Being In-Between Religions

Who said religion has to last a lifetime?

When I was in my thirties, people used to ask me what religion I was. I'd stutter a little bit and then explain that I was, by my own definition, "in-between religions."

It raised a lot of eyebrows, but my answer always made perfect sense to me. I had outgrown the religion I grew up in and drifted away from the church of my youth, but I hadn't found a new religion that fit my adult lifestyle and my adult beliefs yet. I still believed in God, and did the best I knew how to be a good person without weekly guidance from my Sunday School teacher. It never occurred to me then (although I've heard enough about it since) that separating from a church was the same to some people as separating from God himself; I was surprised that anyone would consider God and a church ? or should I say God and THE church ? as one and the same.

My light-hearted response about being in-between religions was usually met with disapproval, although I really never understood why. If people can be in-between jobs, or in-between houses, or in-between marriages, why can't they be in-between religions? If a person is in-between jobs, they're unemployed. If they're in-between houses, they're moving. If they're in-between marriages, they're single. But if ? God forbid! ? they're in-between religions, most religions consider them lost.

I will admit that it's easy to GET lost when you're in-between religions, because there are literally thousands of paths you can wander down in your search for spiritual truth, if you consider all of the different sects within each major religion in the world. Christianity alone has literally thousands of truths to choose from; Hinduism has well over a thousand Gods. It's no wonder that the serious seeker can spend years just checking out the options; it may well be decades before they start drawing any conclusions of their own.

Being in-between religions isn't right for everybody. Some people are happy where they're at, and some people aren't, and that's okay. Just because your brother attends the same church with his wife and children that your parents attended with you as a child doesn't mean you have to follow the family tradition.

I'm not saying for one minute that family tradition doesn't have an awful lot to do with our religious beliefs (or disbeliefs, as the case may be). The way our family looked at, dealt with, and talked about religion serves as the invisible cornerstone on which our own beliefs are built. Even if we come from solid stock who never looked at, dealt with or talked about religion, the inferred unimportance of it all still serves as that cornerstone as we reach adulthood.

There's something emotional (happy or sad) about giving up things from our childhood. It's amazing how many adults still have their teddy bears, and even more amazing how many adults never owned a teddy bear at all. If it's true that you can't miss what you never had, why do some grownups feel traumatized because they never had a bear of their very own to sleep with? Why are so many adults (I hesitate to say "most adults") traumatized because of the religious beliefs their family did or did not instill in them as children?

Because we were children, and we believed what the grown-ups told us, regardless of who the grown-ups were or what they had to say for themselves. They were grown-ups, and that made them smarter than us. They were the voice of experience; we knew they were wise because they were all ancient.

By the time we were half-way through school, we knew they weren't only smart, they were right. Always. They knew what they were talking about, and we usually got punished if we talked back or asked too many questions, which is probably why I still have some confusion in my own mind about where the fine line between "smart-aleck" and "bright, inquisitive child" lies.

And they stuck up for each other. Parents were always telling us that the teachers and preachers in our lives knew what was best for us, even though the parents didn't go to school with us all day every day and very seldom sat in on our Sunday School class to hear what we were being taught. Grown-ups stuck together, and their power in our lives ? in our minds, and our hearts, and our bodies and our spirits ? was summarized in one word: adult.

They taught us in a million unspoken words who we should be, how we should be it, and what we should be doing with our lives. And ? because they were grown-ups ? we accepted their definitions as our own. And that's the way it's supposed to be, because children of all ages need lots of help staying on the straight and narrow.

One of my favorite quotes from the Christian Bible says, "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me." (I Corinthians 13:11, NIV). Putting childish ways behind you is just another way of saying, "I began to think for myself, as an adult. I became a grown-up, and took responsibility for who I am and what I do in and with my life."

I have the ultimate respect for the truths that others taught me when I was too young to think for myself. I also still think the dress I wore at my piano recital when I was in the second grade was beautiful, and the Ginger doll I played with for years on end was the most wonderful toy ever invented. I still think Captain Kangaroo was the best pretend friend a kid could want, and Annette Funicello was the most beautiful female in the world, especially when she wore her Mouseketeer ears. My mother was, without a doubt, the center of the whole universe, and I was blessed with food when there were children starving in China.

Those were some of my truths, when I was a child who talked like a child, thought like a child, and reasoned like a child. The fact that I was a child didn't make them any less true, for me anyway. But that was then, and this is now, and ? like most adults ? I've put childish ways (and truths) behind me. I've had lots of favorite dresses during the course of my years, and spend almost as much time with my computer as I did with my Ginger doll. The Captain has been replaced with real male friends and a gorgeous rock idol or two along the way; Annette was pretty, but not nearly as beautiful as my own children came to be. Some things never change: my mother will always be my mother, and there will always be children starving somewhere in the world, no matter how much of my uneaten food she sends them.

Life changes, and ? if we're wise enough, and brave enough ? our truth about life will change, too. We have to remember that change is the only constant in our lives; if we're not changing, we're being stagnant, and if we're being stagnant, we're wasting this precious gift called life. It's okay to wonder if what we were taught as a child does or does not apply to our adult life and our grown-up ways; it's okay to put those ways behind us if they don't fit us anymore.

It takes a lot of courage and strength of character to step outside the box of established religion and look for a spiritual truth that will work for you all day, everyday, with no loopholes and no exceptions. Like life, truth is fluid, and we can go with the flow of our spiritual quest a whole lot more comfortably if we are willing to answer the question "what religion are you?" with a simple "I'm in-between religions. How about you?"

Lois Grant-Holland is a Life Path Focus Counselor offering Life Path Focus Sessions, Karmic Astrology Charts, Channeled Guidance, Intuitive Readings and Classes and Workshops to spiritual seekers on all positive paths, and is the site facilitator at The A.N.S.W.E.R. - (The Seeker's Resource Guide to Alternative, New Thought, Spiritual Growth, Wellness and Enlightenment Resources.) You can visit her website at http://www.loisgrantholland.com

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