Religion, Authenticity & Oceans of Pee: Faith Can Be Messy

~By Beth Woolsey, Five Kids Is a Lot of Kids

Hey! Let’s talk about Jesus!

Here’s my thinking: People over here at Families in the Loop are good with swearing, and Wendy Widom, the group’s founder and president, happens to be Jewish. So Jesus? PERFECT FIT.

They say to write what you know.

They say to be genuine.

They say to be authentic.

I don’t know who “they” are exactly, but their advice is risky.

How genuine should we be, after all? In which venues? And with whom? How much of our hearts and minds and wonky belief systems do we toss into the world? “Be authentic” doesn’t seem like situationally appropriate advice, after all.

Talking about Jesus is dicey. Not because of Jesus necessarily. I mean, there was the whole water-to-wine thing, which I think we can all agree was awesome. And most people are OK with the way Jesus loved people and let them in and opened doors and changed the rules and freed the oppressed and befriended the lonely.

The problem with Jesus, of course, is Christians. Now, if more of us prayed Anne Lamott’s prayer, “Help me not be such an asshat,” we might not be in such a hot mess. But Christians are a mixed-up crowd: complicated, opinionated, beautiful, and terrible, sometimes all in the same person. Like humans everywhere, I suppose.

I usually write about my accidental journey to parenting a thousand children. I write humor and relief and grace for moms and dads in the trenches. Five kids is a lot of kids, after all, and it’s our goal to raise them to be self-sufficient enough to pay for their own counseling. Write what you know, they say, and so I write about lowering the bar and relaxing into imperfection and trying to love my people well.

When I started writing about my messy faith, full of soul-searching and questions and not nearly enough answers, I was sure I was in trouble. I was sure I was about to take it from both barrels like Tina Fey playing Sarah Palin – pshew, pshew! I was sure the Jesus people were going to take me down for my irreverence and potty humor. And I was positive my readers, who counted on me for posts about oceans of pee and zipper penis accidents, would not, could not, recover from the whiplash of urinal cakes one minute and faith the next.

Worse, I was terrified both camps would think I was trying to convert them. That I have an agenda. Or a lifestyle to promote. Or a political position to posit.

I was, in other words, afraid.

I was afraid of being judged and found wanting.

I was afraid people would be wrong about me.

I was afraid people would be right.

Once upon a time, I refused to say I was a Christian. I preferred “Jesus follower” if someone pushed me about religion. Or “radical lover,” which my husband liked best but not for godly reasons. But then an atheist friend convinced me I was wrong to shuck the title Christian because I didn’t want to be painted with the hater brush or because I wanted to provide a more long-winded explanation.

“Everyone is more complex than her titles,” she said. “And everyone wants a chance to explain. Don’t give up on saying you’re a Christian. Instead, believe there’s more to every person’s story. Start by treating yours like it matters.”

She knocked me flat with the truth.

Everyone is more complex than her titles. Everyone wants a chance to explain. Don’t give up claiming who you are. Instead, believe there’s more to every person’s story. Start by treating yours like it matters.

I’m writing about this at Families in the Loop because I find myself more and more enamored these days with authenticity. With risk. With telling wild truths that have more questions than answers.

I’m more interested these days in madness and imperfection.

I’m more interested in breaking through barriers than hiding behind my walls.

I wonder: What pieces of ourselves are we afraid to live out loud? What pieces do we hide because we’re sure we’ll be judged and found wanting?

What might the world be like if we choose to be wildly, shamelessly ourselves? What stereotypes can we change? What odd friendships can we forge?

What if, oh, I don’t know, we have a real conversation – right here – about the things that happen in our hearts? What if we’re ourselves with people who think different things? What might we find out about each other? What might we find out about ourselves?

There’s more to every person’s story. And I will claim my own. Why? Because it matters.

Like this post? Then come hang out on Facebook, where we shoot the you-know-what about anything and everything.

21 Responses to “Religion, Authenticity & Oceans of Pee: Faith Can Be Messy”

  1. On March 18, 2013 at 1:11 pm Jessica Roth responded with... #

    “Everyone is more complex than her titles…And everyone wants a chance to explain.”

