Sunday, October 26, 2008

resisting belonging

Today I visited a church that I have already been to (UCC). I've become a bit lazy about searching out something new each week and so today without a fresh target in mind it was easier to fall back on one I already knew. I revisited this one because I really liked the pastor, liked her sermon last time I went, liked the music (a live band at the front with a kick-ass 50-something woman on the lead guitar/vocals), and had felt really welcomed there.
So I went again today, and was both unnerved and flattered that EVERYONE including the pastor remembered my name. (It's been a month since I was there last!)
Once again, I really enjoyed the meeting, felt the familiar glow and lightness in my heart... but also noticed something else: FEAR.
I could get sucked in.
I could lose my freedom to wander, become trapped by a responsibility. I might lose my anonymity, have to really learn everybody's names, no longer be the mysterious visitor in the back... I could become a known quantity (all my failings and short comings revealed).
I could become locked into a committed relationship.
And that makes me afraid.

Which pretty much sums up my tendency towards relationships with other humans in general.
Most of my life has been a practice in avoiding entangling alliances...
But yet, to allow myself to become a part of a community...
To have greater capacity for... for what? Making a difference? For touching others?

It would be nice if I had some nice profound epiphany to conclude with here, but I don't at the moment. All I have is a newly-discovered recognition of one of my fears.
And I'll have to figure out what to do with that now.


Lessie said...

G, I can totally understand that fear. Here in IF, my options for places to search out were somewhat limited. I personally knew I wasn't interested in Christianity anymore, so I didn't even try other Christian denominations, but as for liberal faith, the UU was the only thing here. However, I was and still am somewhat reticent to participate fully. I contribute to the offering basket only when I have cash in my wallet. I went ahead and volunteered to teach the preteens once every third Sunday because someone was volunteering to teach my kids. I go almost every Sunday, but not because I feel obligated to. I've missed Sundays here and there and haven't felt the need to apologize when I go back.

My advice is to be as selfish as you need to right now. Community is essential to our happiness, but the good thing about religious communities is they're generally strong enough to support a member who isn't ready to participate fully yet. The UU in IF isn't going to fall apart if I decide not to put my name on their books or decide after a while that they're no longer doing it for me. In the mean time, they've provided much needed companionship and understanding during a difficult period in my life. I started participating at the level I am only after I felt comfortable and emotionally equipped to do so. For the first couple of months, I was completely non-committal.

Now that I've said that, let me also say how worth it it's been for me to contribute. Today was a wonderful Sunday. I love these people and they love me. And they accept me for who I am. We were talking about it during coffee hour. I was one atheist among three believers in that thing they called "God". But they didn't pity me, they didn't feel sorry for me, they just said, "Huh. That's interesting." And we explained to each other why we did or didn't believe.

Ultimately what I'm saying is that you've been burned pretty badly by your last community. Give yourself plenty of time to heal and don't feel badly about it or afraid of it. Just do what you need to do. Eventually you'll figure out where you belong and how you want to contribute.

flygirl said...

I can understand what you're saying. So far I have also resisted getting involved in anything else that could be all-consuming like religion. I think it's because in the LDS church I was so entwined, entangled, enmeshed, for so long. Now that I have taken myself out of that, I really relish my new freedom. I'm scared to believe in anything again, or to become involved too much. I have tried less than you, not going to other churches on Sundays or anything. At some point, I may try it, or I may not, right now I'm just enjoying being me and figuring out what that entails these days. It is an interesting set of alternatives, choosing between relationships and freedom, something I think we have to choose between often, and I don't always know which one I prefer.

Elizabeth-W said...

The reality is that Americans are not church-going, on the whole, and we're even less church-going than we were 20 or 10 years ago. For most Protestant churches, by 2050 their numbers in current attendance will be halved (according to stuff I just googled).
So, I can imagine that any new blood in a congregation is a fantastic thing. My guess is that new families move in less often than a typical LDS ward.
I think I get your feeling of not wanting to be sucked in. Having that feeling of pattern, stability, moving from "I was X but now I'm Y" might be comforting, though, too. Then you might not have to go through the discomfort of not being 'grounded' if that's an accurate word.

