i kinda debated writing this, but the compulsion was strong, so here i am. If you've read a few of my blog entires, you know that i like to keep things on the light side, that i love to find the humour in life. This post, i'm not sure now what it will shape up to be, but i guess it will be me attempting to take a lifetime of familial and societal conditioning, pick it in up, turn it around and try to see if from all angles. I welcome you to share your own experiences, your thoughts, your critiques. The subject? CHURCH.
I hear voices *maybe its the blog etiquette fairies*? in my head saying "don't write a therapy blog", "don't get personal", "don't write a 'this is my day' blog" don't, don't don't. . . . so i'm rejecting those labels and turning a deaf ear to those voices and i will do, do, do what i like! here goes. . .
do you ever get to the point in your life where you start really thinking about things? about why you do the things you do? do you take a long, hard look at your motives? Have you ever felt like one of Pavlov's dogs? dingdingding!!! SLOBBER, DROOL. My focus is admittedly narrow here, its only 1 word - but its a word fraught with layers of meaning wrapped in layers of mystery - an enigma, a riddle. what IS it? where is it? who is it? and why??? We could totally play 'word association games' till the cows come home with this word. . let's have a go! church = boring, church = conformity, church = hymns, church = community, church = hypocrisy, church = social club, church = charity, church = building. . .
i grew up in church, me and my sisters were taken to church by our parents. In my early days church was : our mother drawing little stick figures on a notepad to 'keep us quiet' in church. . it was plastic containers filled with cheerios, shreddies etc. to keep us quiet, it was dressing up in uncomfortable clothes and sitting on hard pews and being made to keep quiet. I always felt that we had to leave our 'real selves' in the parking lot on Sunday mornings. Not just us kids, but grownups too. Sunday mornings in our house were chaotic! I hated them. Our parents were stressed, we kids didn't want to dress up or miss cartoons, there was yelling! there were tantrums a generally rotten mood pervaded the house. One Sunday morning i had my 'church clothes' on, i had my little Bible in hand, whose cover depicted a smiling Jesus and happy children and I made the mistake of saying to my mother : "I HATE GOING TO CHURCH!" what I really meant was "Why isn't our family like the cover of my Bible?" I hated that it wasn't. What she seemed to hear was: "I'm a chromosomally deficient axe murderer in the making" I got the biggest spanking - we went to church, but I could barely sit down for the throbbing sting. . ouch! You know what that taught me? Honesty will be punished. The notion that i wasn't acceptable seeped into my young soul and to this day i still feel that way, at least in regards to many of the authority figures in my life.
When i got older i went through my 'i don't give a crap' stage. . i know its tedious, how many stories of teenaged rebellion must there exist? As a member of my church i had done my stint of jumping through hoops, i was involved in the things that young church members were expected to be involved in. Sometimes I felt like a trained seal. But sometimes I had moments where the hoops faded into the background along the expectations and judgement and I had glimmers of THE 'who' and 'why' of church, Him. . . God. My mind was so young but sometimes i had these peeks behind the facade and I really, really believed that Jesus was so loving and good. I remember being at summer camp -- music camp-- when i was young. I was so glad to be away from the 'stuff' at home. Here i could have fun, SWIM, live in community with lots of other kids and eat dill pickle chips and coffee crisp bars every day! We had chapel meetings on Sundays at camp, and we learned about the Bible every day. . i have to say that i didn't fully appreciate this, i was too busy being immature! But on the Sunday the camp leader talked to us about God, about Jesus and the Holy Spirit. He was really good at speaking to kids. I was actually listening.. and suddenly i was aware of my own badness, hey it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that we are all fighting the 'dark side of the force'. . ha ha!! but for the first time I was helped to understand that God still loved me in spite of this. I didn't know what that felt like, i thought God was like my mother who only seemed to tolerate me when i fulfilled all their conditions or when the wind was blowing in a favourable direction. So you know, my heart was kinda bursting outta my chest, thinking about a love like that! I decided that i loved God, even though i couldn't see him and I wanted to belong to him. It was a rare moment, quite overwhelming and I think if i had not been there at the moment in time, I might never have known God and I might not have come through the ups and downs of my life with my faith worn, but intact. When the end of that week at camp arrived, back home i went. The drive home was hard. . my mother's 'dark mood' polluted my newly found heart. Maybe she didn't want me to come home, i reasoned. Finally we got home and her mood had not improved one iota, yelling and screaming at all of us, about what? i can't remember. . i was wishing that i could go back to camp to live and i had this picture of Jesus that I pushed in front of her face and screamed 'WHAT ABOUT JESUS?!!" Honestly, i draw a blank after that. I don't know what she said. I cannot remember. I was too young to understand the complexities of her mental pathology, other than it was horrible to live with and confused us girls and i'm sure it confounded our father. Jesus was my champion. I didn't know it, but I was seeing hypocrisy and even sickness in action and maybe because of that i was amazed at how my new feelings for someone I couldn't see or touch or for that matter fathom could help me through the quicksand of family life and in fact every part of my life.
I thought once thought that church was a building. I thought it was about being quiet and pretending that you're someone other than yourself, "Sunday smile", "Sunday clothes", "Sunday behaviour", it didn't jive with the rest of the week!! I thought it was about not going to a store on Sunday, not doing yard work on a Sunday, in fact we children were ordered to rest on our beds after lunch on Sundays. We could not go outdoors, we could not raise our voices. geez louise. . .Sunday "day of rest" to the 'nth' degree. Later i went through the stage when I thought it was a set of rules about clothing and 'deportment', it was about what not to do, not swearing, not drinking, not gambling, not going to movies, not dancing, not wearing jewelry or makeup ad nauseum. Some of these 'no nos' were good for me and I am even grateful for them, but others are preposterous, man-made rules. I thought church was about music, learning to play a brass instrument, singing, going to rehearsals, having musical programs with other church musicians. I guess when i think of all the things I thought church was. . i was thinking what i was told to think and there was no room for independent thought, thinking was to be done in the box and in the box only. IN THE BOX!!!!
There's probably lots more i could expand upon, but i think thats sufficient without belabouring. So, fast forward . . . today is Sunday and now, today this is what I think church is: people and God. that's 'the church'. . simple. its living together through everything, lending your "everything" to others - your hands, your heart, your mind, your money, your time, your compassion, your talents, your tears, your will and having them do that back to you; binding you all together is God. You all make this circle. Does it sound cheesy? I don't want it to. Its not about exclusivity, about creating a counter culture so far removed from reality that it cannot possibly lend anything to anyone but people like themselves. . . its not about rules, though life rules are necessary, but rules without love are like iron shackles -- why did Jesus have to die to free us, if we were meant to turn around and chain each other? are we saying that we know better than He does? oh, i'm getting long-posted, as usual. When i started to write this, i had no idea of what i was getting into!!! I was even gonna scrap it, cuz i think that I had definitely bitten off more than i could chew. . but i hope that it made some sort of sense.
Here are just a couple of examples about what I think church can be:
*giving some money to a dirty, legless, fingerless, stump handed man and getting a hug and a kiss on the cheek in return.
*going over to a neighbour's house and having a one on one talk.
* sponsoring a child
*having your heart broken by someone else's sorrow.
*doing a kind thing for no other reason than you want to.
*sitting still and talking to God
what do you think about church? good experiences? bad? indifferent?? how has it shaped you? hurt you? built you up? what is it to you?