An Awkward First Date with Jesus
I wanted to be a priest when I grew up.
Seriously. I wanted to lead a church and support community members as they navigated their faith. It was my dream to break the bread and serve the wine. That is, until my mom informed me that women couldn’t be Priests. “I can’t do what I want just because I’m a girl?” Ludicrous. I like to think this was the moment my feminist passion was born.
My early years of faith were shaped by the Catholic church. I was raised Catholic and learned to carry that infamous Catholic guilt so many intimately know and live with. It was important to my parents, so I did it. My faith, however, was not inspired by or fueled by the teaching of that particular church. Sunday mornings were typically a long, arduous drag until we finally got to eat breakfast. The Priest would stand in his pulpit and I’d zone out for the duration. “Can we bail at communion?” My Dad was never particularly thrilled with that question. At my confirmation, the Bishop came and delivered a message that is burned into my memory:
“To all the young men here today”, he said, “you’ll soon be leaving for college and new experiences. Be wise in your decision-making and take every opportunity to expand your faith.” Then, he made the statement that ignited what would become my disdain for Catholicism:
“To all the young women here, you will soon become mothers…”
To this day, I honestly don’t know what he said next. I stopped listening immediately. “So the boys are going to college and all I’m good for is having a baby. Message received.” That was the end of it for me.
In all honesty, that would be the end of any engagement I would want to have with a church for nearly a decade. I bristled at referring to myself as a Christian. That word, in my opinion, had been hijacked into a single connotation: you don’t belong here.
If you’re LGBTQ: you’re a sinner and you can’t sit with us.
If you’re any religion other than christian: you’re a threat.
If you’re a woman: you’re only goal should be marriage and babies.
“No,I am not a Christian’, I’d say loud and proud. “I believe in God, but the God I believe in has made all of us the way we are for a reason. I’m proud to support the LGBTQ community, I believe women are equal to men, and I don’t believe Jesus was a white guy.” That was my resounding statement for the duration of my time away from practicing faith. Organized religion was nothing but another manipulative power structure in my mind and I wanted nothing to do with it.
Until one year ago. On a Sunday afternoon in the summer, I walked into a church and saw a woman leading worship for the first time in my life. There were young people all around me there to celebrate a Jesus who sat with the marginalized and the immigrants. This was a church that recognized Jesus was a political activist who sought revolution. This church celebrated the LGBTQ community and wanted to love the immigrant (because we’re all immigrants, with the exception of Native Americans). This was where I belonged.
For the first time in more than a decade, I opened a Bible in my own home and started asking questions. The idea of reading this text seemed like a foray into twisted and discriminatory politics for too long. Now, I was invited to sit down with a group of women who believed exactly what I did: Jesus saw women as his equal. Fear was vanquished and in its place I found something new – curiosity. It felt like coming home.
At 28 years old, I’m on an adventure to find out what my relationship with God looks like. Prayer still feels uncomfortable and the whole process of coming back to church feels like an awkward first date. What do I wear? Where do I put my hands? Can I laugh? Should I be honest? Can I have an opinion? I’m learning how to release myself from the expectations of a centuries-old church and lean into the future of my faith. There’s one thing I know for sure: my church values me as an equal. The little girl in me is very excited ( but also like “Well, duh…”).
I am a woman, a Feminist, a pro-choice Democrat, a writer, a speaker, a recovering perfectionist, and a Christian. That list will likely evolve in the next ten years and I’m open to whatever might be added. Cammy at 18 certainly never thought “Christian” would make a comeback. And yet, here we are. The beauty of life is that you don’t have to stay the same forever. In fact, I hope you don’t. Give yourself the space to grow and change and evolve without judgement. You are loved and you are already enough. Start from there.