She was raised without faith in the middle of the Bible Belt.
Even now, she didn’t consider herself religious in the formal sense of the word. She could embrace those parts that appealed to her sense of humanity – to be kind to others and treat them fairly. But she faltered when it came to the big stories, the giant truths that seemed to be essential to the whole Christianity thing…like dead people coming back to life and such. Surprisingly, those big truths were relatively easy to gloss over most of the time at her whitebread suburban church and she could mostly get by with an enthusiastic practice of the little things. Still, some form of spirituality was important to her, some sense of closeness to the workings of the universe. She liked the idea that there could be meaning to the world beyond logical explanation – but she was pretty sure that her notion didn’t fit with any of the labels affixed by her local church. So she kept quiet and refused to teach Sunday school to anyone above the fifth grade, in case the kids ever started to have questions that edged on her own uncertainties.
She certainly knew that was about the time she went seeking some answers about the whole God thing. She was looking for some religion that would remove all doubt from her and give her the courage to take that required leap of faith. She attended worship, assembly and meeting of every religious group, cult and offshoot she could find. Every time, she prepared herself to greet the almighty maker. She would wake up ready to welcome God should this be the day he would grace her with his presence. She was fully prepared to speak in tongues or writhe on the floor or be healed with a touch of hands. She was open to finding redemption in the country western tunes of some fringe-costumed church band. She was willing to hold snakes and forgo certain foods. She was ready, really really ready.
But God never showed up at these places – at least not in any way she felt. She would watch with morbid curiosity as parishioners screamed and fainted, pastors’ necks bulged in angry proselytizing and women wept and fell and banged their knees on wooden pews. And she would leave, cold and untouched, and return home to lay on her bed and look up beyond the ceiling where she thought God might be hanging out and wonder why he had abandoned her.
Over time, she came to believe that God or spirituality or whatever it was rightfully called, didn’t arrive so dramatically for everyone. That she had not been stood up by God, like a bad date. And that in fact the essence of her beliefs could be found in those small things that bound each of us to the other.
She learned to appreciate the kindness of strangers, to marvel at the glory of each sunrise and to grasp hold of the miracle of every new chance given to her.
No fever pitched performances required.