Honoring the Divine Without Obligation

Today is Easter. Across the world, Christians are celebrating Jesus’ rising by attending church and gathering with their families for big, joyous meals. They are also observing all sorts of traditions like wearing a new Easter bonnet or new clothes to church, giving baskets full of treats to children or holding town-wide Easter egg hunts. 

We are also in the midst of Passover and Jewish families are joining for their traditional Sedars this week, a meal full of meaning and teaching for old and young. It’s a time to remember their successful liberation from slavery in Eqypt (the Exodus) and the “passing over” or sparing of the firstborn sons of the Israelites.

I’m very happy for anyone who finds their holidays a special time with family. I also honor those who celebrate their religious and cultural holidays with seriousness. That said, I am not a big fan of adults who feel obligated to celebrate when they’d rather not. When it comes to spiritual matters, I’m in favor of everyone’s right to choose.

I’m not an Atheist, but I am Spiritual. I believe in a Higher Power that I call God, but I don’t follow any doctrine or attend any services. When I was a kid, my parents (one Jewish, one Catholic) took us to a Unitarian Universalist Church and we received an education in honoring all beliefs. That still works for me.

Often, people come to the UU Church because they’ve inter-married like my parents or because they want to be in a community of some kind. I think it’s cool for people to have a place like that where they can believe whatever they want to believe and agree on some common morals. That worked for me as a child and I think it’s one of the reasons I don’t have any religious hangups (that I’m aware of).

But I’m in a different place now. I don’t “do” anything on holidays and I’m very happy with that choice. With all respect to my mother and stepfather who did their best to make holidays nice after my parents divorced (age 12), I knew I wanted something different, something I didn’t see in Jewish or Christian homes. I spent a lot of years “in the wilderness” of my own pain.

My friend, Melanie Ryan, recently said, “Every day is a Holy Day.” That works for me, now. Today, I helped Beth with her yoga class, attended an Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) meeting and took a long walk by a lake. I played with my dog, shopped for healthy food and talked at length with my mom and one of my daughters. All of these things were done without obligation and I certainly did not dress up in a jacket and tie to do any of that. (In fact, I didn’t take a shower, today!)

A priest once told his congregation that he knew a fellow who went down to the river on Sundays with his Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. That was this man’s way of communing with God. The priest, a man I liked a lot, said that this was no way to be with God. Like I said, I really liked this pastor, but I couldn’t disagree more with him. No one ought to tell another adult what to believe or how to practice his beliefs – or not.

To know that many of earth’s citizens, mature adults and their kids, spent today attending services or Sedars while wishing that they could go home, lay down on the couch, have a glass of milk and a piece of cake, is sad to me. Why don’t more people stop doing what they’re “supposed to do” and follow their own hearts? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way. I know why they do it because I used to do it, too.

One of the reasons I’m on an Adventure is that I feel entitled to make up my own mind about what feels right for me. This is what mature adulthood looks like for me right now – traveling, working less and seeing whether this lifestyle is right for me/us.

And that, my dear friends, is how I honor the Divine in me.

What do you think?

Our friend, Elizabeth Phaire, said this about celebrating the holidays:

I take the pressure off of it being a holiday and any expectations there may be around that. I celebrate what I want to celebrate about it in whatever way makes me feel good. I don’t celebrate traditional Easter but I do celebrate Spring and the theme of renewal and rebirth with walks in nature to observe new growth, collecting things in nature and making an altar, making crafts, cooking, bathing and anointing with oils. And music.


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