As a general rule, I am afraid of organized religion. When people ask me my religion I tell them I am a recovering Catholic. My mother, lovely though she is, still gives me grief about the fact that I purposely avoided the Pope's recent visit to NYC, turning down her numerous attempts to get me a ticket. She still hasn't fully come to grips with my lack of Christianity. I understand - I imagine it's hard to have a child who blatantly refuses to follow the path you raised her on.
For years, my faith as been based in my belief in goodness, found in the beauty of nature, and considered while on my yoga mat and in my daily meditation. I haven't been able to bring myself to committing to a community, a church of any kind, even though I think the public announcement of faith can be very beneficial.
I've flirted with the idea of joining a church several times. Most recently when I was living in D.C., I did go to a Catholic Church that I loved, even though I reject most ideas of the Catholic Church. I was lonely and sad and so unhappy with my job that I began to have panic attacks on Sunday nights. So I went to church because it calmed me down and gave me some strength for the coming week. Plus, I thought the priest was cute. Sorry.
My friends Matthew and Alex attend a Unitarian Church in D.C. and on a recent visit I accepted their invitation to go with them. The sermon was about grace and its meaning and importance. I love that Unitarians accept everyone wherever they are whatever they believe. That kind of organized religion I can live with. Lamott's book reflects that same kind of acceptance of people and their circumstances. And she spends a lot of time explaining that we can all find grace (eventually) on our own terms. It's hard won but worth the effort. And she's accepting of the fact that she's not perfect in her faith and that she occasionally has a bad attitude. Her idea of faith is that it understands that we all make mistakes, we all veer off the path every once in a while, and the only requirement is that we commit to be gentle and patient with ourselves and with the world around us. The only thing we really must do is love, ourselves and others.
For the first time in a long time, I feel unafraid to at least consider the idea of organized religion in my life again. And I have Matthew, Alex, and Lamott to thank for that. Maybe my grace is on the way.