I believe in God, but I’m not so sure that I believe in religion.
Hear me out, here.
I’m not against religion, in fact, I had a strong religious upbringing which I often credit for the way that I’ve “turned out” (who are we kidding, I’m still such a work in progress). I spent my weekends at youth group and my week nights at religious education classes and I don’t resent that for a second, I’m just not sure that a church is what I need anymore to quantify my relationship with God.
I know my God, and I know the type of person that God teaches me to be: loving, inclusive, patient, peaceful, forgiving, understanding, and accepting. My God is happy to listen to me no matter where I am- whether that is in a building with other people doing the same or alone in the woods or in my car. He doesn’t require donations and doesn’t guilt me into doing good deeds. My God expects me to act as a good person of my own accord and is there for me when I fall short of that. My God doesn’t judge me, and doesn’t condone me judging others. The God I know is like an old friend who, no matter how much time we spend apart, catching up feels like we’ve never missed a beat.
This is the God that my family needs in our lives.
Our religious identity as a family (or lack-thereof) is something that we talk about often. Now that we are going to be responsible for raising a second tiny human into a respectful, adult member of society, it is something that I find myself thinking on even more often.
I have had a lot of amazing, well-meaning people who have shared concerns about the fact that my child isn’t following the traditions of their church. Worries that, for example, “his (tiny, innocent, perfect) soul won’t make it into heaven” if we don’t get him baptized, and it is well-meaning comments like these that, unfortunately, have the opposite of their intended effect on me.
I want my children to know God, but not THAT judgmental God. I want them to know the one that I know. Better than that, I want them to know that God in whatever new ways that they come to know him as they grow and learn to be good people in this crazy, scary world.
So it sounds like I know where I stand, right? I usually feel that way too, but then I hear the voice of younger me say “Without a religion- a church, a group, a class- how do you get your Children acquainted with that God?”
My answer, for now at least, is this: lead by example and surround my children with a community of like-minded people. I did not turn out a decent human because I sang praise songs in a group of other teens once a week, I turned out a good person because the people that I spent my time with and the people that I loved were good people who, at the very least, respected my beliefs.
This decision in my family’s life isn’t set in stone, but for now I’m finding peace in knowing this: my husband and I are good people. Our family members are good people. The friends we surround ourselves with are good people. We are all loving, inclusive, patient, peaceful, forgiving, understanding, and accepting people and, by default, we are showing our kids the type of people that they should aspire to be.
I think our kids might end up alright.