Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Simple Faith

Do you ever feel like you are a hypocrite, despite your best intentions to be your authentic self, both inwardly and outwardly?

I do. I want to cut myself a break, and it's not like I'm crying about it or self-loathing or anything. But, I wish I could change something about myself, and have wanted to change this for a while, but up until now I've either been too busy or too lazy or maybe - I hope not but maybe - I haven't changed because it's just not who I am. Let me give you a little background...

My husband is a pastor. We belong to a pretty conservative branch of the Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) and I'm good with that. We are on the same page about our beliefs (with a few small exceptions that aren't exactly deal breakers). We spend a lot of time talking to our kids about Jesus, the bible, and our Church's beliefs. We pray the common table prayer before every. single. meal. At night, we pray the Lord's Prayer with our children. Almost every aspect of everything we teach our kids comes from a Biblical perspective, and nearly every decision we make as parents is guided by how the Bible instructs us to be Godly parents.

And yet, my faith life is very... hmm, I'm trying to think of the right word... absent. weak. pathetic. I mean, I'm following all the rules - go to church every week, pray before meals, etc. But deep in my heart, my desire to have a deep fulfilling faith life doesn't exactly match up with where I'm putting my priorities.

Know how often I read the bible? Pretty close to never. How often do I pray? Very sporadically. Usually, it's when I'm driving or in the shower (okay, as a side note, I do shower more often than "sporadically" but I just don't pray EVERY time I shower. Just wanted to clear that up.) But as most days go, every minute of every waking hour is filled with, "Mommy! See me! I wooking at you!!" and "Mom, what does 'efficient' mean?" and "Mom, listen to this joke that my friend at school told me!" When I'm not answering questions or pushing kids on the swing or folding clothes, I'm cooking meals or writing a grocery list or paying bills. And, when I'm not doing THOSE things, I wind down by getting online, reading blogs and twittering and writing my own posts. And, in my SPARE TIME, I like to take photos and scrapbook and sew. Plus, there's always the obligations of church committees, community volunteering, school activities, and spending time with my spouse to strengthen our marriage. So, time for God and all He has to offer me just... falls by the wayside.

My faith has meant so much to me in the past, and when I actually try to put some effort into it I have been filled beyond measure with comfort. Maybe it's God's hand in all of it, maybe it's a changed perspective about what's important and what's not, maybe it just follows that when I'm organized enough to put priority on Bible Study and prayer that I'm also organized in the other areas of my life. But, whatever the reason is - and I'm not going to try to guess because I'm comfortable not knowing God's specific plans for me, I think He's got it covered - when I am right with God and with my faith, the rest of my life falls into place. I know that my faith life has been through rehab and back and right now I'm about due for an intervention.

So, if I could change one thing about my life, it would be my faith. I want it to be stronger. I want it to be alive and vibrant and infectious. I want to be a role model to my children and a resource for other Christian women. I want my desire to know God's Word to become reality. It's not that I want to be a pillar of the church community. I don't need that pressure nor do I feel that I'm in a race to get to heaven or anything. And, church doesn't equal faith; a supportive church community can enhance a person's faith but a toxic group of misled fanatics can poison a person's faith too. I'm not talking about anything related to an organized religion. I just want to feel the peace, the comfort, the security that I've never felt from anything else like I have from being immersed in my faith. For a reason I can't quite put my finger on, I've allowed all the daily drudgery of life to become my focus and I've let my faith take a back seat. The squeaky wheels in my life are getting the grease, as the saying goes.

Although my husband is a pastor, we have a pretty regular, typical family. We have an occasional beer and we listen to NPR and we sometimes even watch rated R movies. (Do you ever think about what your pastor does in his spare time? It's not like we sit around and have a hymn-sing just for fun.) But I wonder if, by letting the secular things of the world creep in, little by little, they are spoiling my faith. It's not that the things of this world are necessarily bad; well, some things are but beer and NPR are definitely not among them. What I mean is that, when I inch myself away from things that keep me connected to God, it's easy to keep going in that direction. It's more relaxing to sleep in than to rise early and read the Bible. It's more fun to spend $100 on a new outfit than to put $100 in the offering plate. It simply isn't PC to recommend a Christan book for the neighborhood mom's group book club. And so, little by little, I show my faith a little less. I talk about my faith a little less. I put my faith on the backburner a little more. All of a sudden, when I wasn't looking, my bible has dust on it, or it's covered by a stack of People magazines and Pokemon cards. The dishes have to be done SOON. A diaper needs to be changed NOW. Kids have to be driven to camp RIGHT AWAY. We need eggs, milk, and chicken nuggets, so it's off to the store again! And time for my faith just vanishes into thin air.

