For some of you it’s easy, I imagine, to write about what the Church means to you, your family, and your life.
For me, this question is a little harder to understand. To elaborate on. So some back ground. I grew up in Seattle, Washington. Baptized at West Seattle Lutheran. That’s about the end of my growing up with the church in a formalized fashion. To my parents’ credit, they let me face the questions of how, where, and ultimately if I chose to worship to me. As I grew up. I really didn’t think about it. There was the occasional wedding or funeral, but I didn’t really have a relationship with anyone let alone someone called “Jesus”.
I actually tried out many churches, once I reached Middle School. I had a friend who was Catholic, and I went to church, but really I was unable to follow the message with the kneeling, then standing, then sitting. As I’ve heard it referred to in my elder years as “The Christian Triathlon” . Not to make light of it. I’ve been to a catholic wedding and a funeral mass and Midnight Christmas Mass. The ceremony and the feeling you’re left with is a joy I’ve never been able to recreate in my life. That’s a lot of joy with a choir of angels sending you out on a song with the words. Peace Be Unto You. Can be a bit much to live up to.
I used to accompany a close school chum to his church. This when I was just in seventh grade. I really enjoyed going every Sunday to worship and every Wednesday for youth group. Some of the camaraderie and the ability to just play, chat and discuss what the world meant in our eyes. It was also in that time when Billy Graham came to Portland and in one of his celebrations I decided that then was the time I wanted to know God and ask for his guidance in my heart and that I knew he died for our sins. I prayed with one of the youth pastors right there in the middle of a baseball field to the cheers of thousands, It was a very surreal experience. One, I imagine everyone hears in their head at that moment. whether you have an adoring audience of believers or just a small family. I went home that night, and in the dark of my room, alone, with the little booklet of prayers they sent me with and asked again for God to accept me and keep me safe from harm. I feel it to have been a life changing experience, but it didn’t prepare me for what happened next. The path I was on was about to change. Politics had started to catch my interest and unfortunately there was a measure that made the ballot in Oregon in 1990 – Called “Ballot Measure 9” and while I had no idea I was ‘different’ from any of my friends. I couldn’t understand why people wanted to restrict what teachers could discuss, who would want counselors, people I had trusted, to not give advice. The whole situation really made little sense to me. But what did strike me, was that my friend, the one who I’d been going to church with he and his family, decided that because I couldn’t agree with what his parents said was a moral imperative, I couldn’t go to church with them anymore and I could no longer be his friend. While that moment changed my view of them, It also in the course of that very divisive issue, drove me away from church. I even tried the Lutheran Church just down the street from my house, but I could never find what felt like home. It’s been a long path.
Those experiences have really shaped how I’ve felt about religion in general. And now I’m sure, you as the reader are bracing for me to go on a tirade of the long words and short comings of my experiences. But I hope to take this in a different path.
The one thing I’ve always found about church. The one thing that makes me smile. Is how small I feel, How small the problems really are. While I don’t worship in a stone-set sanctuary. I have asked God into my heart and I’ve never expelled him. I do have some issues with the church as a whole. There are a lot of things I can’t reconcile. I can’t reconcile why, when I go to a church which accepts “All manners of Family” has to modify their lesson to make their parishioners feel better. I can’t reconcile why, when I walk into any church anywhere, I feel the utmost welcome, the warmth, until someone mentions dislike of the sin, but not the sinner. It always causes me to wonder, is there a part of me, any part of me which isn’t worthy, isn’t worth, God’s love?
I know you’re going to immediately say. No, God loves us all, and I know that’s true, but I hope you can understand why I feel this sense of disconnect from the world in this manner? I’ve been educated, I believe in science, I am fairly certain this world has existed before and long after I will. But Yet I Still Have Faith That This Is Bigger Than I Am. I want to feel small. I feel everything. I feel the despair, I feel the joy, I feel full, yet sometimes feel empty.
But I’m left, reading my bible, page by page, wondering, sometime it will come to me, sometime I will reconcile. Until then. I still look to the stars and wonder.
“I love you when you bow in your mosque, kneel in your temple, pray in your church. For you and I are sons of one religion, and it is the spirit.”