When Faith is Tested

When Faith is Tested July 23, 2010

Witch hunts still exist and pagans and anyone outside the dominant religious paradigm are still fair game. This lesson has hit home harder than ever this week for me. I am being tested.

Like most others, I was raised in a religious, monotheist household. Like most others, I tried like mad to be the person that my parents needed me to be. I also tried to do this for my husband and his family. Thus I found myself caught between religious Jews and religious Greek Orthodox Christians, at different times trying my best to be the good girl in their respective pews, trying desperately to fit in to be acceptable and worthy of love. Problem was, I cannot escape who I am and how I was hard wired to be…and I failed at monotheism. In the end I could not resist the call of my ancestors and my gods, and I have paid a steep price.

When I attended synagogue with my parents, we ate together every week, they enjoyed my company and were interested in my life. When I was attending church with my husband’s family, I was included in what heathens would term the “innangard”, or inside the club. By one simple act; being true to my own spirituality and calling, I became a religious outlaw.

Today I am being tested. My husband who I love beyond belief isn’t sure he wants me anymore. In the past, I would have had the support and love of my parents. When I went to cry on their shoulders, I found only blame. They fingered my spirituality as the cause of my comeuppance. My child added that if I ruined my marriage that she would also walk away from me.

I know better to even speak of this to my husband’s family, for I stopped being worthy the moment I walked out on their way to God. By being who I am I have found myself a spiritual untouchable in the eyes of everyone I love the most. The pressure is unbearable…and I am ashamed to say that in the past I have caved to these pressures and gone into the “broom closet”, so to speak. That is no longer an option for me. All I can do is hold on for my existence and pray that those I love will see me as deserving of love even if I am not next to them every week at church or shul.

Sometimes we are tested. Our faith may draw consternation and fire. All we can do is hope to endure, survive and pass the test with our souls intact. Sometimes in order to be yourself you have to risk having everything ripped from you, coldly and brutally. I will not pretend that this is an easy thing, and that all you have to do is visualize an orb of light around the naysayers and they will melt and hug you. Testing is a violent thing, awash in shame and fear and hot tears. Too many of us have been here, and more will face their time in the crucible. May our gods and ancestors protect us and bless us all, that we may be equal to the task and survive.

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  • You are in my prayers and I am here if you need me.

    Some people seem to have the idea that Paganism is a fad or a fashion, but those people have no idea how hard we fight for our spirituality. It is a wretched sea-change within as well as a struggle for acceptance and understanding without.

    The need to sink deeply into the roots of our religion is a confounding thing for our families. It has cost me a husband and lovers who couldn’t accept being with a deeply religious Pagan. For some reason some people in Abrahamic religions seem to think it a reasonable thing to ask us to keep our faith a shameful secret, or something less important than maintaining an appropriate image for their faith communities.

    Modern Paganism isn’t a fad. Converting to this path hurts too much for us to undertake this identity lightly.

  • Morgan

    Some people do love you just as you are Laura, and we always will, no matter what.

  • Ah, Laura, my heart goes out to you and my prayers.
    The challenges and tests are always worse when one is God-claimed. More is expected of us, more trust placed in us, I think and thus our committment must be greater. What you are doing is warrior-work, make no mistake. It is a terrible but necessary thing.

    For what it is worth to those reading, i’ve been owned by a Deity for 20 years. I have seen this pattern of testing over and over: it is not done to be cruel. It is done because it is necessary to bring us into the fullness of our own selves, our own power, our own devotion to the Gods. We must be a clear stream from which They can drink.

    Be strong, be brave, be humble before your Gods. As Julian of Norwich said: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

    You are in my prayers.

  • Star, there is an inherent arrogance in monotheism that is offensive on many levels. Even many of the most ecumenical of monotheists suffer it to some degree. I think it is very hard for them to accept that our Gods are real, (though there’s technically nothing in the Bible to preclude this idea) and that we take our faith as seriously as they say they do. For this reason, a colleague of mine once called that attitude “theo-fascism” and while I find it somewhat hyperbolic in my heart of hearts, i can’t find it in myself to disagree with him.

    and you are right, especially where a Deity makes a direct claim, it hurts too much to do this for shits and giggles. That is what people who have not tasted both the sweetness and the pain of loving a God never seem to comprehend.

  • Laura,

    I am so sorry that you are being tested in this manner. It’s a strange thing: I was just wondering earlier this morning about the sacrifices Pagans are expected to make in our personal lives through the loss of loved ones.

    I think Star said it very well: “For some reason some people in Abrahamic religions seem to think it a reasonable thing to ask us to keep our faith a shameful secret”

    I’ve been at this place with my inlaws for years. My religion is treated like the “dirty little secret that we pretend isn’t there”. I’ve even had conversations with my husband about this phenonmenon within our home.

    I hope your husband sees the value of you and realize all that he will loose if he leaves. After all, you value him too much to ever make him choose between you and his faith. And I am so sorry about your child… my mother’s heart breaks for you.

    My prayers are with you. Keep strong.

