I can't help but associate church attendance with religion. It's all I've ever known. Attending church means you're committed to religion, not attending means you suck at being religious. There's a grading system, and I've failed miserably.
I've left the church twice in my life. I've been called a backslider, a heathen, and I've been whispered about behind my back. The worst has been the subtle suggestions that made me believe my husband would be better off without me.
I've changed my mind about religion.
Religion is not "going to church", and my lack of church attendance speaks nothing to my spirituality. Religion is just another label I've needed to remove to rediscover my identity.
I've been told by a few people that I am a Buddhist because of some of the beliefs I'm adopting. I'm not sure what that means to them, but I've only scratched the surface of understanding Buddhism. And I'm not sure I can attach to it if only because it's another label, and shedding Christian for Buddhist doesn't feel right. I'm certainly not ready for it.
Religion taught me that having a spiritual life is important.
I cannot deny that religion served a purpose in my life. Religion gave me boundaries and rules, guidelines to live by when I needed them. But religion inadvertently taught me that I don't need to be boxed in; it taught me to stretch myself beyond what I've always known.
Religion ostracizes people. Religious leaders in the bible ostracized Jesus - because he was changing things. It's not a new phenomenon.
Religion required I be "all in", but the truth is I can take or leave aspects of Christianity; not all traditions and practices fulfill me. Programs have never worked - I didn't like school and I didn't like church. I'm not a fan of face-forward being-lectured-to environments. I don't like having an imposed schedule or time limit on my spiritual practice. I don't like crowds. I don't like small talk.
And I'm not sure I believe everything about the Christian God.
But religion taught me that having a spiritual life is important and I never fail to tap into my soul and drop into my heart on a daily basis. I interact with my spiritual growth in a way that works for me, not in a way that I'm told is "the right way" to do it.
“Change is not what we expect from religious people. They tend to love the past more than the present or the future.”
Richard Rohr, Falling Upward