Spiritual Journey from Christian to Pantheist

After the birth of her autistic child prevents a Korean-American woman from going to church, she beings a spiritual journey from Christian to pantheist.

| May/June 2013

  • Losing My Religion
    I had to look straight into the darkness, with no place to hide, no pose to hold, and really figure out how I believed the universe worked and how I was going to continue to live in it.
    Photo By Kevin Dooley
  • Losing Religion
    Even as a kid I did my own version of meditation, sitting very still, closing my eyes, and trying to empty my mind of thoughts (and causing my mother to shout at me when she caught me doing it, hidden, I thought, in the backyard).
    Photo By Cornelia Kopp

  • Losing My Religion
  • Losing Religion

I would havemade a good 17th-century melancholic. Even as a child I was dreary. I remember my mother yelling at me to smile more, like the other kids. I tried, but secretly I didn’t see the point; grinners just didn’t understand the world. Even waking up to a sunny summer day could fill me with dread. A beautiful day only underscored the impermanence of happiness. Beauty today meant rain and wind would get me later for sure.  

Becoming a writer was a good-enough cover for bouts of nihilism, depression, and black apparel. But when I had a child, J, who turned out to have serious health problems and autism, I had to look straight into the darkness, with no place to hide, no pose to hold, and really figure out how I believed the universe worked and how I was going to continue to live in it.

When you are told your child has a serious disability, while you’re still in shock, it is common for you, the mother, to be handed an essay, “Welcome to Holland,” by Emily Perl Kingsly. It’s a piece that would not be out of place on a Hallmark card. It compares finding out that you are living every expectant parent’s worst nightmare to being on a plane to Italy but finding yourself landing in Holland instead. So once you get over yourself — I want the Trevi Fountain! Pasta Puttanesca! — and learn to appreciate the tulips and wooden shoes, you’ll be able to see that what happened to you is not what you planned but wonderful it its own way.

No disrespect to Ms. Kingsley (who has a child with Down syndrome), but the women in the excellent parenting group I had the luck to find had only two words for this poem: fuck that. Sometimes a new member came in complaining about “Welcome to Holland,” and we could only cackle. Raising a disabled child can sound noble, but we knew what it meant: screaming fits that lasted for hours, painful bowel problems, seizures, self-injurious behavior, extra large diapers, days and weeks swallowed by doctors’ visits, never hearing the word Mommy.

In our group, we talked about how we all have points when we hate our lives, not because our children are burdens but because we can’t make them happy, or sometimes even comfortable. What bigger failing is there for a parent than not being able to comfort her own child? One parent of a teen spoke of how she had to lock her in the garage and stick her own head in the shower when the second hour of high-pitched screaming pushed her near the edge. (Autism carries with it a 90 percent divorce rate, and the latest awful trend is parents — including a former Bush administration official — killing their children, sometimes in murder-suicides).

It’s not easy being the embodiment of your friends’ nightmares: “I couldn’t do what you do.” “You’re a saint.” “Oh my God, I’m so glad this didn’t happen to us!” What I understood less was the Christian universe. On the one hand, we were told to pray that poor J would get better. On the other hand, we were instructed to accept God’s divine plan, that it was a test of our faith to not be angry at God. But I wasn’t angry at God; I just didn’t even know anymore who God was.

Lauri Lumby
5/20/2013 3:22:37 PM

BEAUTIFUL story of how life often pulls the rug out from under our feet, forcing us to discover what our soul really wants and who our soul really wants us to be. Many have accepted the call to this kind of deep soul work, present company included, and have bore witness to the results.....a life that feels authentically our own, not the life that we were living that in truth belonged to someone else. In the 48th year of this journey, I too embrace my own unique spirituality and religion a strange hodgepodge of Catholicism (what I was raised), Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism and Wicca. I guess I could call myself a Catholic Buddhist Hindu Jewish Witch and I'm happier for it! Lauri Lumby Authentic Freedom Ministries http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Robert Johnson
5/20/2013 3:19:35 PM

Great article - thanks! It's interesting just how many millions of people are moving away from the "revealed" religions and are classified by pollsters as "nones." The bulk of the nones seem to hold Deistic beliefs (belief in God based on the application of their reason on the laws and designs in Nature while rejecting the claims of the various "revealed" religions to miracles, etc.). To the Deist the Universe is the only possible "word of God." With people moving away from the "revealed" religions we should hopefully see less religious violence. Progress! Bob Johnson http://www.deism.com

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