    That knocked me back this morning. Phew.

    I am humbled, inspired, broken and encouraged. Thanks for sharing this, Beth…and I’m really looking forward to exploring this blog, it looks like fun! :)

  2. On March 18, 2013 at 1:30 pm The Good Luck Duck responded with... #


    Super-plus bonus points for quoting Anne Lamott, who rocks this atheist’s inner world.

    • On March 18, 2013 at 1:34 pm Beth Woolsey: Five Kids Is A Lot Of Kids responded with... #

      Anne Lamott rocks mine, too. She’s a world-rocker, and we all love her for it. Must be because she’s telling those Wild Truths, eh? Thanks, Good Luck Duck, for weighing in here. You’re rad.

  3. On March 18, 2013 at 1:31 pm Carlie responded with... #

    Hey Beth! I’ve been a Christian afraid to talk about my faith and an atheist afraid to talk about my nonfaith, and I loved, “Believe there’s more to every person’s story. Start by treating yours like it matters.” I also have loved your writing from any angle! Keep being you. :)

    • On March 18, 2013 at 1:38 pm Beth Woolsey: Five Kids Is A Lot Of Kids responded with... #

      Thank you, Carlie! This is exactly it… I’ve been a Christian afraid, and a Doubter afraid, and a Human afraid, and a Woman afraid, and a Mother afraid. I so want to change that paradigm, and I’m starting to understand that the only way out of afraid is by telling the true stories of our real selves. The only way to become Me unafraid, and I want to be friends with You unafraid. Thank you for sharing these pieces of your story. Love you for this!

  4. On March 18, 2013 at 1:33 pm Melanie responded with... #

    This is the message I needed to read today: “Everyone is more complex than her titles…And everyone wants a chance to explain.” Thanks, Beth!

  5. On March 18, 2013 at 1:54 pm Heather Bowie responded with... #

    Nailed it again, of course. I love Jesus and potty humor both and you for always bringing’ it!

  6. On March 18, 2013 at 2:55 pm Kristi responded with... #

    Beautiful. “Start by treating yours like it matters.” I’m going to write that on post-its all over my house. <3

  7. On March 18, 2013 at 3:35 pm Kristina responded with... #

    Such a powerful and true statement! Thank you for sharing as this seems to be a theme in my life at present!

    Jesus and His themes gotta love ‘em.

  8. On March 18, 2013 at 8:03 pm Dorothy responded with... #

    There are many paths to the same place. As many paths as there are humans. The labels, as well as judgements, matter not to spirit, only to the human. I label myself Spiritual, which encompasses the basic foundation of all religions. I call it Love. Treat others as you would have them treat you. Our beliefs are so very personal and it is your truth, not anyone else’s that matters to you.
    I love the quote, “What others think of me is none of my business.” LOL!! What they think is their business and has absolutely nothing to do with me, it’s all about them. Whoa, that was a huge lightbulb moment for me. Dr Wayne Dyer says “Needing approval is tantamount to saying, your view of me is more important than my own opinion of myself:”
    Love who you are, no matter how you label it. Spirit loves you, no matter what you call yourself.

  9. On March 18, 2013 at 9:34 pm kate responded with... #

    I’m an atheist; always have been. But when I was a kid in a really dysfunctional family, I was well-loved and cared for by the nuns at my school (those women somehow managed to treat each and every one of us as special and unique). And I’ve been hated by Christians (I’m a lesbian). And I know atheists who hate Christians. So I guess for me, the title is irrelevant as long as you love and don’t hate. Simple really. Love and kindness, regardless of religious beliefs, makes the world go ’round.

  10. On March 19, 2013 at 12:40 am Heather D responded with... #

    Uh, this is you reading my mind. I try to write about faith because I am thinking about it so much but all the stuff you mention constantly is the testing with which I read every thing I write. And I do pray not to be an asshat, self righteous, I have all the answers, here is a moronic christian placation. I think mostly because I want a faith that is not a Mcfaith, that looks good on the outside but is vaguely nauseating when consumed. thank you, can you be my sister, please?

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