Sunday, December 5, 2010

What do you believe in?

A few years ago, my oldest asked what we believed in. This is one of those questions for the non-committal-not-religious mom that causes paralysis. It’s similar to the paralysis that I assume occurs with the ‘Where do babies come from?’ for the sexually-repressed-told-she’d-catch-on-fire-for-masturbating mom. However, it’s impossible to answer a question of faith with a stork philosophy. It’s just not that easy.

What do we believe in? This kind of thing had come up once before when she was pretty small. Her sister was an infant. We were in the car and she started talking about what she’d heard about the second coming. I shared my thoughts about my belief in the unlikelihood of this occurrence. We discussed it for a moment and then I was able to steer the conversation to the question of whether she’d like to listen to Willie Nelson or Bob Dylan for the rest of the drive. She chose Willie and we moved on.

She was in first grade at public school when the question of religion came back into play. Her friends had asked her what church she went to. I could tell she needed to have an answer. We decided to attend the Unitarian Church a couple of times. I have several friends that are active there. It’s diverse and focused on social justice. They have an arts program. They meditate. However, laziness set in and we eventually opted to sleep in on Sunday mornings. Our church tended to be the Saturday night potluck or late night movie church of hanging out. But going to the Unitarian Church those few times gave her an answer to give her peers and that’s all she needed at the time. This same question of belief has continued to pop up here and there. My youngest girl doesn’t really ask but she listens when discussion leads that way. I’ve tried to answer the question of religious faith to the best of my ability and allow both my girls to have an open door to make their own choices about God. I look for ways to be both open minded and socially acceptable. One way I found was to latch on to a line off a tolerance commercial and regurgitate “I believe in all journeys to God”. This is mostly true but I also believe that some folks may not have a journey that leads to God. That is an unpopular sentiment in the south.

In looking for a path to communicate faith to my children without leading them into either religion or atheism, I’ve had to examine my own belief system. When asked what we believed in, I didn’t really have an answer I could give myself much less my daughters. I believe in the unknown and that leads toward faith but I also believe in evolution and that leads toward science. I find myself ultimately believing in people and their ability to do good things. I tend to admire the person who is overcoming an obstacle or showing an ability to affect positive change. I don’t give that credit to God. I leave that to the person who is doing the hard work. Their strength may be coming from God but I think that’s their business. As far as I’m concerned, I like to throw a high five to the person breaking the sweat. They can throw their high fives wherever they want. I’m open to the possibility of that strength coming from God. Iris DeMent has a great song called “Let the Mystery Be”. That song pretty much sums it up for me. Look her up on the internet. She’s awesome.

As for my own faith-based activities: I fall into prayer when I need or want something. I pray when I don’t know what else to do. My prayer isn’t a request to God specifically but a general request to the universe. My request almost always includes clarity. “I am ready for clarity. I am ready for clarity. I am ready for clarity.” It’s basically an admission of I don’t know what the hell I’m doing most of the time. “I’ve got a little room for clarity, Universe. Share that clarity.” There have been times when the prayer has been full of greed. Such as but not limited to “I’d really like an acting job” or “Boyfriend, now, please.” One time when I was focused on the mantra “Game-changing acting job”, I got three auditions in one week. Two of them were for television and one for film. I didn’t get callbacks for any of those but I went to bed every night and woke up every morning for about two weeks saying “Game-changing acting job”. I suppose I should have continued the prayer but at the end of a day of single motherhood and work and house and yard, it just sort of dropped off. When my dogs were lost, I prayed for their return. That was a pretty teary-eyed and desperate prayer. Facebook actually helped with locating our dogs. I thanked Facebook and our specific Facebook friend, gladly for that blessing.

Someone recently told me that I am a clearing for hope. It was suggested that I can find myself living in hope for things instead of living in the action of things. This may be true but I rarely feel inactive. I may sit in hope, like a period of gestation. I don’t necessarily see this as a negative aspect about my personality although it could be if I sat still long enough. I think that hope or faith is active in and of itself. It allows just a fragment of mystery to exist. It allows the belief that everything is going to turn out just as it’s supposed to and that it will be good.

This hope affords me the luxury of answering my children when they ask what we believe in. I tell them that we all have to decide what we believe in as we move through our lives. As for me, I now answer, without a doubt, “I believe in you. I believe in your ability to do great things. I believe in your ability to be kind and loving. I believe in you.” That’s what I believe in. Who knows what they will find as they grow up but I have absolute faith it will be good.