How did I become who I am in a church like this?
I believe that every human is divine, every human carries God/eternity within themselves. Every thought, every miracle conjured, every meaning derived from ritual, every explanation, every scientific discovery, every scripture, myth, and story that has ever existed and will ever exist comes through or within humans. Our brains, feelings, and bodies are pieces of a universe! Zoomed out we are one whole thing, zoomed in we are individuals with disparate experiences, isolated from the inner voices of the other beings around us. I still believe that the point of church is to expose these inner voices with vulnerability and safety so we don’t feel alone and to broaden our experiences.
I am now starting to believe my husband who says, “That is Natasha’s church.” I suppose I never let the church define me even when I let it silence me.
As a youth, I didn’t understand why I always felt alone at church. I saught and embraced friends who were not members of my church (in Utah, that is unusual) and since I struggled to fit into the mold at church, I stopped attending to fit in. Instead, I listened and observed, questioned and created my own theology with my experience as an outsider.
I didn’t graduate from seminary. I didn’t wear a one-piece swimsuit or shorts that covered my thighs. I broke all of the rules of righteousness and talked to God the whole time.
I heard lots of stories and ideas from my non-member friends. One friend’s mom said, “Your prophet, Hinkley, swore at me today.” She worked at a hospital and decided the church couldn’t be good if a prophet swore at nurses when he was ill, she felt a responsibility to warn me. I remember this story solidifying my inkling that prophets are human – no more, no less than pieces of the universe. I wasn’t upset, and the prophet’s cruelty towards nurses didn’t discredit the paradox of his goodness. I was human too.
I don’t believe in sin as defined through the ages by men. I believe that there are actions, language, and thoughts that exclude and abuse others; therefore excluding and abusing pieces of the universe, pieces of eternity, pieces of God. I also believe in forgiveness and change; when I hurt another being or part of the universe I can try to repair the damage. This is a miracle. If a piece of the divine is within each of us, we need each other. Not only do we need each other, but we also need to listen to the experiences of others to understand their piece of divinity, another piece of the whole. I don’t believe in Satan, but I do believe in opposition and balance.
I also remember when one of my best friends went to an LDS young women’s group activity for the first time. She was so horribly bullied by the other girls that she never went back. She taught me again and again that people choose who they want to be; the church has no control over its members’ choices or beliefs. I also learned that God is within me, even when the church curriculum told me that the Holy Ghost couldn’t follow me inside houses with alcohol parties, somehow I knew that God never left me alone there. In fact, because of the trauma I experienced, I more fully grasped the concept of God and when Glennon Doyle said that God is within, I thought, “Yes. I know. That’s why She’s never left me.”
I believe in continual searching. Each religion and idea has been created by humans to answer unanswerable questions. I have seen that some humans cling to religion for control. Control over death, control over happiness, control over others, control over answers. But I’ve also seen some humans who cling to religion as a practice in uncertainty. A practice in acceptance and curiosity, kindness and community. These people are usually searching. Searching to understand the feelings they have, searching for vocabulary and meaning to describe their place in this vast universe. Searching for why they are lonely. Eventually searching for why paradox exists; searching for Truth and hoping to never find it because the universe is too big for one person to understand.
The church is just a place where people congregate together and share their ideas of goodness. Where we can join together to alleviate suffering with ideas and joined recourses. Where we can study history’s ideas, learn from their understanding and from their mistakes. Where groups are created based on moral and cultural rules. Where we can be weird and honest and free, moving from group to group on our journey to belong and understand the universe. There are no answers to these questions and every person holds something different and divine within them, so we are always curious and fluid and open to differences and ideas.
I am learning that I can take my church wherever I go.