For some people church can be dangerous place. More accurately, the people within a church can harm each other, often out of arrogance or pride or ignorance, but just as often from a place of well-meaning. It is not faith I am speaking of, but rather, the organization and activities of religion.
For a person, perhaps especially a woman, the church can feel not only like a place of sanctuary and salvation, but also one of obligation and suffering. As a little girl, I learned the Ten Commandments and took every one to heart. I memorized the Golden Rule and made sure to treat others with every kindness, even at my own expense. I attended a club for little girls called the Sunbeams. We sang a sweet and simple song that stays with me even to this day.
So let the sun shine in, face it with a grin.
Smilers never lose and frowners never win.
So let the sun shine in, face it with a grin
Open up your heart and let the sun shine in.
And so the die was cast for this little girl to become a nice girl with a permanent smile on her face, and for this nice girl to grow into a helpful woman with a slow and simmering anger. In this complicated sea of emotion, I felt broken. I recognized that true kindness comes from an overflowing abundance of love, not from duty or fear or shame or guilt.
Going to church once played a significant role in my life. As a good wife and mother, I felt it was my responsibility to see to it that my children were raised with Christian faith. I taught Sunday school and volunteered to help in many of the church’s ministries. At every turn, I felt as though I had no choice, but to help, and take care, and tend. When, at age 44, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, the first thought I had was one of relief. “Thank goodness, I have a reason to excuse myself from my teaching Sunday school.”
Resentment took hold. I wondered if I had used up my allotment of goodness and kindness in this life. But, of course, this was not so. The journey has been long and often arduous to arrive at this place where faith is a living, breathing part of me, a constant companion. In faith I find solace and strength, self-love and forgiveness.
I am not sure if I will ever return to church, but I am reassured to know.
Church is Open. To all – With love.