Church is still in me. The words, feelings and belief systems still linger deep within me. There is no baptism to wash away all that has influenced me over the years. But I don’t attend any sort of services. They exhaust me. I imagine it’s the anxiety I have about having to be a certain way or the expectation that I have of myself to feel a certain way when a hymn is sung or a scripture is read.
For years, every single Sunday, I felt wiped out to the extreme, like someone had drugged me. I am a napper by nature, but it was always on Sunday afternoons that it felt impossible to not sleep and upon waking from the forced slumber, I never felt like I could really wake up. Add the anxiety of whether or not I really had to also go to Sunday evening services and that about killed me. I feel that anxiety right now as I write.
Now, I don’t bother. I sleep in and wake up under what I consider a very holy comforter. It’s the only day of the week that we don’t have school (or homeschool), soccer, family obligations or a whole slew of other things we get sucked into every week. We take a rest on Sundays, a sort of Sabbath, if you will. It’s a day that my husband and I do everything in our power to not make plans of any sort, except sometimes dinner (or breaking bread and drinking wine) with friends – which is my kind of church and the kind of church that strengthens my faith in a way that is often indescribable as well as in a way that doesn’t exhaust me, but invigorates me.
Sometimes I go to yoga and tell people that that is my church. But most times I don’t go because the reality of having to wear yoga pants occupies my mind from the moment I wake up and start to think about whether or not to actually go. I also agonize over spending an entire hour and a half in a room with people I don’t know. When I do actually muster up the courage to go, I feel energized and grateful. It is the feeling I never quite got from attending church, the place I thought I could find a redemption of sorts. It’s not that I think redemption is in yoga. I just think that yoga helps me connect with myself. Ironically, it helps me to connect to the church that still exists within me.
The faithful, I imagine, are concerned about me. Not the faithful to yoga. They are all about not worrying about anything or anyone. I’m talking about the faithful to the church.
If they are worried about my soul, they need not be. They have enough to worry about without having to add me to their list of worries. I am perfectly capable of worrying about myself, hence the therapy and medication and the lack of attending church services.
What do I worry about if not my soul? I worry about the world coming to an end. I worry about my children not living longer than me. I worry about my dying before my children are old enough to remember anything about me. I worry about the cute waitresses that work at my husband’s restaurant. I worry my daughter will find Jesus in college and I’ll have to smile and nod as she tells me she’s worried about her father and I going to hell. I then imagine the look on her face when I tell her that I have been baptized, twice, and that I’m happy to share one with her father so that she doesn’t have to worry. I then worry she’ll be mad at me for not taking her to church while growing up or for not ever telling her that I’m a divorced, ordained minister with a Bible degree and that if anyone wanted to fund my going to Vanderbilt Divinity School, I’d go in a heartbeat. Mostly, though, I worry about seeing snakes while hiking.
I used to worry about my soul. I used to think that I had to worry about it in order to be okay. I used to think that I had to worry about where my soul would float away to once my body quit working. Now I know that I have no way of knowing where it will float away to or if it will even float at all. I now have a different kind of faith than the one that I was told that I could only have if I kept going to church. I have faith that my soul will land exactly where it needs to land, possibly back here on Earth or, quite possibly Mars, thanks to people like Elon Musk. I hope I get to choose when the time comes.
Maybe there is a hell. Maybe not. Maybe there is heaven. Maybe not. I never understood the visions of golden streets, fluffy clouds, white robes and halos. That doesn’t sound like the kind of place I would ever care about. And burning in hell? That also sounds like a place of a God who is all loving would not really create for those he created just because they didn’t follow his rules.
However, I think we do that to our children whom we (pro)-created. We put them through hell when they don’t follow our rules. I also know that I’ve never felt good about that either and over the years I’ve had fewer and fewer rules for them because I see them, well, exhausting and quite pointless, not unlike I've felt about church at times.
I will admit, though, that it will suck if this so-called place with burning flames does exist because if I’ve gotten this all wrong by not attending church services, that is surely where I am headed. Maybe I do hope that my daughter finds Jesus in college, just in case. I can't imagine my son actually going to college, so he’ll have to find Jesus somewhere else. Hopefully not on the streets. I digress.
While I’m on my way there (hell, that is), I’m enjoying what I imagine heaven may really be like. My heaven is sitting at the beach on a warm, but not too hot day. My heaven is in the mountains of Colorado or Wyoming or Montana – or any mountains really. My heaven is seeing my son showing me his “new fill” he learned at drum lessons. My heaven is my daughter asking me to braid her hair. My heaven is coffee already made before I crawl out of bed.
My hell, on the other hand, is the anxiety and depression that creeps up on me without my realizing it until a week or so into it. My hell is my kids having extended hospital stays for illnesses we weren’t sure they would recover from. My hell is hearing about school shootings and worrying about my own school. My hell is realizing that we are out of half and half right as the coffee is finished brewing. (There are obviously different levels of hell. I've not only read the Bible, but I've also read Dante, but only because I had to.)
I am not anti-church. In fact, there are times I look up services and think about actually showing up. I imagine that one day I’ll make my way back there somehow, someway. There are parts that I miss. I miss the hymns. I miss the smell of old wooden pews. I miss hearing my father preach. He was good at it. I also miss hearing my grandfather preach. Or, rather, I just miss him. I don’t remember him being that good at the preaching part. And, I have a huge amount of respect for those whose faith keeps them going. You are amazing. I truly admire and look up to you. Please don’t stop due to my irrational rantings.
For those of you who are worried about my soul: please don’t. God’s got this so you don’t have to. He knows where to send me when it’s all said and done. Hopefully it’s Mars as I’m all about adventure. Please do keep praying for me, if you wish. I believe in prayer. I’ve seen it work. I can’t promise you that it will get me back in a pew, but I can promise you that I value it and I value you. So, thank you.