  • Cara Schulz


    I am so sorry this happening to you. I don’t think your faith is being tested by your Gods. I think your family is being tested by their God…and I suspect they will be found wanting.

    Love of family, adhering to wedding vows, and basic human decency are all part of both the Jewish and Greek Orthodox faiths. Perhaps their clergy should be reminding them of that.

  • Thank you for th well wishes and the insights. This is definitely the most difficult thing I’ve ever experienced or written about. Ultimately I chose to share it because I know far too many pagans who have faced this incredible pressure from their nearest and dearest and I know many god-claimed people who have been tested to the limits of their strength.

    In many ways, religious testing is universal, as anyone who is deeply connected to their faith will face challenges and their own “dark night of the soul”…this holds true no matter what the faith. The difference is that for those who are a part of the dominant religious paradigm, there is a modicum of support through these trials. For those of us outside the mainstream there is little in the way of compassion or understanding coming from those with a strict monotheist viewpoint. I think it comes down to a fundamental difference between those who espouse “one true way” and those who acknowledge many ways to divinity.

    I know many people who give lip service to tolerance as long as diversity is a concept, but who shun or marginalize family members who violate their religious norms. For me, it takes the form of stoniness and never being asked about my life for fear of hearing answers that might be offensive…interspersed with flare ups of blame and open hostility. I think everyone here can relate as this experience is so universal.

    I hope that by speaking about this, others who are currently going through the fire will know that they are not alone or invisible. I pray that they will know that they are surrounded by their ancestors and their gods even in the midst of their struggle and take courage.

  • Hi Laura,

    We only just met in person recently, but this is a very, very familiar burden to me.

    My relatives and spouse never appeared to have devout spirituality of their own. They were indifferent at best. But when I embarked on a path that’s taken me deeper and deeper, to the point of being, as Galina terms it a “godatheow” that meant living with a growing rift in the household. They despise my faith and my Calling.

    It’s a difficult chasm to straddle. I’m discreet in my daily devotions and keep my thoughts on faith to myself, but in maintaining the Temple I’ve been charged to keep, household money goes quickly and provokes heated battles. My focus is no longer on being a caretaker for my family (who are all teens and in much less need of supervision anyhow). I no longer have a conjugal relationship with my legal spouse, and haven’t for some time. Odin wants as much of me as He can get, including that intimacy although as a servant, not a spouse. But being here is necessary for all sorts of reasons and I couldn’t imagine leaving. It would be the end of the Temple.

    People keep telling me about “dire necessity” and “lawful prey.” I knew about all that before, so their remonstrations don’t help in the slightest.

    The degree of loss I’ve had to accommodate is still achingly intense. And there’s nothing for it but shoulder the burden and head back to Work. One little son is my constant aid and in him lies comfort. He’s a remarkable child, one of Frey’s folk, unsurprisingly.

  • Laura Patsouris

    Hi Jalkr,
    It is definitely a hard line to straddle…and quite isolating. I am so glad that there are places like this and knowledgeable friends about to help navigate through. Because of this challenge, I have learned what is negotiable and needful and what isn’t. There are some core things I cannot give up: that I owe my allegiance to my ancestors and my god, etc…and then there are all the things I can compromise on. I am trying like mad to compromise and accomodate every request not associated with my spirituality.

    My prayers go out to you and your family, being god-called is a hard enough path to walk under good circumstances, without the support of those you love most, it can be brutal. Of course, there are also great benefits and blessings to be gained….but oh boy do we pay!
    Wishing you peace and frith,

  • I am glad you’ve posted this, but I am not glad you have to deal with this.

    Know that your extended community is here. I do think that it is important that we all do what we can to stop this kind of thing from happening.

  • You are very brave to have posted this. My heart goes out to you. If there is anything I can do or help you with, please don’t hesitate to ask!

    The road is rocky and often hard, but believe me when I say it is worth walking, in the end. I hope you and your family members can come to some understanding.

  • Norma

    Oh Laura. I almost said “I’m sorry,” and then I stopped because it occurred to me that this would be shortsighted and presumptuous in a way. As your Gods are giving this to you, trial that it is, it is a blessed thing somehow and I wouldn’t wish it to be otherwise for you. I just don’t know what to say. I hope for you that there will be mercy, is about the best I can come up with. And that you will feel supported in this.

  • Laura, thanks for sharing this, I know it cannot have been easy. I wish you much strength and the Gods’ blessings on your path, and that the burden of your trials may become lighter over time.

    My friend and I fortunately have not had troubles from mainstream religion people or from our families, but a lot of flak from those within our own faith on account of our spiritual approach to Asatru. (I know the same goes for others here.) So I fully empathize, and please know we are with you.

  • Laura, thanks for sharing this, I know it cannot have been easy. I wish you much strength and the Gods’ blessings on your path, and that the burden of your trials may become lighter over time.

    My friend and I fortunately have not had troubles from mainstream religion people or from our families, but a lot of flak from those within our own faith on account of our spiritual approach to Asatru. (I know the same goes for others here.) So I fully empathize, and please know we are with you.