I stepped out into the freezing rain and headed toward the closest door. An older gentleman walked by and offered me an umbrella. So nice he offered. Instant good feeling. I followed him to the sanctuary since I didn’t know where I was going.
I hadn’t been to a church service in over 20 years.
My religious background consists of fairly regular Sunday school and services at a small country Methodist church until I was a teenager. I attended vacation bible school and participated in Christmas pageants. I am told I asked one of the church ladies, Where does God sleep if this is his house? Always questioning, but simultaneously enjoying the rituals and environment. I also attended countless masses with my Catholic girlfriends. Their services made less sense to me but I still absorbed and saved the feeling of peace and vastness that entered me when I attended.
I realize now that church provided an amazing space for reflection. An incredible place to ponder daily existence and beyond. I have also noted a similar feeling of inner expansion when visiting a library, walking in the woods or spending time in solitude.
I don’t believe you have to take part in organized religion to have faith, reflect or be a good person, but lately I’ve been craving a spiritual community and familiar rituals.
Intuitive types are at home in the church that welcomes experimentation, innovation, and change. They welcome imaginative teaching that approaches the topic from novel and oblique perspectives. They tend to prefer a questioning and liberal faith. ~Psychological Type and Religion, Exhumator.com
Let’s see how this religion fits
My ex-husband was Jewish. I went through the conversion process and agreed at the time of our marriage to raise our children as Jews . I was 26 and had no idea how many family traditions would be affected by that decision.
What I didn’t foresee was the fact that I would never truly feel at home in the Jewish culture. Everyone was so kind and welcoming to me. My ex-husband’s family embraced me fully. I loved them. They were genuine and caring. It was the food, conversation style, and focus on activity that never felt 100% natural to me.
A new lifestyle for you complete with knishes and kugel
We attended a conservative temple when we were first married. Much of the service was done in Hebrew and afterwards there was an oneg — a social time with punch, coffee and sweets. During the oneg women talked about the Jewish camps their kids attended and how they were preparing for the next bris, Sukkoth or bat-mitzvah. Social time after services was a familiar ritual, but the word oneg and Camp Yeladim were not.
Let’s all talk at once and fry the introvert’s mind
Everything was very outward with the Jewish lifestyle. It was rare and unusual to meet a Jew who didn’t thrive in a boisterous, active crowd.
Family first and always.
Desiring time alone felt especially selfish when other Jewish women were killing themselves to support every member of their family, the synagogue, the schools and a sprinkling of committees.
… the family comes first idea is often foreign to introverts. We are wired to start inside.
~ Lauria Helgoe, Introvert Power
Being an introvert in an unfamiliar space, I let my ex-husband lead. I followed and did my best to adapt and love the new traditions and ways of being. I was fascinated by the success and strength of such a small religious faction. I wanted to fit in. I wanted to learn and understand. I wanted to be quick and entertaining. I wanted to be productive and impressive. I wanted to love all the hubbub and interaction.
But I missed the reflection. I missed the inward part of spirituality.
Bleeding green and red
It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy and appreciate the Jewish faith and its traditions. Passover was my favorite holiday and I grew to know and love its story and nuances.
The real trouble was that I always felt like a visitor in a foreign land, much like an introvert playing an extrovert (every day).
I was the quiet shiksa. My blonde hair stood out. Well-meaning Jewish women would pull me aside and tell me they always have a little Christmas tree in a corner during the holidays. They just knew I wasn’t born a Jew.
We never had a Christmas tree at our married house. I still decorated the house with blue and white lights. I went snowman crazy and used them to add festivity and sooth my Santa cravings.
I set my own family of origin’s holiday traditions aside and put on a Jewish spread. My family did their best to get our Hanukkah presents to us on time in Hanukkah paper.
An introvert disguised in extrovert paper?
The only thing I fought for in the divorce was having the kids for Christmas every year. Last year I took back Xmas and did it up with a beautiful tree and new/old family traditions.
To be honest, it felt a little strange to downplay Hanukkah.
I realize the meaning of Christmas is not the tree and Santa but to me it’s all intertwined with sacred traditions and feelings of home.
In church, I sat to the left of the pulpit and breathed deeply as the organ sang and the choir accompanied. The rich voice of the pastor enhanced the message of kindness and devotion. I rested in the familiarity of hymns sung in English. I fell into the natural rhythm of listening and responding interspersed with silent prayer. Even the soaring ceilings and dressed-up congregation felt like home, a home perfect for personal and universal reflection.
I noticed the similarities between church and synagogue. Both advocate gratitude, peace and serving others. Both consider family and community sacred. Both ask for money.
And of course, Jesus was a Jew.;)
I left right after services. Walked to my car with shoulders relaxed and step a little lighter.
Maybe next time I’ll stick around for coffee, punch and sweets.
Have you ever given up something that felt like giving away a part of you?
Introverts in the Church (Thepowerofintroverts.com – Susan Cain)
Psychological Type and Religion (Exhumator.com)