But where does it go? It's there somewhere. I don't think it's really gone. I think I am choosing one thing over another. I am choosing that I'd rather go without God's Word than go without eggs. I'd rather read a blog than read a devotion. I'd rather buy another pair of sandals than give that money to charity. It's not black and white, people. It's not like I have to choose between the sandals and charity, between eggs and God's Word. But for such a long time, I haven't chosen both, or even chosen just God. I've gotten all to comfortable that my faith is secondary to anything else more important, more immediate, more interesting. Like I said, I feel kinda... absent. Weak. Pathetic.

I guess once I get my shit together this will be the next thing I tackle.

This post was written for MamaKat's Writer's Workshop. The prompt was:
1.) What would you change about your life if you could?

Texan Mama


Pumpkin Delight said...

I loved reading this! I am not a religious person, but it was nice to read about how you have made religion work in your life. You're not doing it wrong, you're doing what works for you. I commend you for making your kids and family your top priority. I also loved that you said "shit" in your post about religion. :)

stopped by from mama kat's

Bridgett said...

I like this--not that you're feeling this way but that you put it into these words. It is so easy to let life and all its mundane details (what efficient means: that is my daughter Sophia in a nutshell, vocabulary quiz constantly) get in the way of what we feel called to do to connect better with God. My only thought? If I spend too much time ignoring those questions and dinner and carpool and such (I know flaky "spiritual" moms like this), I'm going to miss out on the labora part of ora et labora (prayer and work). Both are important in different ways. Right now your job (and mine) is very clear--I would love to go on a three day retreat or get on the committee to plan our parish mission, but it isn't my time to do that. It will be again.

As someone who has nearly lost faith and had it given back to me, I know that I need to tend it, though. It's a tough balance. Indeed.

parentingBYdummies said...

I struggle with my faith daily. And, my religion. Sort of a byproduct of marrying someone with a different one. But, the part about pastors watching rated R movies was sort of funny to me. Because I never thought about it. But when you say it...HA! Cool to know.

Maggie S said...

WOW. I just can't tell you how much this spoke to me. It is beyond the usual. Deep. Thanks.

Kerri said...

Sounds to me like you know exactly why you do the things you do right now and how you'll fix things when you're ready.
We can't be every where we need to be all the time. You are focusing on what needs to be focused on.
I enjoyed this post because of your honesty and the way you voiced the inner struggle many us of parents face every day.
Some things just come first.....

Amanda said...

I've been feeling like this lately! Although I don't have a family of my own yet, I've felt like my faith is lacking lately. After being raised Catholic and now dating someone who is Methodist and trying new churches together I can't find a place where I feel I fit in and feel a true connection with God. I want people to know that I have faith but its always been hard for me to express that!

Thank you for posting this, it really spoke to me!

OHmommy said...

LOL. I have a hard time imagining my pastor drinking a beer and watching a rated R movie.

I too feel like you. It happened right about the time when I had children. Which it should really be the opposite when you think about it. I though it was just me. Thanks for this.

Gigi said...

Wow. Really deep and honest look at where you are right now. Praying in the car or the shower totally counts - because then you are (usually) alone and can concentrate. Remember that life runs in cycles - you will get back to that part again, but right now you are doing God's work in raising your children.

Uyen said...

great post! I'm not a religious person because my family was never that religious but even without it, I can definitely see your point of view. However, just because you don't get up early to read the bible does not mean you don't have faith. You just have different priorities right now... but life dynamics will shift soon and you will find your way back there.

Jennifer said...

Wow. Seriously. I'm right there with you. I feel the tug of the "world" and it is just so much easier to give in than to do the things that I know I need to do. We have been living in our town for FIVE years and have still not found a church to go to. Baby Girl asks me all the time when we are going to go and I push it to the back of my mind. I'll think that instead of refreshing Facebook or Twitter every five minutes I really should go FIND my Bible and read it. I used to pray every night before I went to sleep and now I just crash and hope for the oblivion to take me under. I'm not sure what has happened to me, but I don't like it and I'm waiting for the day that God gives me the slap on the wrist and brings me back into line. We both know it's coming.

Sturgmom said...

"I want to be a role model to my children and a resource for other Christian women." LOVED this quote. I want this too!

I definitely think that "abiding" in God's word, even when we don't feel like it, goes a long way in causing us to worship more fully with our lives. Not that I'm perfect at this BY A LONG SHOT!

Also, I think it's important to see all the aspects of your life as prt of your faith. Answering your children's endless questions with patience and love? Faith. Changing a dirty diaper? Faith. I think we sometimes get into a trap of compartmentalizing our lives and think that faith is only when we are reading the Bible or praying or doing some other "spiritual" task. But I think that being all of our acts can be acts of worship and faith.

I certainly have NOT got this down pat. I struggle I yell more often than I'd like. I'm too lazy in many regards. SO don't think you're alone!

Karen said...

I love your honesty. You are at a time in your life when your priorities are your family and especially your children. Things will change and you will change too. I feel guilty because I am an empty nester and still don't take time to do a daily devotional study. I bought the book. Does that count?

