I'm sitting in our cozy family room, watching through the windows as the breeze stirs the madrona trees, and makes whitecaps on the water. The wind is from the North today, so there is a blue, cloudless sky, and the tide is running "in" - from North to South - so strongly that it looks like a river out there. The power of the water and the changes in its appearance will never cease to delight me.
I grew up spending my summers on the shores of this water - Puget Sound - and it is where my heart is, and always has been. Now, my daughter's ashes are in this water, and someday, those of my parents - and mine - will also be set free in it. I like the idea of our remains mingling together in the same salty body of water that holds so much life, and so many happy memories, for all of my family.
Yesterday, I was thinking about my faith. It is rooted in Christianity, but it is no longer what I think people would call a "religious faith." I don't go to church very often, and I hardly miss going. I miss certain people and fellowship, but what drove me to stay out was the infighting over doctrine that arose in our absence (when we were in Seattle for Katie's treatment). I expected to return to the bosom of the church that had nurtured us, and where I had served as a deacon, Stephen Minister, LOGOS volunteer, etc. But while we were away, a horrible fight blew up like a tornado, and ripped the church apart. After Katie's death, I could not enter that fray - and it was still going on. It has been resolved, after many of the members were driven out, but I cannot seem to drag myself back there. I have been to Mass with my Catholic friends, and that is a wonderful experience, except that I'm not allowed to partake of the Eucharist, which I miss. So I just study, read and pray here at home.
It occurred to me yesterday that one reason that I don't mind missing out on church is that my faith has changed so much. I'm not particularly religious, but I am faithful. I don't think I will fit in most churches, because my beliefs have been so shaped by my experience that I am a bit radical. Experience truly is the key test of religion, for me. If it held up in the hospital, then I believe it; if it's too intellectual - just a theory - then I have no time for it. I will give you an example of this: I now see Jesus and his mother, Mary, as a gift from a loving God - a gift, not just as objects to worship or emulate (though I do try to follow his example and teachings - he is my Lord), but as PATTERNS, like the instructions in sewing a garment. Patterns that we will be conformed to follow, if we are willing.
If Jesus and Mary are simply objects to look at and think about, little is required of me. I can remain comfortably distanced from the drama and the pain and think to myself, "So radical! So violent, those Bible days and times! Who could imagine a crucifixion now? I'm so glad we've progressed beyond that savagery...and I can learn from his forgiveness, surrender, generosity, healings, words and attitude." I used to see it like this, and it's so much easier, to take this sort of academic approach than it is to enter the story.