Two weeks ago, I went to church.
I’m not a lapsed Catholic (I’m not a lapsed anything, though my running record has been appalling this past month) so it wasn’t out of guilt, and I hadn’t had a close call, or any of these things. I went to a Catholic church because my dear friend is Catholic. In that sense, no different from being recommended a good Indian restaurant.
As is the format in churches (Catholic or otherwise) the priest gave a sermon by way of a parable:
One day, a boy was walking along a beach when he saw that it was covered in starfish. They had been washed in by the tide and were stranded on the beach. The boy was very sad for the starfish and felt compelled to save them. He began gathering them up in his arms but his arms were small and he dropped almost as many as he carried, and never got any of them far enough to reach the water.
A man passing by saw the boy and said to him ‘Young man, you cannot save the starfish. They are already dead or dying. There is only one of you, and so many of them.’
The boy replied ‘I can try.’
The man smiled sadly and said ‘Yes. But it won’t make a difference.’
The boy stooped and picked up the starfish nearest to him and said to the man:
‘You’re right. But it will make a difference to this one.’
And he flung the starfish, sending it back into the ocean.
It’s a nice story.
He followed up with another sermon, which was captured in his line ‘We were put on Earth to glorify God.’
I don’t agree with this.
I’m not religious. I have many friends who are devout in their faiths and I understand how it’s a positive force in their lives. I think the high point of any religion is to make you into the best version of yourself you can be. And to me, the best version of one’s self is to be able to be good to, and good for, another person.
And here’s the rub: I don’t think we need a God to do that.
I think we have enough power within ourselves to be good to each other.
So the idea of God basically saying ‘Dude, I’m a star. You’re just a fan club I made.’ doesn’t appeal to me.
I told my friend this a few days after and he said:
“This is how I took that sermon. God wants us to be good to each other. And we were created in His image. If we’re being good to each other, then we are glorifying him.”
And my friend has a way of putting these things into perspective.
I’m not any more religious than I was two Sundays ago, but something has changed. And it changed before I stepped into the church.
Like I said. I’m not religious. I’m not entirely convinced a God exists.
I don’t (right now) feel I need one.
I have found my higher power. And I married her.
Now here’s the thing.
Against this very secular (and frankly, not terribly original) sentiment, something has been planted within me, and seems to be growing.
I feel blessed.
Which is why I went to church. I wanted to be thankful to someone – anyone – for this other person whom I seem to have been given. Of course, I’m not completely sentimental. I can speak fluently (and have) to others on how it doesn’t need to be divine intervention, or kismet, or The One. It could very well be just math.
In fact, after that week, I also felt I didn’t need to go to church to be thankful (thank God I’m not Catholic, or that would’ve been an excuse right there).
But I’m thankful nonetheless. Certainly after July 5, I shall never be ungrateful for this life again. Someone picked me, threw me back into the ocean, and made a difference to me. And I’m not even a star.