By: Tanya Ward Goodman
For me the story of religion goes like this: I was baptized in the Episcopal church, but we rarely attended a service. Instead, my parents told me that if I wanted to talk to God, I should go into the woods and sit on a rock and talk to him (or more likely, her). Once I dated a Baptist and he told me that although he loved me, it was very likely I would go to hell anyway. My husband is Jewish but only on his father’s side, which is to say, not really, but he identifies with Jewish and his father is certainly Jewish and we all like corned beef and knishes, but also Christmas trees.
My kids went to a Jewish pre-school where I served on the board of directors for five years. I can make a mean brisket and I will happily eat apples dipped in honey for Rosh Hashanah (or any other time of the year). I love the idea of Tikkun Olam, which means “repairing the world”. I also like hiding Easter eggs, and the concept of Resurrection certainly makes for a great story.
I am raising my children with stories and traditions from all religions and none. I am reading them poetry and taking them on hikes and encouraging them to sit on their own rock and talk to their own god. Recently, we took them to see Romeo and Juliet. Sitting in the darkened theatre, stealing glances at their enraptured faces, I felt what it must feel to be in church. I felt grateful to be in the company of so many silent individuals, all of us engaged and thoughtful and listening. I felt enlightened not only by the beauty of Shakespeare’s language, but also by bearing witness to a kind of awakening within my children. They were seeing this play for the first time. They didn’t yet know the ending, they were letting the story unfold in all its passion and mystery and darkness. Their discovery was inspiring. Even though they didn’t understand every word, they felt the weight of the story. They were moved.
In my yoga class, I sometimes feel this way. I stand on my mat in the company of so many others, reaching and bending and using my muscles and my mind. My instructor asks us to “open our hearts, to move toward grace.” She asks us to imagine our own grace. Is it the way we move through the world? The way we treat others? The way we treat ourselves? These are questions asked in any church, in any gathering of the silent and listening. These are the questions I ask my children. I make a religion of it. How are we going to move through the world with grace? With hope? With love? How can we be kindest to others and to ourselves?
We make food, we read stories, we gather together and we listen.