I spent the majority of my childhood dreading church.
Early on when my family lived in Fitchburg, I dreaded walking into the mammoth, cold, gothic structure on the south side. The ornate pews were finished in a thick muted gray paint with the slick coat of varnish. They always looked sad to me. Droopy even. Like at any given moment they were ready to melt like the witches in The Wizard of Oz.
I didn’t like the echo either. The way the organ, and the priest, and the prayers never seemed to fill the seemingly miles long (and high) first floor – but rather just bounced and banged off and into each other. Everything always sounded like it hurt in there.
And then of course there was the cruxifixction. The emaciated Jesus nailed to the cross with his crown of thorns. He was bleeding. Out his palms and the tops of his feet, and just the ever so slightly from his head. And while the pews made me sad, this starving, abused, dying man made me scared.
It scared me that people did this to one another. It scared me that no one helped. And mostly, it scared me that this reminder of cruelty and despair was a permanent feature.
As time went on the fear and anxiety faded into judgement and boredom. I found it really hard to pay attention or take away any greater meaning. Mostly, I was just left with guilt.
Like in third grade, when I promised myself (and God) that I was really going to try and get behind his whole church thing now that my parents were divorced and Lindsey and I were living in a new town and enrolled in a very small Catholic primary school.
And I was feeling pretty good when things started with a walk across the street for first-day mass. The inside of this church was smaller, warmer, and had a toned down crucifix. I was able to ease in and really listen. And that’s when I heard the priest declare:
“And remember, your parents love you more for investing in religious education. Those children at public school, who get lessons with no God, their parents are depriving them of the most important part. Your parents recognize that. They want you to have more than that, and that’s why you are so blessed to be here.”
Up until the divorce, if fact up until that very day, my sister and I had always been enrolled in public school. The anxiety and her always biting internal dialogue snapped immediately back into place: Did my parents not really love us when they were together?
Eventually my struggles with church would lead to a complete abandonment of faith.
This past September, after I was pulled out of work by my doctors and given a diagnosis of Depression and General Anxiety Disorder, I started exploring my spirituality.
I read and listened to works on prayer, meditation, mindfulness, and the power of intention. I began practicing yoga. I explored cleansing and fasting. I connected deeply with the power and practice of gratitude – and I started offering it not just for the blessings, but for the challenges, and the obstacles, and even the miseries, too.
And maybe that’s why I woke up wanting to write this entry on this morning, as I get ready for a long, lovely, and uplifting service with my yoga. Let this Sunday be an offering to every Sunday that lead me to find the true peace and grace of any (and every) blessed day of rest.