“What we truly want is the satisfaction of seeing our children become mature, self-reliant human beings, at any age, thinking for themselves, free and happy. Parents who want anything else are obsessed with control and not free and happy themselves.”
― Dale McGowan, Parenting Beyond Belief- Abridged Ebook Edition: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids without Religion
Thanks to my friend Justin, I read this article.
And re-read it.
And read it again.
I kept circling back to it over these last few weeks. I wanted to publish this post within that first week, but I wanted to take my time with this one. This is a biggie for me.
Here we go.
It was originally published on Jezebel.com on February 3rd. Justin shared it on Facebook the next day, and his thoughts were as such: “Ok, this is an interesting piece. Personally the author tells a tale with this and while they sound biased, they try to not be so. I think it’s a good read regardless.”
Before I delve into the article and my thoughts, I want to share some of my story.
I was raised in a religious family. As an infant, I was baptized/christened twice, in two churches. Both were in Florida – Seminole on the west coast, and Coconut Grove in Miami – My grandparents’ churches.
The next 19 years or so were a whirlwind of Sunday school, children’s choir, being an acolyte, Confirmation class, youth group, many a mission trip, “mountain top experiences” at retreats, the Russian Children program, starting the blood drive mission with my dad, teaching Sunday school …
I grew to love and appreciate the church. As a child/teenager, I fantasized about meeting the perfect man through the church youth group or some other Christian way/gathering, and then raising our child/children in the church, like we were raised.
In 2007, I graduated from high school and prepared to leave for Longwood, where I planned to major in Communication Studies Mass Media, take creative writing classes, start a new chapter with my high school sweetheart, and truly be away from home for the first time. I faithfully wore the silver and diamond cross pendant that my parents gave me a graduation gift. I remember my mom saying to me, several times, “I hope you don’t lose your faith when you go off to college.”
I tried attending Farmville United Methodist Church as a wide-eyed freshman. Nope – I was so homesick for Aldersgate in Chesapeake that I abandoned it after just two, maybe three, Sunday services.
I got involved with InterVarsity as a freshman, and that was a good experience for me. For the first two years, at least. By the beginning of junior year, I was starting to see the light – My high school sweetheart had been emotionally abusing me for years at that point, and it only spiraled downward after that. So many people reached out to help me, to pray for me, and more, both in Farmville and at home in Chesapeake.
I pushed them all away.
Let’s fast-forward to July 2010. Those first two weeks were my version of hell. Our dating anniversary, July 1st, had not gone well. He completely ridiculed my anniversary gift that I had painstakingly assembled, and he made me cry more than once. I left his house feeling miserable, worthless, and feeling like a failure as a girlfriend.
The next week, while my parents were in Florida, he hit me, twice, Monday and Wednesday. I tried to break things off Friday night. That left me in absolute fear that he was hiding in the park behind my house, desperate to win me back.
That week, I never felt so alone. I felt so lost. I remember my mom telling me on the phone, “Pray about it. Everything is going to be okay.”
The week I broke up with him, we were volunteers with the church’s annual Vacation Bible School.
Things finally began improving as I ended the longest romantic relationship of my life – Just over 4 years. On Saturday, July 17, I turned back to the relationship that I needed to focus on most – My relationship with God.
With Al, I found that no one in his immediate family regularly attended church. It was surprising, but not a deal-breaker for me. To Al’s credit, he was a good sport about it. He came to Aldersgate with me several times for Sunday services. We even ended up being Mary and Joseph in one of the Christmas celebrations in December 2010 – Yeah. To this day, he gives blood regularly at the drives that my dad and I run together at the church.
But, other than the blood drives, he’s not involved.
And to be honest with you, that’s perfectly okay with me.
It was nice to see someone else that I knew had read the article too. Megan is an awesome, dedicated blogger/writer. I stalk Freckled Italian every day for a new post, shamelessly. Check it out!
Anyway, in her post on February 13th, Megan had this to say, about her and her husband:
- Godless Parents Are Doing a Better Job. Rob and I aren’t religious people, but I grew up in a church and sometimes wonder how we’re going to raise our children. This piece gave me a lot of hope (and also made me laugh a little).
I couldn’t have agreed more with her two simple sentences.
My main thought, after reading this several times over, was that it was very well-written.
At first glance, the title made me raise my eyebrows, but I was intrigued, so I read.
It was fascinating to see the studies that were cited. The author was very thorough in her research, and I was more impressed the more times I read it. I mean, come on, who cites a 40-YEAR study in an op-ed for a website? That’s awesome to me.
I like the way she stealthily inserted humor, to the point where I didn’t realize it was coming until I was reading it. And when I read it, and it registered, I laughed. A lot.
Aside from the laughter and the statistics, I first read this on a Wednesday night while sitting next to Al on his living room couch. I pointed it out to him on my laptop. Although he didn’t read it, he seemed intrigued by my brief, excited verbal synopsis.
I thought it was funny/poignant that she wrote, “… Christians … can organize a blood drive like nobody’s business…” in the last paragraph too. That was awesome, given my expansive history with those kinds of things – Born into a family of blood donors, being a blood recipient, becoming a blood drive organizer/coordinator, and being a regular/faithful blood donor.
Having dated Al for just over four years before we got engaged this past December, the thought of marriage and having children with him has never been a question for me. He has supported me, 100 percent, with my involvement in my church, from Day 1 of our relationship. He understands that Aldersgate is where I have been attending since I was four years old. He knows that I am a Christian, that I love God, that I pray, that I am a faithful woman.
However, as the years have passed, I saw myself growing concerned about our different stances about the church, and our plans for us in the present and the future.
It helps that the two of us can talk so freely, so easily. Al really has helped mellow me out over the years, literally teaching me how to “go with the flow.” So the historically “tough conversation” about religion or “fighting over religion” has actually been relatively easy. We’re on the same page, we understand each other’s stances now.
I’m okay with him not being involved in the church – I really am. It bothered me for a while, mainly because he started out being involved with me, and then stopping that entirely, but he explained his reasons to me, honestly and without apology. That was enough for me. I let it go and got over it.
On November 15th, 2015, I’ll wake up that morning and find myself a changed woman – Finally united in marriage to the love of my life, and that is so exciting.
However, I’ll still be Laura Beth – I’ll still be that Christian woman, who loves God and relies on her faith. I’ll know that I planned a wedding that took place in the beautiful sanctuary of the church called Aldersgate, the place I have called home for 23 years, surrounded by our closest family members and friends. I’ll remain committed to the blood drive mission for as long as it stands.
But, there are lots of unknowns, unanswered questions, too. Will I continue to attend Aldersgate? Will I attend any church in my first years of my marriage? Will I raise my children in a household where Mommy takes them to church every Sunday, while Daddy stays home?
Question: Will we go to church at all, as a family?
Answer: I don’t know.
I have been praying about this, a lot. And honestly, up until recently, I was feeling pretty discouraged, pretty low about it. I felt like I didn’t have any answers. I felt like I was in neutral, spinning my wheels.
But reading this article three weeks ago renewed my strength and my hope. It opened my eyes. It gave me some clarity.
The main thing I realized: When I become a mom, no one else can truly dictate how I raise them. Those decisions come from Al and I, period. And sometimes, I’ll need to make the decisions on my own.
I have bookmarked this article and I plan to reference it frequently as I make this journey from fiancee to wife to mom.
In the meantime, I plan to explore/study these other resources:
I enjoy researching and studying, and reading and writing. I know that when I marry Al, and more so when we are first expecting or adopting or however we’re able to bring a child/children into our little world, those are guaranteed to continue.
Until then, you’ll find me living my life as I see fit.
Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