On Sunday I did something that I haven’t done for years.
I went to church.
I have nothing against church, many of my friends lay claim to having some sort of faith, and some of the most important and special people in my life have been religious. But after a childhood of going to church at least four times a week, going to a Christian high school, and volunteering at Christian outreach ministries throughout college and for a long while after. But to say that I’ve been a practicing Christian for the past three or four years of my life would be a gross overstatement, and an insult to those I know who are actually really awesome at believing in something that I no longer care to believe in.
A friend threw a Christian bridal shower a couple of weeks back, which is exactly as fun as it sounds. Actually, that’s not a fair assessment. I really like Christian parties. There is a relieving, conspicuous lack of red solo cups, puke, and lines on the latest copy of The New Yorker. We actually played games like Hide and Seek, Mafia, and Articulate. And on Sunday morning, when everyone had taken the five minutes necessary to shake off the slight hangovers from the night before, they conducted a small Bible study in the living room, which I gracefully bowed out of. Afterwards my friend asked me if I was okay, and if I had felt uncomfortable. After a moment’s pause, I had told her, “it doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable. It feels more like being homesick. Homesick for a house that burned down.”
The church and I didn’t necessarily split on good terms. If the church was an ex-boyfriend, it would’ve been the one that left all my CDS and sweaters and my favorite copy of Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice on my porch in the middle of the night, in the rain. Needless to say, I usually ignore my phone when the
church ex-boyfriend drunk dials me.
But for some reason this friend asked me to go with her to church, and for some stupid, idiotic reason, I agreed. Why did I say yes? Was it because she has the face of a Hamtaro character that just cannot be resisted? Because she’s always been my friend and has never judged me, despite the tragi-comedy that was my polyamorous dating life? Maybe because she made really really good sticky rice? I have no idea but I said yes and then immediately began to hate myself for it. The tension mounted right up until the two minutes I was waiting on the corner in the rain for her to meet up with me. The anxiety had caused me to eat an entire package of prepared pudding mix. I was practically frothing with self-righteous resentment on the bus.
When I saw her adorable hamster face my inward seething lessened a little. We entered a building that definitely did not look like a church, and was full of hipsters. Since when did good, young Christian men look so adorably like lumberjacks? I decided I could at least sit out this one session.
If I closed my eyes, I felt like I was 20 years old again. I didn’t need to look at the giant projector screen to remember the words to almost every worship song they sang. During the sermon we watched clips from The Prince of Egypt. I had forgotten how hilarious some of the plagues were, or that one camel that keeps showing up through the whole movie just to pull dramatic sighs and rolled eyes. I even cried a little bit. It felt like looking into a window of someone else’s home, the whole family eating dinner or watching TV together. It felt cold, like glass.
I survived though, and stuck around. I told my friend that I would probably go with her again next week, and again, immediately regretted it. This week I’ve been more unhappy than I’ve been in ages, and yet it was nice to break my nose on the windowpanes of a life I can no longer live. But yet, despite the unhappiness there is a sense of stillness. Of community. After all, even if I kept my eyes open during the prayer and essentially zoned out for most of the sermon, these were still people that cared for me. And that little taste was enough for this homeless beggar to maybe take a chance and do it again next week. We all have our parties, our red solo cups and lines of coke. Maybe mine just looks like a worship pastor without any shoes on, and a Bible that always fell open to Song of Songs.