Numismatist Facts said...

Have you thought about going an entirely different direction for a while? My Sunday mornings are spent on a nice, quiet run/walk. The streets are empty and the neighborhoods are still. I love going out and watching the moon. This morning was an incredible crescent.

This is my own private time to reflect on problems, try to solve them or accept what I cannot change. It is also a time to think about how fortunate I am in so many ways. No music playing, just me and my thoughts.

Although I sometimes join my Zeus in an afternoon service at the Buddhist Temple (mostly to please him) it is my Sunday morning solitude that brings me comfort.

Maybe you could find a totally different avenue of worship, such as weekly volunteering at a homeless shelter or nursing home.
There are endless possiblilties once you step outside of the box. You already have one foot out!

David said...

"...become trapped by a responsibility."

It seems like every post here is basically admitting total selfishness and a good helping of cowardice. Kinda sad. Pick something and do it. If you don't like it, change. Don't just wait for the perfect situation to fall on you. If you are doing that, you are only deceiving yourselves.

Numismatist Facts said...

Whoa! If I may be blunt, David, you have quite the set of audasticles. Not everyone fits nicely into a box. Sometimes it takes searching to find the right place.

Interesting, but most of the posts that I am reading on this blog are anything but selfish and cowardly. Stepping out into the unknown takes a fair amount of bravery, especially when it involves family and community.

Hang in there, G.

David said...

That is exactly what I meant. We all should be searching, trying and perhaps moving forward.

My point was that we should not spend our lives constantly searching. We need to stop and get involved once in while in order to find out if it is really what we want. A new place,thing,idea every week is great, but not if it is every week for the rest of our lives.

G said...

thanks everyone!
lessie- yeah, that ability to contribute, to have a community... I'm feeling strongly impressed that I need to do that. I am a bit of an isolationist by nature, shy and uncomfortable with people I don't know, especially for those reasons I need to get out, get involved. I love hearing about your UU experiences, I hope you share more about them.

flygirl- I think my lds up brining is contributing to this reticence. You know, standard new member retention procedure; give them a friend and a responsibility (and nurturing by the good word of god, of course). Feeling a little gun shy about it all, I guess.

Yeah, elizabeth-w... it would be nice to "be" something. labels are problematic... but also comforting too. And that is kinda where I am right now: I've lost who I was, but not yet found who I am.

numistmatist facts- I LOVE the idea of solitude, some good communion with nature and no distractions... the actual practice of it... well, that's been a little more tricky. at the moment it is easier to have a 'meeting' to go to in order to get away from the business and neediness of the home.
And actually, I have considered that perhaps my 'community' won't be through a church at all, but service etc... Getting involved in local politics or finding a cause to get active it.

um, david; your first comment was leaning towards the trollish- wide-brushed accusations of selfish cowardice? But perhaps this is all just a problem of timing- you happened upon this blog when I am in transition, processing quite a bit of internal ambivalence and turmoil, trying to air out my dark corners and deal with my demons. Maybe that is just not your thing.
now this:
"My point was that we should not spend our lives constantly searching....A new place,thing,idea every week is great, but not if it is every week for the rest of our lives."
yes, this was precisely the thought that motivated this post. I will eventually need to stop being the stranger in the back row and get involved.
however, I have been at this for a relatively short period of time and don't feel quite ready yet, still don't know where this is going, still finding that out.
Not jumping the gun isn't cowardice, it's smart.

G said...

numistmatist facts: "audasticles"
ha! I love it... gotta remember that one. :)

Numismatist Facts said...

I can't take credit for that one. It belongs to Sister Dottie, one of my favorite people. There is a link to her podcast on my blog.

I don't get a chance to use that word often, but this time seemed so appropriate. Sorry if I caused any heartburn with my reply.

G said...

thanks for the tip, will definately have to check out sis dottie!