Melani said...

I love your post. It is so real and down to earth.

I am a Lutheran and go to church most Sundays, although my husband is not a Pastor...he is in fact Catholic, but he supports me in my faith and our children have been baptized Lutheran, so it's all good.

I can relate to you on so many levels. We say prayers at night and I try to remember to say a prayer at dinnertime, but not always. I pray every morning, while I am getting ready for my day (I babysit 2 children in my home,so I have to be up and dressed by a certain time each day). I also say my prayers when I go to bed. I try talking to God throughout my day...or ask tell my daughter that God doesn't like liars...when she lies...Ummm I would love to go to a bible study and get more involved in my church, yet I don't. I feel my families needs are more important and I need to be there to care for them. I never forget the love God has for me and how grateful I am to be here and to know God's love.

I think you are taking a step in the right direction. You have admitted that you want your faith to change, to get stronger, that has to account for something, doncha think? I do! :)

Alan and Lindsi said...

Thanks for sharing these feelings and thoughts that you have! Your brutal honestly is inspiring, and there have been many times in my life that I have shared those feelings.

I have experienced several events lately that have brought me to my knees, restored my faith, and improved my communication with God.

What you have discussed is very admirable, and it sounds like youre on the right track! :)

Jennifer said...

What an open and honest post. Thank you for sharing. I grew up in Texas and lived there until I got married at 25... I grew up with religion, lot's of it, shoved in my face. As a result, I have gone the other way and don't go to church anymore. I've been feeling the quiet whisper of God's voice for a few years now and have recognized that I *think* I am being pulled into something completely new. But something that feels "right" to me. With that said, I have the kids and all that other stuff too, and my research and study keeps falling by the wayside. There is still the tug on my heart and I feel guilty for not listening to it, though. What I have found, though, in the very, VERY few moments I get to just converse with God,is that there is no searching for him. When I close my eyes and open the conversation, he is right there, waiting for me.

Anna See said...

I loved this post! I, too, know what it's like to be in a blah place spiritually. I wonder why I turn to so many other things before I turn to God. It reminds me of falling in love. When my husband and I fell in love I wanted to be with him EVERY SECOND. Now, I just want to watch tv. I hate that my love for God suffers in the same way. I think Getting Real about this is awesome. Even the early Christians struggled and struggled with this and they didn't have DVR's and People magazine. I think of hymns like Come thy Fount of Every Blessing and I realize that the desire to be close to God, but the feeling of being pulled away are not unique to my situation.

I also love books that help me not only accept where I am, but strive to be closer: Ortberg's new book "The Me I Want to Be," among others. But when it come to cracking my Bible open and spending real time with God---- I fail again and again.

Right now we have big parenting decisions coming down the pike and I can't seem to pray for discernment.

Frogs in my formula said...

My husband is very religious and I consider myself to be a believer who doesn’t officially practice. If that even makes sense. I feel guilty on Sundays. We belong to a beautiful cathedral that’s within walking distance but we haven’t been in almost a year. I keep putting it off and making excuses. I know what you mean about making choices. On Sundays I choose family breakfast and a trip to the flea market instead of the church.

It sounds like your life is really full right now—with pressing things. But you’re devoting time to things that make you happy and keep your family healthy. I have to believe that the Universe is ok with that.

Then again, who am I??

dianthe said...

i could have written this post - except i'm Catholic and my husband's a banker ;)

my husband isn't Catholic so it's hard for me to drag my butt out of bed on Sunday for church - and even harder now that i have 2 little ones - on Sunday i usually sleep in and let him get up with the kids and then i beat myself up all day long for not going to Mass - of course, not enough to force myself to go!
i've been struggling with why my faith isn't as strong as it has been in the past and wondering how to get back where i was - i definitely think God is speaking to me - everywhere from your post to my 2 year old's favorite book ... "My Little Prayer" - sigh. i know i'll get there (and you will too!) - i just hope it's sooner than later!

Anonymous said...

Wow, an honest, thought-provoking post. I'm not ready to be that open about my inner workings, but you verbalized so many things I quietly think about. Do you find, if you look back at your life, that faith ebbs and flows during different seasons of your life. I sometimes don't feel close to God, but I know in the deep recesses of my heart that He is there and will be there when I'm ready to have a deeper relationship with Him. And if something horrible should occur during that downtime, He would still be there. He has proven Himself so faithful to me and my family and friends that I know we are attached even when I don't feel it.
Enjoy reading you.

Kacie said...

I'm catching up on old posts here and I just loved this one, and your honesty. I read something by a mom recently about how much of what we picture as "spiritual" activities are time and solitude based, which are things that a mother doesn't have. The author talked about trying to integrate God into the daily mundane with her family, instead of waiting until all of that was over to turn to Him. How can God be a part of the daily rhythm of life?

That's a challenge.