Amanda and I relocated to Seattle from Kansas City a little over a year ago. Throughout our relationship we've talked about spirituality versus religion. As two very liberal thinkers, the confines of religion can be a difficult concept to fully grasp, but the idea is something we've continued to pursue. Our goal is to find a place where we feel accepted, connected, and inspired.
Finding a congregation can sometimes feel like going on a blind date; walking into an unknown place full of strangers, sitting down, trying to feel a connection...to the people, to the person speaking (indirectly) to you at the front, the words being spoken, the environment. And then when you leave, being honest with yourself about whether you want to go on another date, or continue to see them.
I'll be perfectly honest -- it's intimidating. So intimidating that here's a confession: sometimes we've made it all the way to the parking lot and just couldn't muster the will to go inside.Growing up, I was raised in the Mormon (LDS) church. NO, my parents weren't polygamists and my life reflected nothing similar to what you may have seen on Big Love or Sister Wives.
It's a fair question because there's so much misinformation about different sects of Mormonism...but the answer is no.I've always been grateful for my upbringing -- something I can say without hesitation. I went to church every Sunday with my family where we usually took up a pew in the back. Just sitting in church, I can remember how close I felt to them. Maybe that's part of what I loved about it. It was the one day where no matter, we stopped what we were doing and did something as a family. People would even comment that we looked like a train of people with interlocked arms around the other. If someone crossed their legs and shifted the other way, the train of arms shifted too.
I grew up in the Blue Springs First Ward and stayed in the same congregation until I moved out of state at 17. Part of me will always consider that to be home -- the people, the experience, it has a special place in my heart. It's hard to explain or put it into words but it was different. We were a tight knit community and saw each other through toddler years, awkward kid phases, teen angst. That's the good stuff.
For Mormons, going to church on Sunday is a 3 hour commitment (sometimes longer). 1 hour = Sacrament, 1 hour = Sunday School, 1 hour = dividing into Women/Men groups. I also spent much of my adolescence in seminary aka bible study before school. That's a large portion of your upbringing devoted to building a relationship with God and diving into your belief system. My dream growing up was to serve a mission for my church. My brother served in the Dominican Republic, my sister at Temple Square in Salt Lake City, and I wanted to be just like them. But when I was in high school, I was beginning to discover / admit things about myself. I knew that the one way my church wouldn't embrace me (being gay) would ultimately mean that I couldn't serve a mission for them. It took me years to figure out how to deal with that disappointment. How could being gay (my sexual preference) have such a negative effect on the good that I wanted to do (devote 2 years of my life to my relationship with God)?
Being a religious person eventually morphed into being a spiritual one, building a relationship with God outside of the walls that I was once comfortable sitting within. Looking back, I'm not sure if it was that I truly didn't belong to the places that I tried on, or if I felt that way because I carried a different truth and was fearful of how others would react to it. I hid the truth about who I was for roughly 30 years. The pronoun game consumed how I talked about my life. I was the person who was more willing to talk about what everyone else was doing, which in some ways made me a good friend. But I did my friends and family a disservice because I was only willing to meet them part way.
I'm now 100% open about my life because I love every single part of it and who I am.I'm not ashamed of who I love and I no longer feel like I have to hide it; quite the opposite, actually. It's something I celebrate because I'm one of those crazy people who actually found the girl I always dreamt about. Now that I have her, I have an overwhelming desire to continue to expand my beliefs on love and life. She challenges me to be a better person, in every way.
Perhaps this is the reason that finding that connection -- whether it's spiritual or religious -- has become even more important to me. I'm not sure that I'll find what I'm looking for through organized religion, but it's exciting to share that journey together.
It's about taking a moment to stop the chaos that surrounds daily life and breathe in the reality that we're just tiny pieces in a great big world trying to make the most of our time here.