Yesterday evening the girls and I took a walk on one of the local trails and took in a little nature and some deep conversation. It was some of the inspiration for the new header on this blog. It was nice, just the three of us in the woods without any interruption.
East Texas is quite beautiful in the spring, with areas that literally look carpeted with ferns, pitcher plants, and flowers. In a few months the heat will make the outdoors less than enjoyable so spring here is when nature really shines. We walked quietly for a while, noticing animal tracks and the carnivorous plants that are indigenous to the area. But what could be more natural than our conversation turning to God.
The girls were both telling me how they feel far away from God. It hurt to realize that I was part of indoctrinating my children into a system of religion and obligation. It is hard to undo. It is difficult to articulate things to them in a way that doesn't cause them to think as I once would have that I have completely abandoned my faith. It scares me a little bit to see them free to love and worship God outside the confines of what the religious world tells us it should look like, and encourage them to step out for what will be certain scrutiny by the "church". I was fumbling with the words, and at the same time so excited that we were touching on something that is so life changing that they were spilling out in rapid succession. The church would tell us if we don't feel close to God to "dig deeper", chase harder, press in, pray more, read the Bible more, sweat, toil and strive towards Him. Although some of these things may have value, they also seem much more like vain human effort. Might I even be so bold as to suggest without offending my readers, that the attempt to conjure up this feeling of "being close to God" closely resembles witchcraft. The truth is that we are never far from Father. He was there with us in the woods, and when we sat eating dinner, and when we were laughing until we cried last night teasing each other. He is there. Our lives are to be a celebration of Him in all we do.
One of the girls attended church with a friend this past week, and was telling me it is where she feels the most uncomfortable anymore is in church. The music is repetitive, and the teachings are hollow especially where the youth are concerned, and no matter where you go, it is all predictable, even across denominational lines. We talked about every conversation with anyone who finds out that you don't attend church coming to this awkward place where you know they have an agenda to fix you, get you "in church", etc. Much of this is done in misguided love, and I hold no resentment, but it is a clear indicator that so many have traded relationship for formula, and intimacy for corporate worship.
We talked about how the Bible wasn't originally split into chapters and verses, and how what was often meant as a living narrative saying "see how this person walked" is often taken and broken into itty bitty pieces and given to us as a "do A, B, C and reap D" plan. It can be used in such a way as to almost omit God altogether.
I was sharing with my girls, my testimony of how this is all deconstructing for me. I feel a lot like a butterfly just out of the cocoon, too aware of the shortness of my life to let fear keep me from flying. Even in my worst moments now, I know that I have not changed in His sight. I am not on the treadmill of guilt and obligation anymore. It set me up to feel deep down inside that I could never measure up. Even while I have come to these conclusions for my own life, I have still wanted my kids to remain where it seemed safe, just in case I was wrong. I am sorry that I haven't shared with them more through this journey that I have been internalizing so much. I know that it was Father who got us alone in the woods together yesterday, and I am so thankful He did. I can trust Him completely with their hearts as well as my own.