This is the third post in our series of “Growing Into Motherhood”, and I am pleased to bring you this post by Angela concerning her journey into discovering a religious path. Many mothers who read this blog have a strong spiritual and religious life, but some of you are searching and trying to figure out how to attain this, so I thought Angela’s experience might be helpful to you. Angela’s story and her suggestion in the last paragraph for seekers really stirred my soul, and I hope it will stir yours as well. Here is her story for your inspiration:
Motherhood and Faith
“The strong desire to be introduced to the mysteries of God is often much stronger in small children than in adults. And if children are responded to in the right manner with no arbitrary force, then their joyful awareness of getting to know God and of coming closer to Him will be accelerated up to the most intensive thinking and living with him.”
– Edith Stein
When Carrie asked me if I would write this blog post, I was of two minds: immediately excited about the opportunity to help some fellow mamas on their journey, and also intimidated, because I’m such a work in progress on my own journey. But I’m hoping this might be just a bit encouraging or illuminating for someone, that it might lead them to think about Higher Things, and that it might help them nourish their children with a life of faith. I am coming from a Catholic Christian perspective, but of course understand and celebrate the varied faiths shared by readers of The Parenting Passageway.
I grew up in a religious home. We went to church every Sunday, and on Wednesdays too. My grandfather was a minister. My father was involved with music at church. It was an unquestioned part of life for me. When I turned 18, I decided I wanted to explore on my own, that I didn’t want to be “forced” to go to church. I didn’t know it at the time, but what I wanted was something more, something with deeper roots and traditions, and a stronger connection to a big faith community. While I had always believed in God and felt His loving protection, our church was small, unaffiliated, lacking in vibrancy, and I often felt left out of the larger history of the Christian faith. I needed to experiment.
So, I did what a lot of college students do: I tried being agnostic. Frankly, it was easy. I was at University in a big, urban area, and most of my friends, classmates, and professors openly scoffed at faith, the Christian faith especially. I didn’t stray too far, though. I always felt the pull to God, and wanted to find that “more” I was looking for, but I was worried about what people would think, and I didn’t want to go it alone. I knew I no longer felt connected to the Protestant faith I grew up in, but where else to go?
I let this all simmer. In the meantime, I met my husband (an agnostic then and now), we got married, I finished graduate school and became an English professor, and we had our two children, who are now 4 and 2. We decided the best thing for them was to have a stay at home mommy, and I dove head first into the task of giving them a gentle, peaceful, loving childhood. I didn’t know it, but I was doing Waldorf before I knew what it was:) But what about that soul part? That longing for spiritual connection? I was ignoring it, hoping it would go away. But after the birth of my second child, it all came to a head.
In a conversation with a family friend, I laid out my very weak case for being an agnostic, which amounted to my feeling isolated and unhappy in the faith of my childhood. As reasons for running away from faith all together, these arguments suddenly felt flimsy, and this friend encouraged me to give faith another try, to find a path for the sake of my children, if nothing else. The next few weeks were the opening of a flood gate. I knew my friend was right, I knew what I was looking for, and I knew my children needed to know about the love of the Creator and the joy of being a part of a joyful faith community.
A few days before Christmas, I had a dream in which I was back in a Catholic church I had been in for a wedding as a young child. In the dream, I smelled the candles and incense, I saw the statues, I felt the peace that I had felt there as a child. When I woke up in the morning, I knew what I had to do. I went to that church, walked through the doors, and knew I was home. Over the next few months, I went through the process of becoming a Catholic, my children were baptized, and I am now a work in progress, reading, learning, praying my way through it. I adore my faith. It answers the questions I held in my heart, it provides a beauty my soul was longing for, it connects me with a billion people who share my love, and it provides a warm and supportive place to teach my children about God.
I think it is so essential that, as mothers, we provide the soul connection our children so crave. I’ve watched my daughter absorb the beauty of the Mass, learn The Lord’s Prayer, sing songs of joy and love, and offer up her thanks in prayer each night before bed. We say nighttime prayers with our little guy too. These are part of the rhythms and rituals of our day and week. We light candles and ask for help and healing for our family or friends who need it, and we live the festivals of the year, adding to that rhythm of life. Those seasons are so very important.
Here’s what I want to say for those who are struggling in this area, who perhaps feel intimidated by finding a path, who were hurt by religion, or who don’t have support of family or friends. I don’t have a lot of religious or spiritual people surrounding me in my day to day life. My husband, an amazing man, is completely supportive of the life of faith I’m trying to grow in our children, but he is not a believer. I do not have close friends who share my faith, much less have any spiritual life to speak of.
But I know in my heart that there is a Creator, that we are Beloved, that He seeks us. We must open our hearts to the call, and follow it, with courage, even if everyone around us shakes their heads. Mothers have such a special role to play in this area with our children. We are their source for love, comfort, and trust. They long to know there is More, that they are More, and without that, I think there is a feeling of freefall, of longing for order, and wonder, and beauty.
Perhaps you grew up in a home devoid of faith. Perhaps it was a faith you ran screaming from (I did that!). But you are grown now. You can choose something else. You have little souls depending on you, waiting to know who they are. You don’t have to follow my path, but maybe it’s time to open to prayer, ask for help, ask for guidance, and follow where the Spirit leads. May I humbly suggest you try a service or two? Have you always been intrigued by a certain faith or church? Read a book on topics surrounding faith. Talk with a friend who has a strong religious life. See what pulls at your heart and go in that direction. I can only promise that your life, and your children’s lives, will be richer.
Thank you Angela, and many, many blessings to you all,