Friday, November 28, 2008

Religion and me

It is the day after Thanksgiving. After enjoying a wonderful meal and the warmth of Beth's family and friends, I came home and cried - again. The same thing happened last year - well, no, not last year - granddaughter's schedule kept my immediate family in town, but the year before, and the year before that.

It's the season, pretty much, the 'holiday' - Holy day - season, although I'm sure there are many other aspects of my personal makeup and experiences that could easily be factored into the resultant equation of why I feel this way. Perhaps if I write about my feelings it will help to alleviate them.

My daughter and I have had kind of a rocky road of it, I think. Not unheard of, but this time of year is particularly hard on me.

She has many close friends, among them her cousins (whom she is visiting in California as I write). When she called yesterday afternoon to wish me a Happy Thanksgiving, I didn't have much to say after the first few sentences. She put her husband on and then my granddaughter. I had more to say to my granddaughter, becuz I had just sent her an e-mail that I thought she would have a lot of fun with when she got back.

Then DD came back on and I asked her if she wanted to talk to Beth. She said she did, and they had what sounded like a very cheery conversation for a couple of minutes. I tried to listen and pick up on something positive to say when the phone was returned to me. Nothing came. We ended the call with the usual expressions of love.

One of the weightier reasons this 'holiday' season is so hard on me, I think, is that Christmas - one of the most Holy of days - is just around the corner, and I am expected to spend the day with my family. I've had a lot of trouble with this in the past, but in the last year or two am doing a little better with it. At least I think I am! It's Thanksgiving that's the bad one.

Why would that be? Well, I have always believed that Christmas should have Christ as its center. If not at the very core of the celebration, certainly an integral part of it. However, I was 'instructed' years ago that Christ, or Jesus, is not to be talked about by me to my granddaughter.

That was a shocker. I asked why they bothered to observe Christmas at all! My mind has blocked out her answer. I developed terribly mixed feelings about these two holidays. Because I had such trouble resolving these feelings, in my mind I think Thanksgiving became even more important, but that's when they like to go to California.

I want my daughter to be independent of me - she is; be happy, fulfilled, and an equal partner in her marriage - she is; to have many interests and be recognized in some, even, as an authority - she is; be a good mother - she's a wonderful mother!

So what's the problem? It's me. Has to be. That's the only answer I can logically come up with. I have to continue to try and reconfigure my thinking.

Am I being judgmental? No, I don't think so. That's not it at all.

As a Christian, I was taught early on that only those who believe that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Saviour will go to Heaven. Dr. James Wharton, pastor of Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church, of which I was a member for many years, often said he had trouble believing that the God he loved so much could be so narrow-minded (his exact words).

He often spoke of God's grace and God's love, and helped fill me with such joy that I wanted everyone I knew to come with me to church and hear this man speak so they could maybe capture a little of the wonder I felt. I took Ruth with me one time. She was a member of a Unitarian church and one of my closest friends. I asked her afterwards what she thought and she said, "If I were to try and describe him in just one word, that word would be 'non-judgmental'."

He had many friends, close friends, outside of the Christian faith, but within the church those who were aghast at what he publicly stated finally succeeded in removing him. He was too 'liberal' for them. In addition to their disagreements with his variant views, especially as they thought they were outside of what their denomination was built on and stood for, I think some of them felt personally threatened.

Dr. Wharton had a profound influence on me, and to this day - 20-some years later - I am often reminded of his stance on judging others when I find myself being critical.

I ran across just a beautiful saying that I'd like to share with you. I don't remember where I saw it or who originated it. Here it is ...

Treat the other man's faith gently; it is all he has to believe with. His mind was created for his own thoughts, not yours or mine.

And so I have a perplexing situation here. I don't want to foist my religious beliefs or opinions on my daughter, granddaughter, or anyone else, for that matter! I guess that makes me not a very good Christian. I do not like it when others try to impose their beliefs on me, and very much dislike it (usually) if/when I catch myself trying to do the same to others.

On the other hand, this is my immediate family and they matter more to me than anyone else. When I'm with Beth's family, particularly on Thanksgiving, their closeness brings out sad feelings in me. I know they have their own unique set of problems - every family does - , but my mind then creates this 'imaginary' utopia. Do you see how that might happen? I know it's confusing. It's certainly confusing for me!

My daughter reads my blog. I almost hope that she doesn't read this post. I wouldn't want her to 'pretend' something just to try and make me happy and feel good. I love her very much and am proud of her, of what she has accomplished and the life she has made for herself.

You know what? I do feel better! Thanks for listening. I'm really glad you were there.


Chuck said...

Verbalizing can be cathartic. Good for you.

BTW The quote ("Treat the other man's faith gently;") is from
Henry S. Haskins (born 1875)

Tammy said...

Aaahhh....blogging is good for so many reasons. :)

Feel better,

Hugs from the Sher bunch

steven said...

a powerful, heartfelt, and brave entry goldenrod. the unpacking of familial relationships, religion, and features of the inner self all in one posting!!!

i tell my own children and those i teach: "we don't need to like each other, but we do need to respect each other and one of the highest forms of respect is love without expectation or condition."



Nancy said...

It seems like holidays really have a way of bringing out all the ways ones' own family doesn't live up to the ideal in one's head. I'm sorry that you and your daughter have this particular difficulty between you.