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Learning to Hear My Heart

Do you ever have those moments when you question life in a rather big way? You wonder why you’re here, what it’s all about, and possibly who is in charge of this mad, beautiful world? I had one of those recently.

It had been a long time since I’d listened to a church service when I attended my step-Oma’s funeral this September. Actually, I’d been in the same church the previous summer when I attended my Opa’s funeral, but that time I was preoccupied with keeping my small children as still and quiet as possible. They had never been to church and weren’t in school yet, and they were used to being outside: free and wild (within reason). They didn’t understand the concept of not being allowed to climb over and under the pews and ask full-volume questions about everything. At Oma Anne’s funeral, in The Year of our Covid 2020, we were restricted to just 50 people in the building. I sat with only my brother, with two pews between us and the next family for safe social distancing. There was nothing to distract me from listening to what was said, and what was said really made me consider what I believe.

I grew up going to church. I was baptized as an infant in the Christian Reformed Church, by my grandfather who was a minister. This ceremony symbolized my sins being washed away by the blood of Jesus, and was my family’s promise to God that I was his servant. I spent my childhood and youth learning the stories of Noah, Abraham, Ruth (my favourite), Jesus, et al., and accepting them as The Truth. When I was in my teens, I took classes in the Catechism taught by my dad, who had followed in his father’s footsteps. With a group of other teens from our small town congregation, I memorized a bunch of Questions and Answers that declared what we believed. After we completed the classes, we were invited to profess our faith in front of the congregation, which I did. Of course. When you are the daughter of the pastor, and you’ve been conditioned your whole life to be good, be quiet, follow the rules, you don’t even consider breaking out and finding your own way, or discovering for yourself what you believe.

My Dad cried when I professed my faith. I remember being surprised, because I hadn’t seen him get emotional about anything. I remember feeling good that it was me who was making him so proud, so moved. And, deep underneath that, I had the worrying feeling that this might just be a lie. I was going through the motions, but my heart wasn’t in it. I wasn’t moved or emotional about declaring myself a servant of Jesus Christ. My heart was buried under too much pain, too much ‘be quiet, be careful’, to be able to share its truths with me, but I could feel through all of the layers that what I was professing wasn't my Truth. I’d had moments when I did feel connected to God, for sure. Most often it was while singing my favourite hymns (It Is Well With My Soul: such a beaut), and while being of service somehow- cleaning garbage from roadside ditches, building homes with Habitat for Humanity, etc. But I think I knew down in the depths of my heart that Christianity wasn’t the whole picture for me, even as I was declaring that it was.

At Oma Anne’s funeral, the pastor read and spoke about Question and Answer 1 from the Catechism, which I realized I still had locked away in my brain. (Such a good student, such a good girl.) Here’s what it says:

Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?

A. That I am not my own, but belong- body and soul, in life and in death - to my faithful saviour Jesus Christ.

My whole body cringed, feeling how untrue those words are for me. I've spent about a decade carefully removing the layers around my heart- the pain and the protection- so that I can more easily feel its messages, and hear that still small voice that speaks My Truth. The pastor went on with a speech about God’s Fatherly love, and the comfort of it being available anytime we need it. Still, the opposite of warm fuzzies (cold itchies?) were crawling under my skin. None of this felt true for me.

I am not anti-Christian, for the record. I am happy for folks who have taken this as their belief system and find comfort in it, as long as they are not trying to convince everyone else that their truth is The Truth. I am not a Christian myself. So, all these years later, as I sat there staring at the beautiful dahlias on display at the funeral, I began to write my own simple catechism in my mind.

Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?

A. That I am not my own, but belong- body and soul, in life and in death- to the beautiful Earth beneath my feet.

Simple. And for me, so very true. My body relaxed, sinking into gravity, which is always grounding me down to where I belong. Feeling my connection to the Earth, the soil, the life it provides, including the life of the dahlias I was admiring, I smiled.

The Heidelberg Catechism Answer 1 continues as such:

“He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,

and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.

He also watches over me in such a way

that not a hair can fall from my head

without the will of my Father in heaven;

in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

Because I belong to him,

Christ, by his Holy Spirit,

assures me of eternal life

and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready

from now on to live for him."

I will boldly and openly reconstruct this complete answer now, to suit my heart, and profess it here.

I am not my own, but belong- body and soul, in life and in death- to the beautiful Earth beneath my feet.

She has fully provided for me with her precious plants, trees, and water,

And has set my heart to singing with her beauty.

She watches over all of Her children in such a way

That not a leaf can fall from a branch

Without the will of our Mother Earth.

In fact, all humans must work together for Her salvation.

Because I belong to Her,

Earth, by her intricate design,

assures me of a full life

and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready

to live for Her greatest good,

and to return my borrowed body to her when my time comes.


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