I grew up going to church. I didn’t even realize attendance wasn’t mandatory until I was almost fifteen years old. This may partly be due to the fact that I’m a slow learner, but I’d also like to think it’s because I was an obedient child. When my mother beckoned me from the garage door to get in the damn car right now don’t make me come back into the house to find you stop putting more Sun-In in your hair it’s church not the beach you dummy, I followed her orders without hassle. Being such a pleasure to parent is probably the reason I gave birth to a good kid myself. I hear God doesn’t play favorites, but just look at how that all worked out. Suspicious, amirite?
After I became an unwed pregnant teenager, I stopped attending regularly because I feared judgment. Not from God, but from the other churchgoers. It wasn’t a sure thing that my situation was going to light up the gossip circuit, but people were still talking about how a certain family had moved from a five-bedroom home into a duplex. I was pretty sure an 18-year-old’s surprise pregnancy was almost as interesting as a real estate step-down. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just being bigheaded.
Not going to church didn’t mean that I no longer believed in God. I still hollered at Him from time to time when I felt especially broken. My prayers became casual conversations. Not like a real-time chat where I would share an issue and He would respond immediately. It was more like a text exchange where I sent off a thought, knowing He would get back to me eventually. Sometimes, it would take weeks or months, but I have other friends who lag like that. I’ve learned to accept them for who they are.
Because I missed the sense of community, I started going to a different church when Cal was a toddler. The new place seemed legit, and I still know people from my brief stint there who I am proud to call my friends.
I stopped attending after the pastor’s wife pulled me aside to express her concern that bringing Cal to church might influence the youth group kids into believing that our church condoned teen parenthood. Just like I have a personal policy about not hitting other people’s kids, I also won’t hit a pastor’s wife. Or a pastor. We all need to set boundaries for ourselves and those are mine. (It may seem like I go around hitting people, but I want you to know that I haven’t gotten into a physical altercation in YEARS. I also don’t hit animals or old people.)
I still believe in God. I’ve never really talked about being religious before, and I was scared to do it today, but just because I don’t talk about something doesn’t make it less true.
I also still believe that not all religious people are narrow-minded or judgmental or that being a pillar of a church community exempts a person from making very human mistakes with their words and actions. I won’t blame that pastor’s wife as the reason I haven’t made an effort to attend church regularly for the past twelve years. It was a choice I made.
For years, I waved to Harv and Cal as they left for Sunday service. In the past few months, I’ve started joining them occasionally. I’m always nervous when I walk through the heavy wooden doors. The sheer amount of swearing I do each week makes me think I’m going to burst into flames. That’s probably not how God works, but I don’t put anything past that guy. Even if He is my homeboy.
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