Who I'd Be if I Weren't Who I Am

If I had married my first serious boyfriend, I would, obviously, be a very different person than I am today. Being married and having a family was the plan my parents had for me from birth. My mother was raised by a divorced mother who worked very hard putting food on the table for her children. Understandably, being able to stay at home and care for her children was my mother's idea of fulfillment. She was also a newly born-again Christian when I was born and there is nothing more fervent than a convert. The fundamentalist Christian church is all about every person having his and her own proper role and for a married woman, that role is to be the helpmeet of her husband, who is the head of the household. My mother met my father when she was 14 and they married when she was 19. She and my father wanted nothing more for me than to fall in love with and marry a good man who would cherish and care for me. And no, I wasn't a spoiled "princess" so don't even think that--they also taught me to work hard, especially caring for children and encouraged me to earn my own money. What they didn't particularly encourage was education. I mean, they wanted me to get good grades and succeed in school but they didn't really stress the idea of college or having a career. So, when I met a kind, good and mature young man when I was 16, they were supportive.

He was a great boyfriend and we had a very intense and committed relationship. We dated for a year and a half and I had every intention of marrying him but he matured more quickly than I and needed emotional support from me that I didn't understand and couldn't provide and he eventually broke up with me. I was devastated. I felt wed to him and his not wanting to be with me felt like divorce.

But here's the thing: Breaking up with me was the best thing he could ever have done for me. Not because of who he was but because of who I was. If we had continued on the track we were on, I very well may have become a rigid, controlling "church lady". You see, I knew God only as "THOU SHALT NOT". My only understanding of God came to me through my church and my parents. Other than a few fleeting moments when I was a child, I did not know God directly; I only knew God through the intermediaries of church service, Sunday school, youth group & etc. I did not know God experientially. So, what I knew of God was completely informed by rules and regulations about sinfulness and righteousness.

(I own that same outfit.
Where did I get it?
Could it be...


Because I didn't know God as an immediate Presence, I could not know God's loving guidance. All I could know was what I was told was right and wrong. I did not know to be quiet and listen for that Still, Small Voice. I could not know God as my soul's Intimate Guide to lead me on my right path so I prayed empty words and followed rote teachings and believed that what I was taught was sinful would truly damn me unless I prayed for forgiveness even though, and this is so important, even though I knew my "heart" (my intuition, that Voice) oftentimes said something very different.

Let's talk sex, as an example. There have been times in my life when that Still, Small Voice was very clearly telling me that it was not a wise decision to become physically intimate with a particular person, in a particular situation or at a particular stage in my life. But, there have been other times when the rightness of a relationship was communicated lovingly to me, regardless of the legal status nor sanctioning by church or community of the relationship. In other words--sometimes it was right and sometimes it was wrong and this was often pretty clearly communicated to me by God, even if I didn't understand at the time that it was God "talking".

This leads me to sin. Before I came to know That of God within, all I knew of sin was that there were things, actions, even thoughts, that were bad, wrong and sinful and required my acceptance of the intermediary act of Jesus' death on the cross and subsequent resurrection to reconcile my full-of-sin self with God. What I understand now is that sin is whatever I allow to interfere with my right relationship with God. So, using the example of sex again, if an intimate relationship with another person nourishes me, helps me realize my potential and helps me grow in a way pleasing to God, it is good. But, if I am in a relationship with another person--and this can even be with a partner within the bonds of "holy matrimony"--and I or the relationship is dysfunctional and unhealthy to the point at which the expression of sexuality becomes disruptive to my connection with God, then I would say it's a sin.

I would also say that there may be times when an action is not a sin but the guilt feelings about that action can be the sin. Sometimes the message given about things, ideas, acts is that they are intrinsically bad, wrong and sinful. Again, they may be and they may not be, depending on the intention we bring to them. But, because we've been given the "rule" that they're bad, wrong and sinful, when we do them, we feel tremendous guilt for them. Sometimes, I think, the guilt about the act is the sin, not the act itself, because the guilt is what separates us from God.

I've read that the word sin comes from an archaic archery term meaning "to fall short of the target". I've never been able to confirm this but I like the definition, anyway. That's how I view sin: To not live up to what you know to be the right thing in your relationship with God, or as olden day Quakers would put it, "not living up to the Light thou hast".

I am so grateful that I was dumped by my wonderful first boyfriend. If I hadn't been, if we would have proceeded with our relationship as planned and gotten married and the whole picket fence thing, I think I maybe would be living my life according to other people's ideas, understandings and interpretations of God. I think I maybe would have become a stickler for the "Thou Shall Not" way of thinking that closes us off from one another and keeps us in fear of doing the wrong thing and being judged for it. Having my expectations shattered and discovering who I was outside of those expectations was the gift that allowed me to not only learn myself but, most importantly, allowed me to discover God for myself. I now know God to be a Loving Parent who is disappointed when we fail to live up to our potential but who always forgives and rejoices when we begin again. I now know that God is the Love that Unites us.


Emaline said...

Wow! I'm so glad I stumbled across your blog. It seems like we have a lot in common. I too am a liberal Christian homeschooler in Nashville. However, 2 of my kids go to "real school" (their words, not mine...) and I have to go pick them up. Can't wait to read more!


Friendly Mama said...

We homeschooled up until last year but then I took a full-time job and my kids went to school. My middle son is at Nashville School for the Arts and my youngest is at East Academy.
How about you? Tell me about yourself. If you want, you can email me privately, if you don't want your info out for the world to see (not that there are very many readers of my blog):

I look forward to learning more about you!
Mary Linda