One day last December, I picked Zoey up from school and she was visibly upset. She sniffled and glared at her feet, refusing to respond to my questions but holding tightly to my hand. Once we were in the car she settled into her booster seat and moodily began to pick at the grapes I brought her for a snack. I sat in the front seat worrying about all the things that could be wrong. Bullying? Something about adoption? Race? Oh. My. God. Had some kid with an older sibling told her how babies were made? I took a breath and steeled myself for the sex talk.
Finally, Zoey came out with it.”Mom? Lisa said Jesus isn’t a bear.”
I paused, confused.
“Lisa said,” Zoey took a deep breath and continued, “that Jesus was a person not a bear and that Jesus’ dad is not a bear. But I know Jesus is a bear and I told it to Lisa and she got mad and said I was wrong.” Zoey was holding back tears. “I am not wrong, right Mom?”
Let me pause and briefly explain. We have a nativity scene that my grandmother gave me many years ago. Except, instead of featuring people, the set has porcelain teddy bears. Similar to this:
Zoey loves this nativity set. During Christmas, she rearranges all the bears several times a day and often carries around baby bear Jesus in her sweaty palm for hours on end. She even sleeps with the baby Jesus on her bedside table. We never had the Jesus-is-a-person-born-of-the-virgin-Mary conversation. It, like, never came up.
Or something. The something is me. I grew up Lutheran and attended a Catholic and then Episcopalian school. I learned a lot about Jesus. And I think Jesus was a nice guy. Great, even. I admire a lot of his philosophy and respect his selflessness and good deeds. But I don’t believe he is the son of God.
This is problematic.
See, I believe in God and am attached to a lot of the traditional Christian church rituals and hyms that I grew up with. But I’m pretty sure they don’t let you call yourself Christian, or even Christian-ish, if you don’t believe Jesus is the son of God. So finding a church is, um, difficult.
We’ve done the Unitarian thing. I love the Unitarians and their commitment to community and practical footwear. But their church service doesn’t have enough God in it for me. More conservative churches don’t work for me either–anyplace that uses religion or the Bible to exclude, well, anyone is out. In fact, it makes me gut wrenching, body shaking mad. I’m pretty sure exclusion, homophobia, and misogynism is not what Jesus would do.
So. That leaves me, and by extension my daughter, without a religious/spiritual community. We need to find one soon because I told Zoey that Jesus could be a bear, at least in our house. That and I’ve got a “God shaped hole”* in my heart.
Do you have a spiritual home? How did you find it?
* I first came across this term in Jesus For The Non Religious, by John Shelby Spong, HarperCollins, New York, 2007.