My year of being religious

Growing up we rarely went to church, and when we did it was painful for me. I was extremely shy and the Sunday school kids seemed to be mean.

My parents tried to make up the lack of religious education by giving me Bibles over the years. First a tiny book full of Bible verses, at least one that I memorized. Then a huge illustrated Bible whose drawings alternately fascinated or horrified me. They also gave me a regular King James bible and a Living Word Bible.

I am not sure how old I was when I decided to pray for the soldiers in Vietnam, but when I told Mrs. Wewell, our next door neighbor, she said that I should pray for her instead. I did and the next day her beloved dog was killed by a car. When I tried again a few months later, her hand was caught in the ringer of her old ringer-washer, making that hand useless for the rest of her life. So I quit praying, certain that God misunderstood my requests.

I discovered C. S. Lewis’ Narnia in my teens. I considered them my favorite books for a very long time but knew no one else who’d read them, although eventually my British boyfriend, Jeremy, read them too and loved them as much as I did. I guess I knew they were based on the Bible at some level, but it didn’t bother me, nor did it make me religious.

Fast forward to 1996 or so. We’d bought a new computer and one of the first things I did was look up C. S. Lewis. I joined an email list called Mere Christianity where people talked about Lewis and all of his books. Among the other members was C. S. Lewis’ stepson, Doug Gresham, who invited me (and my family) to his Irish retreat when I mentioned I was trying to believe. Other members also tried to give me advice on how to find faith. A few sent me books they’d written.

Something clicked in my head and I felt that maybe, just maybe, it had all worked. That I was now among the faithful. I recall looking at my students in a different way, even feeling I could see their souls on one occasion. My one-time teaching assistant at work belonged to the LDS church and we’d have long conversations about faith.

Also about this time Dean was taking the kids to church because he felt they needed a religious upbringing. And also to be able to tell his mother that they were getting a Christian education. I didn’t accompany them very often, but sometimes I did. It turns out the congregation thought I was Catholic and that’s why I rarely went to their church.

This lasted about a year and the feeling of having faith, of believing faded and eventually went away.

I think that part of my search for religion and faith was assuming that when I died I would need a minister or some religious official to officiate at my funeral. I’ve since realized that is not the case and it’s definitely made me breathe easier that I don’t have a church. Or faith in a supreme being.

I’ve had some blips now and then and even started a blog about it just after my father died because at that time I guess I still hoped to eventually find my religion. But not now.

4 thoughts on “My year of being religious

  1. Oh Dona, how fascinating. Is it bad that I laughed at paragraph 3? Poor young Dona, and poor Mrs Wewell (and Mrs Wewell’s dog).

    I’ve never felt the need like this for faith. Perhaps that’s the difference of growing up in NZ, which is a very secular society in most ways, so – in my circles at least – zero societal pressure to go to Church or have a faith. I do understand it though – I remember thinking fleetingly it would be nice to believe when I was losing babies and trying to get pregnant.

    I also have a friend I’ve known since I was 5 who has searched and searched for faith. She became a Hare Krishna at university, and was with them for years. Now she’s with an evangelical Christian group, sometimes behaving in a most un-Christian-like manner, and claims they healed her illnesses. It would be nice if I could believe that. But I suppose I’m glad she thinks so, and is, for now at least, happy.

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  2. It seems to me you’re an excellent communicator, so it’s unlikely God misunderstood. But poor Mrs. Wewell and her dog! Poor you too. And shame on me for laughing. 🙂

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  3. I too had a hearty laugh at the Mrs. Wewell story (and feel like maybe her life would make a good short story–even the fact that she asked you to pray for her instead of the soldiers in Vietnam has so much potential in terms of character development). And I like Susan’s comment very much about you being a good communicator and it being unlikely that the intended recipient of any of your communications misunderstood them.

    The Narnia books were a favourite of mine, too. I remember feeling so sad when the older kids could no longer get into Narnia. And it never occurred to me, at the time, that the stories were based on the Bible. I feel like maybe at some point I should re-read them from that perspective (although I would likely miss a lot, as I’m not all that familiar with the Bible–maybe I need to read it first).

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