Even though I’ve been going to church for just over 7 years now, speaking about faith is still something I find difficult. We grew up in an era where anything to do with church was extremely uncool. Spirituality, ouija boards and psychic readings were in, faith, church and any form of religion, were out.
When Dylan was about 7 weeks old I started attending church. Why? I don’t know. When I was pregnant I started to think about having him christened and then, after a troublesome labour and delivery, I was looking for ‘something’. My Nana put me in touch with the minister from the family church (and by this, I mean all of my family have been married/christened there but no-one actually attends the services). Lesley (the minister) arranged to come and see me at home and talk about a baptism for Dylan.
When she came to the house and got talking, it was the first time since he had been born that I felt calm. I felt listened to and understood. Lesley didn’t pressure me to attend church, she just listened and asked insightful questions. I felt like I wanted to go down and see what a Sunday Service was all about so off I went.
I’ll skip the rest, needless to say that I have been attending for 7 years now. I was confirmed in 2010, a year after I started attending, married there in 2011 and both the boys have been christened there. More than anything, the church has given us a community with compassionate, like minded people, that I feel I was missing before I started attending.
When life has been tough or posed unanswerable questions, I have been to Lesley to talk them through. She has provided emotional, practical and even financial support and I don’t know where my little family and I would be without our relationship with the church.
When I first had thoughts about wanting to end my marriage, Lesley was the first person I went to speak to. We didn’t have long (as I hadn’t booked to see her) but her love and support was evident and we caught up a couple of times in a couple of weeks (didn’t help that it was Christmas and New Year and we were all busy). This week I went to see her for an officially booked appointment. Which basically means that we had both cleared our diaries and were there for a proper talk.
I told her everything from when Stu and I had first got together, how controlling I had always felt him to be, sulking to get his own way constantly, belittling and trying to humiliate me when I hadn’t behaved in exactly the way he had wanted. Making my friends unwelcome in the house, refusing to work for the last few years, blaming me for everything and even controlling what I put on Facebook and deleting one of my friends from my friends list! We talked about small incidences as well as large, and I said: ‘I don’t believe that Jesus made this sacrifice, died on the cross for humanity, for me to live the shittest existence possible for me’. I don’t know what I expected Lesley to say in reply but I know I hadn’t expected her to say ‘I agree. I don’t think so either’. I can honestly say that it was one of the most validating moments of my life and I will always be thankful for this honest, heartfelt, humbling response. We often speak of following Jesus and his example by being the best we can be and living honestly, even when it is easier to be dishonest or skirt around an issue. Being honest about my marriage after 8 years of pretending our relationship was ok, was hard but there is something about honesty being an unstoppable force and the more you let it out, the better life becomes, even when it’s hard.
What has this honesty meant for me? It has meant freedom in my head, courage in my convictions. Even though there is still a long way to go. Even when Stu is refusing to move out, spouting legal rights and trying to emotionally blackmail me. As we all know, with honesty comes vulnerability and as Brené Brown said in her Ted talk:
‘Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage’