When I wrote my first blog post, I quoted the definition of wellness from Miriam-Webster: the quality or state of being in good health, especially as an actively sought goal. I also discussed the various facets of wellness. It’s not just about your physical well-being, but also social, spiritual, emotional, and environmental factors. If one of these is off, you feel unsettled.
And it’s this time of year that I feel unsettled about my spirituality. Among my close friends, it’s no secret that I do not attend church. I was born and raised Baptist, and I attended a moderate church in Hampton. When my husband and I married, I joined the church where he grew up.
My parents have expressed their disappointment that I no longer attend church. My mom feels like she did something wrong in my upbringing, I think. But really, that’s not the case. I just don’t know how I feel about religion at this point in my life. Religion and spirituality, however, I think are separate things.
One of my favorite quotes is by Albert Einstein: “All religion, arts, and sciences are branches of the same tree.” I’ve actually practiced all of these branches in my life. I was a biology major in college, I have a master’s degree in Physical Therapy, I was raised in the church, and I love to dabble in arts and crafts as a form of expression.
We use all of these “branches” of the tree to help us explain and explore phenomenon around us. As a scientist, I’ve been trained in questioning my environment, creating a hypothesis, and then testing that question. If we prove the hypothesis, it becomes a fact. We’ve learned how to explain many phenomenon of our world through science. But what about the unanswered questions? Some explain through religion, coincidence, luck, karma, etc. How many times have we told ourselves that everything happens for a reason? Or that a loved one who recovers from a severe injury or incurable disease that is suddenly healed is because of a miracle? We don’t have any other tools to explain it.
I think I still believe that there is some driving force in the universe that unites us and tries to lead us in the right direction morally; something that watches out for us. We have an obligation as human beings to be good to each other and to earth. It’s really the motivation behind my decision to be a healthcare provider. It’s one of the reasons I’m vegan. Is that driving force God? I really don’t know anymore. But I don’t believe that we need to attend church to find morality.
I could list a thousand examples of people who claim to be religious, park themselves in a church pew every Sunday, but whose lives play out in some way other than what I would consider Christian. I’ve lived in that world. I’ve been hurt by that world. It took some counseling and someone with an objective view who gave me permission to validate my feelings to absolve my guilt about not attending church. I miss parts of church. I miss Christmas music, singing in the choir, and singing old hymns. That truly was the best part of my teenage experience of church, studying music in the choir under one of the best teachers ever. But it didn’t make up for the ugly parts.
My favorite quote from my favorite religious Christmas song, O Holy Night:
“Truly he taught us to love one another. His law is love and his gospel is peace. Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother. And in his name, all oppression shall cease.”
Where do I find peace? Where is that driving force in the universe? For me, I find it in nature. I find it in my running community. I find it when I’m out on a long run, my body depleted, and my spirit lifted out of a funk, my mind having processed whatever issues or dark place I may be fighting. My Church of the Sunday Long Run.
One of my friends posted this quote from Twitter, and I find it entirely appropriate for me:
So if you find yourself with questions about your spirituality this Christmas, know that you are not alone. I hope you are finding peace and joy this Holiday season.