Breathing a Post-Holiday Sigh of Relief: An Interfaith Story
The holidays are over, and with the start of the secular new year, I am no longer holding my breath and bracing myself for another round of “Merry Christmas!” After releasing an overdue post-holiday sigh of relief, my breathing becomes more rhythmic as I enter the present moment, the here and now, living in America, the home of the free.
January is a time of year when I feel a part of the America my grandfather fought to defend in World War II rather than apart from my fellow citizens. As a child, I was raised both Jewish and Catholic and have found myself teetering on an imaginary seesaw of religious identity most of my adult life.
I have found it challenging to fully embrace any religion in spite of my best efforts and personal longings. On one end of the religious spectrum, I was told that as Jews, we are God’s chosen people, but I found those teachings incongruent with the Holocaust. On the other end of the religious spectrum, I was told that we were born sinners and would commit the most offensive of human atrocities, but as long as we as Christians accepted Jesus Christ into our hearts as our Savior, then we would enjoy eternal life in Heaven. I had issues applying that philosophy to notorious death row inmates.
I am envious of the wholly devout in any faith. For most of my life, I was unable to attend a religious sermon of any denomination because I felt as though I was an imposter in God’s home. Warm tears would stream down my face, and I would barely make it out before I began full-on sobbing.
There is one time in my childhood when God made sense. During outdoor Shabbat services at URJ Henry S. Jacobs Camp in Utica, Miss., I felt an overwhelming sense of calm. I loved the light breaking through the canopy of leaves before sunset. It was the one time I felt that God was showing me love. I don’t know why this connection, these feelings, were so isolated to this time and place.
I wish I didn’t have such self-doubts or bouts with worry about life after death or even life as it is now – but I do. I never had a bat mitzvah because I felt that I did not deserve to give voice to God’s words, and I never did anything confirming in any Christian denomination, either, though I did eat many communion wafers as snacks until my crying fits subsided.
Unable to identify exactly what I believe and can commit to, I created a web series, “Om Sweet Home,” that allows me to explore what it means to be religious and have doubts. Like Ruth, the main character, I have inward journeys of asking “Who am I?” and often these thoughts result in outer journeys of creating my best self. Sometimes the questions are harder, like, “Who am I in relation to…?” and I get stuck in an image of who I think I need to be instead of who I am.
The first step of my personal journey is attributed to Rabbi Hillel and his soul-provoking quote:
“If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?”
Fear has contributed in large part in the shaping my beliefs: the fear of not believing in God, the fear of not accepting Jesus as my Savior, the fear of everything in between. I am setting out to replace fear with not only hope, but also with faith.
"Om Sweet Home” is evolving. The end is not pre-scripted. In the spirit of art imitating life and life imitating art, neither my personal quest of self-discovery nor my religious journey are pre-scripted. I imagine there will be many plot twists, but I look forward to the adventure and the shared stories along the way.
Meg Weidner is a soul-searching southern Jew from Jackson, MS, whose most recent creative endeavor is developing the web series "Om Sweet Home." For Weidner, the web series is a creative way to reconnect with faith and God and Judaism. It is also a way to bring people together to share stories and connect on a human level. Weidner is a passionate creative artist who seeks connection and the experience of sharing stories in all her work. To view the web series and share your stories, please visit www.omsweethome.tv.