Don’t Call Me Religious

Whatever you do, don’t call me religious.

Because I know what you’re thinking.

We all know what you’re thinking.

You’re imagining that I quote scripture to prove arguments, that I’m judging others who swear, get divorced, or don’t go to church, that I’m proselytizing from the playground.

If that’s religious, then I’m definitely something else.

Being religious doesn’t sit well with the other parts of me I’ve come to appreciate: the critical thinker, the skeptic, the scientist, the I-can-decide-for-myself-thank-you-very-much part that definitely irritated my mom in my teens.

As a kid, I liked church mainly for the donuts, my adolescence was littered with bad decisions and close-calls, and my 20s were absent of church-going. I just figured people like me were a bad match for church. That even if I were interested, no one would want me bringing down their average.

When Matt and I got together, there were days when I thought I’d make a disaster of a priest’s wife. In preparation, I was generating a perfectly crafted response to, “Tell me about your faith, Colette.”

I’m still working on it.

So far, though, no one has ever asked me about my faith, my relationship with God, my biblical knowledge, my past experience with church. It’s never come up. And I’ve grown to stop worrying about it. I don’t think it’s because no one cares, or worse, because they’re making assumptions.

It’s because they’re episcopalians.

And being episcopalian has a lot less to do with the stuff that I’m unsure of, and more about the stuff I know for sure: that there is unquestionable value in being part of a community where everyone is constantly changing: sometimes celebrating, sometimes grieving, sometimes feeling there is indeed a God, and sometimes feeling unsure. We’re not there because we all agree — on anything. But because we think God might be present when we all gather. And that feels special, maybe even holy.

There is a welcoming and refreshing vulnerability that I feel at church, unlike anywhere else. It’s okay to feel sad here, or proud, or depressed, or overwhelmingly joyful. At church, it’s okay to miss those you love, and to talk about how much you wish they were still here. It’s okay to be frustrated and impatient with people, with your children (guilty), with the injustice in the world.

It’s okay – and even welcomed – to share those things with the people around you in an authentic way that might feel out of place at preschool drop off, or school picnics, or recitals.

A time and place where I can feel comfortable in my vulnerability is worth a lot to me.

And that thing I was so afraid of? Whether someone like me – still questioning, still unsure, still a long ways from being a perfect human being – would be a good fit for church?

Turns out, it makes me a perfect fit.

Welcome to a place where brokenness is expected, and maybe even celebrated. And you feel loved, not despite these things, but because of these things.

And if that’s religious, well then count me in.