My day care provider asked me today if I was a Christian. I hesitated for a moment, afraid of where the conversation was going. Just the other day a Jehovah’s Witness knocked on the door asking if I believed what the Bible says. I told him that I did but did not want any more information. I am well aware of my day care provider’s religious views; she met her husband in Ghana where he was doing missionary work. Her husband and children took a missionary trip this past summer. And often when I come to pick up my son, there is Christian children’s music playing. Questions about religion put me on guard.
But after hesitating, I answered in the affirmative. A look of relief came across her face, as she explained she had been wanting to ask, but didn’t want to offend. I told her that we has recently (Sunday) reaffirmed our desire to attend church regularly, and then we chatted a bit about the particular church and pastor before I left.
This conversation is not a new one to me. Having a few friends who are deeply religious, whenever I meet their equally devout (Chrsitian) friends, they always ask, “What church do you belong to?” I generally find this question annoying, although I understand that it’s a way for people to orient you in the areas of the world that are important to them. But before I moved here, I hadn’t attended church because I couldn’t find one that meshed well with my values. The teachings of the Bible and Jesus resonate with me, but not the social world of most churches. The hypocrisies, materialism, and hatred found in many churches leaves me feeling less than blessed, so I just didn’t go. Yoga has taught me a lot about spirituality and the interconnectedness of all religious teachings, so for the most part, I have cultivated my spirit and connection to God on my own.
Now that I have children, though, having a religious connection has become more important to me. I would like to raise them simply as compassionate human beings but realize that I don’t know how to do that outside of a religious frame of reference. Christianity is all I know. And now that I’ve found a church that works for me (i.e. is not just tolerant, but accepting of all people, come as you are dress, and many programs helping those in need), I don’t feel so much trepidation at attending church.
But now I find myself having a lot of angst about Christmas and my children’s experience with the holiday. As a child, my memories of the holidays were joyous; we may not have gotten much during the year, but that was because my parents were saving to buy us toys and stuff for Christmas. Christmas Day had to be the happiest day of my year for many years, at least until I was a teenager. My brother and I would “camp out” in our play room in sleeping bags waiting for a reasonable time to go downstairs and see what we got. Usually that was about 2am, and we’d play for several hours until my mother told us to go back to bed. As joyous as it was, however, I find myself looking back on it and not being too happy with myself. There was little mention of Christ during the holidays at my house. I was so much more concerned with what things I had gotten. I know this is not an abnormal thing for kids, but I wish I’d been more grateful and thankful.
So how do I balance wanting my children to have the excitement of the holidays and pleasure at receiving gifts with a healthy appreciation and acknowledgment of the “reason for the season?”