So, I’ve been going to church. I even have The Todd going to church. Granted, he says he’s going for the IHOP meal we have with our folks (we all go together, like the Ingalls) after church, but I think he secretly enjoys it. I know for some of you church has always been a common occurrence, but this has not always been the deal around these parts.
As a small child, the fam was Methodist. I love the Methodist church for its rituals. Well, I guess they still have the same rituals…..but then it’s been over 20 years. I loved going up to the front of the church for communion – and they had communion with real bread, not those oyster crackers like the Baptists. And then we always sang the same hymn while people were walking to and from the front after their dose of grape juice. Grape juice still makes me feel all chaste and angelic. I used to get really excited when Dad would be an usher, because they all walked down the aisle in a double line and looked very stern and important. And I really, really like the Apostle’s Creed. The Apostle’s Creed almost makes me feel holy, much like a glass of grape juice. Although, I never really got the whole part about believing in the “holy Catholic church” being a Protestant and all.
Then, as teenagers, we switched to the Baptist Church, as they had a plethora of church activities for younguns. Mission trips, weekends at various Christian camps and trips to the beach. Most of these things involve a church bus. Singing contemporary praise songs in a prison is cool and all, but I don’t think that’s the main draw. You would be amazed at the things one can do on a church bus. Things like smuggling liquor across the Mexican Border. Liquor in bottles shaped like little men in sombreros.
You may have noticed that there is no faith mentioned in either of the above scenarios. In fact, I would go so far as to say the Baptist experience nearly killed any desire to remain in the world of organized religion. Boy howdy, you have not experienced a clique until you throw God into the mix. Cattiness gets a whole new flavor when mixed with righteous indignation.
Church attendance aside, my folks have a deep, yet very personal, faith. We as children knew about God and we knew Mom & Dad had a personal relationship with him, but it wasn’t something that was discussed. Mom would give us devotionals every Christmas that remained in unopened, pristine condition on my bookshelf for several years. If you are in need of a devotional book, let me tell you, I have it covered from age 12 to 30.
Oddly enough, when I was 15, a twisty series of events ended in a job in the nursery of a brand-spanking-new nondenominational church. It was the craziest thing I had ever seen. The church was held Sunday mornings in our old downtown theatre. Oh, and it was also multicultural, which I didn’t really think made much of a difference, but seemed to be the first thing people asked about when I told them where I worked. The entire childcare section consisted of three little rooms that had once housed the theatre offices. We would often find sneaky runaway kindergarteners in the balcony. So for the next several years I spent Wednesdays at the most traditional church possible and Sundays at this crazy experimental theatre church.
So this whole time, I kept running into the same problem. Being saved. Especially at the Baptist church, the whole dunking thing was a major deal. Now, as a Methodist, I had been baptized as a baby and confirmed in the fourth grade and, to me, this made me just as much of a Grade-A member of the God Squad as anybody else. Apparently this was not so, as I heard my youth minister talking to one of our Disciple Now leaders that he was worried about my soul. (See: Baptist Church and ruining one’s faith in organized religion) And these leaders kept telling us these stories about how they were stuck in the pit of despair due to (insert alcoholism, addiction, partying, depression, etc.) and they were on a rooftop screaming at God and all of a sudden this feeling of peace came over them and their life immediately changed. That’s a true story I heard at that Disciple Now session.
Dude, I must be missing out. Where was my awesome raging at God moment? I wanted a burning bush or something. But at the same time, I also felt very strongly that I was just as saved as they were.
And then I went to college and like many people drifted away from the church. I would think about going back to the church, but there were so many points to ponder. The rest of my family was still technically Baptist, and there was obviously no way in Hell (Get it? No way in Hell?) I would attend a service there ever again. Being soulless and un-dunked and pretty much lost and in the arms of the enemy and all, you know. I was technically Methodist, but that’s a pretty fancy church and I am a pretty casual person. God might not care what you look like but I was betting the Methodists might. And I didn’t really know anything about any other denominations. So for years I just quit thinking about it.
But then I remembered the little theatre church.
By this time, fifteen years later, the little theatre church was a big huge church. They even had a big pond…with ducks. Those three little office rooms had morphed from a nursery to two floors of full-fledged Sunday School classes. The church band had expanded from just a piano to an entire stage full of congregation members with a drum set, bongos, acoustic and electrical guitars, saxophone and flute. It was wild.
So I took a seat (With Mom, because I don’t even eat at McDonald’s alone, much less go in a whole room of people and pick a seat by myself. I knew there was a meet & greet coming and I didn’t want to be the “alone” person.) and sat back to see what God had to say. There was a preacher I was unfamiliar with and – y’all – he was incredible. I had never heard a sermon like that. He wasn’t dry and stiff. He didn’t hint that without a large donation I was headed for fire and brimstone. He didn’t make me feel that I would one day hear him tell someone he was worried about my soul. It was applicable! It was heartening! By golly, it was uplifting!
And, in all seriousness, as I have kept going, it’s made me want to do more, to be more. I finally opened those devotional books on my shelf. In fact, I open them every morning and every evening. And I have been surprised at the difference it has made in my life. I found my faith.
I mean, it’s not a burning bush….but I think I might be okay without one.