Sunday, November 04, 2007

Why church . . .

I have been contemplating this post for a while, and I thought, since I have to blog everyday I would write it.

I go to a really great church and I really like it. I have quite the history with church, and have always kinda had a love/hate relationship with god and the church. I grew up catholic, and went to catholic school until I was in 4th grade. I liked the school, but was taken out when my brother was having a hard time with it. We were then shipped to public school. My mother and father were very active in the church-mom singing in the choir and brother serving as an alter boy. I remember going to church with my family, including grandparents, in my Sunday best. I used to sit next to my grandfather and I felt so special. Of course, there was the inevitable slap on the leg when by brothers and I acted up, but we did it together and I liked it. My mother and father have always sowed their own sense of spirituality and love for god. My mother prays daily using little prayer books, and my dad watches the Crystal Cathedral weekly.

When we moved to PA from NJ, we started attending another church that was HUGE! Not used to such a large church. We all went as a family, and brother and I were confirmed as we should. Mom and dad stopped going to church at this time and we'd be dropped off and told to go. We would walk down to the local strip of stores and skip Sunday School.

At this time I was also questioning my sexuality. I had also told my family that I wanted to attend a Presbyterian church since they had a youth group, and a friend of mine at the time was going there. They weren't very happy, and told me if I wanted to go I'd have to find my own way to and from. There were people that brought me back and forth, and that was my first introduction to a church other than catholic. My home life was quite turbulent at this time as well, so this church became a sanctuary of sorts-especially the youth group. I learned a bit about god along the way, but mostly I got out of the house. I was befriended by a teacher at my school district who happened to also be a youth group leader. She would take me to breakfast a couple of times a month before school and would listen to me-all of me. She loved and cared for me like no one else could at the time. She and her husband were an integral part of my getting through a my youth-and passing chemistry in high school!! To this day she and I remain in contact. She was, and is, what I think god would want all of his children to be like. She has struggled with many things, but at the end of the day she knows that god is what keeps her together.

During this time, I'd also come to terms with the fact that I was gay. No amount of reading or praying was changing that, so I thought I should clearly attend a Christian college-that would SURELY turn me straight. I asked my pastor to talk the summer before I left for college, and I told him that I thought I was gay. He went on about how he was disappointed in me and told me I would have no further place in the church. I couldn't believe what I'd heard . . .this was a church I'd spent the last 4 years in, watching kids, going to youth group, totally involved. I never went back.

I then went to college and one of the first few folks I met at the Christian college were gay, and I felt that perhaps it was going to be ok. I was then very heavily into alcohol, drugs, self-mutilation, and my eating disorder. I was so destructive that not even god could help me.

At the time I was attending a few churches very sporadically. I liked one church-the band was great and I loved the worship, though the message was very conservative. I went to another church-more consistently and longer than the first, but the message was very dry and there was very little singing that I liked. I became very active in the second church and made great acquaintances.

Then, in 2000, after much agony, pain, and hurt, I again attempted to commit suicide. I'd taken enough pills to surely kill me, though a short time after I'd taken the pills the phone rang, and I answered it. A friend was calling to check on me . . .needless to say I was taken to the hospital and stayed in ICU for several days recovering. The cool part of the story was that when I'd woken up two days later, I was angry that I was still alive, but in that moment I'd decided that it wasn't my time to die, and that I needed to stop trying to take my life and start living it.

I was allowed out of the hospital long enough to graduate, and the day after I graduated I went back into the hospital for a while. I called the pastor of the church I'd been attending and told her that I needed to see someone from the church-I needed someone close to god, someone that could talk to me about what to do now. I sat there for days and never once did they call or come. I stopped going to that church and felt that they could say all they wanted about loving and caring for people, but I couldn't have been any more desperate and in need at that time, and they did not seem to care. I gave up god then.

Still, throughout all of this, I had always listened to Christian music. Some of my favorites: Jars of Clay, Jennifer Knapp, David Crowder Band, Rich Mullins, Wayne Watson, Plumb. I Love LOVE listening to Christian music. I don't know what it is about it, but I would choose that kind of music over anything else if I had to.

Then a few years ago, I was visiting the local target, and I saw a sign for a church that met at a movie theater. I thought, "Oh, how weird." I ended up going a few months later, and I found it to be a very cool place. There were a ton of people, and actually I went and left a few times talking to almost no one, but I was ok with that. I wanted to see about the church and their views on homosexuality before I started getting more involved, because I was falling in love with this place and couldn't bear to be hurt again. I contacted the church and have a very lovely conversation with a leader and basically they stated that they wouldn't ever stand up and say that living my lifestyle was right, or even ok, but they were not going to throw me out either. In fact they have embraced me and loved me, without trying to change who I am. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, but so far I am safe. I was even baptized a few months ago . . .

The church has preached on homosexuality since then, and again, they liken homosexuality to all the other sins-no one sin is better or worse, and we are all sinful people. I like the church and how I feel there, and so I have stayed. I have become involved and am now attending a weekly women's study and volunteer in the nursery. Those in my group know about my sexuality, as I told them on day one. I didn't want it to be a secret. All along I have been looking for a reason to run the other way, and they haven't given it to me. Short of a more accepting view on the issue, I couldn't ask for a better set up. My DP, dad, and brother have gone to the church with me at times as well, and I think they have enjoyed it. DP doesn't regularly attend, and that is ok. Should she decide she wanted to, I would welcome it readily.

I guess the kicker is this, I am not even sure I believe in god-I mean I do, but it doesn't feel real yet. I don't do the bible the way other's do, and I don't talk about my faith or spirituality with folks. I keep it pretty much to myself. Not really what jesus called people to do. I want to believe in it all, and I want to trust in something other than myself . . .but it is hard.

I keep showing up, I keep singing, and I keep learning from those doing it everyday. Maybe one day it will feel real to me-like it does in the songs I listen to and sing. It is that peace that I want. That awareness and trust that when I am at my last bit of strength, that something other than myself will hold me until I can do it myself. Maybe that has been happening and I just don't know it-or I attribute it to other things.

I also don't know if I can ever truly feel connected if I am engaging in such "sinful" activity-like loving a woman. I don't want to change that part-and am very happy with the woman I am sharing my life with. I don't know that having feelings toward this woman, or any other, was chosen, and if not chosen, then why wrong or sinful?

I guess that is between the big JC and I to rectify when I die. I figure, if I go to heaven that will be a bonus, and if I go to hell I will have some great company.

This sure did get long, but it was good for me to get out.

1 comment:

RK said...

I spent some time looking through your blog (connecting from your profile after your nice comments on Braska's blog!) and I found this post. I just want to say that I appreciate you telling your story, your honesty, and your openness about your search and your doubts. I'm a preacher's kid, born and bred in the church, and this was very good to remind me about what we can do wrong so often. I'm so sorry that people in the churches you loved let you down. Darn humans, us Christians...and we try to look so perfect. It's so great that you've found a place you like, and even though you still have questions, they're allowing you to ask them and work through them and not judging you in the meantime. We all should be learning from that example.