Sunday, September 7, 2008

Today was an interesting day. For the first time in-ummm-to be honest I dont remember, we attended church. It's been at least 10 years, because my husband has never been with me. Now I was raised Lutheran, a rather lax denomination. We are not known for being passionate or loud. We do not raise our hands and sings praise at the top of our lungs. There is no incense burning or ashes on our foreheads. We go in, sit down in our Sunday finery and listen. We obediently stand, sit and sing on cue.
Back in my young years I was very active. I was an acolyte, in the choir (jr and regular), youth groups, church camp every year, Sunday school and confirmation. My life was formed around it, it was a second nature to me.

I don't know when or how it happened, but I grew up and church was left behind. I got myself into one problem after another, I was living a 'fast' life with no time for worship.
As I grew up more and became a young mother, I met my first husband. He was a nice enough guy at the time. He still is. We were able to maintain a very friendly relationship. But as the time grew near and we decided to marry, we decided to make more of an effort to re-join the church. He was raised Catholic, but was not an active participant. My boring little Lutheran church suited him just fine.
This made his mother very angry. Being a Catholic Italian, she was very vocal of her disapproval. I learned within the first few months of being with him that I would never live up to her expectations, so her shrieks of anger didn't phase me.

So husband #1 and I started attending and taking the classes required to be married in that church. This was the church I was raised in, my family was raised in, all the way back to the churchs beginning. Which was 200 years. It was MY church, and I loved it.
We had a newer pastor at the time, he was older, but new to the 'calling', he started preaching in his late 40s. I was unfamiliar with him but welcomed the chance to meet someone new and his perspective on things. I was starting to get my old faith back. I was on the path to leaving much of the self pollution I was doing behind me. It was my next step to making myself a better person and I was able to bring my soon to be husband and my young daughter with me.

At first the classes were long and boring. We were just getting to know each other, although he knew my family, I was a stranger to him. It was rather uncomfortable to speak of personal things and experiences, but I was determined to get back on track. I could do this, I was confident.
Then something went wrong, terribly, terribly wrong. And it left me empty and lost more then I had ever felt before.

We went to our class as usual one sunny afternoon and sat with him in his office. He asked questions about our families. I was raised by Ward and June Cleaver and he knew that. They were members and he had known them for a couple of years by this time.
Pastor turns to soon to be hubby and says "tell me about your life with your mother and father...."
He tried to explain how his life was, but to be honest-he had limited exposure living with his parents. Most of his life was spent living with his grandparents. Not for any reason, he was just very close to them and that was his home.
While he struggled to find words to sum up his parents, I stepped in to try to help. I said, "but you were never there at home." Meaning he didn't live with his parents. I was trying to take some heat off the man, but it back fired.
Pastor slapped his palms on the desk and jumped up. "ha!!! thats what i'm talking about!! right there, right out of your mouth!! i knew it!!"
Soon to be hubby and I were shocked to say the least. I looked at that man as if he were utterly insane. "what are you talking about? you knew what?" I demanded. The answer I got was mind blowing.
"you said 'but you are never home' you said it yourself, you aren't even making it as a couple now, how will you function when you are married? it can't be done"

Of course I made every effort to explain that was not what I said, I tried desperately told him he misunderstood, I even moved to the side his hearing aid was in and tried to talk to him there. He refused to listen. He shook his head furiously and just kept saying over and over "I HEARD YOU!!! I HEARD YOU!!!!"
It was hopeless, and finally I gave up. The conversation turned very sour after that. Not only did he throw in my face the miscommucation we had, but he started in about my sister. She had been divorced for about a year at this time and it was an awful, messy rollar coaster that almost destroyed her and our family.
I was appalled to hear her name come up. Who was he to judge her? Who was he to make a mockery of her heartache and pain? Who was he to say SHE was the failure in that relationship? Who was he to tell her business, even if it was to me. Who else had he spoken to about her and her problems?

All I could do was sit there and stare, with my mouth open. I was stunned into speechlessness. Anyone that knows me AT ALL knows this is virtually impossible. I always have something to say.
Then he went over the edge, he brought my daughter into it. He talked of her damnation because of my sins in her conception. He told me how God felt about my fall from grace. He preached to me of my own emminent demise. "God DOES NOT forgive people like you. You will go to hell no matter what you do in life."
I honestly felt my stomach sink into my feet. My head swam with the words. My mouth went dry and my knees went watery. I began to shake, shutter is a better term. The fury set in and I gripped my hands together tightly in my lap. I was afraid if I didn't I would stand and hurt him. I truly thought I was going to blast him out of his chair.
I clenched my jaws to keep from saying anything that would hurt my situation any further.

When I regained my composure enough to open my mouth I told him he was out of line. My sister was none of his business, my daughter was a gift from God (he did create her, right?) and I could not listen to any more of his lecture.
I must have offended him, because then he started to get red in the face. First he chastised me for 'blaming' God for my sick and twisted sins and sexual perversion leading up to my daughters birth. He shook as he talked. He said I was responsibile not God. He was sick and tired of people putting blame on God for their screw ups.
Then I got the hear the threats that he was not going to allow us to be married in "his church".
He said that church belonged to him and he had control over it. If he said no-then there would be no wedding there. "besides, you don't come often enough OR donate enough through offering to justify a church wedding."

All about the money I guess. Money and power. He had power over me and my future life, he loved every minute of it.

Needless to say, by the time we left I was a complete basket case. My quickly approaching wedding (which we already had the hall and invites printed, along with the programs for the ceromony) was now hinged on the mood of this man. My family's privacy was possibly being infringed upon by him openly disrespecting my hurting sister. My place in heaven was thrown out the window with no hope of repair. My pocketbook was not large enough to suit his satisfaction and I was a poor christian for not giving more money. My daughter would never amount to anything because of the sins I commited.
I spirled out of control. My plan to get on the right path and get back into the church was gone. My commitment to cleaning up my self destructive behavior was tainted. Alcohol and drugs took over again in my life. Any faith I had was completely gone. I was going to hell no matter what, so I may as well live it up while I was still kicking.

So you can see why church was not a place I wanted to be. Lori has tried and tried over the years to get me more open to the idea. I smiled and thanked her for her concern, but never had any intention of following up on it.

But things change. My views are about the same, but my daughter and her friend have been pushing me to come with them to a new church here in town. It used to be a very popular night club and they converted into a non demonination church. It seemed different, it sounded very focused on the next generation and I have to admit, I was curious.
So we gave in and went today. The whole family plus a couple others loaded up in our van and off we went. I was leery, but open to try anything at this point in my life. The last few years have been crushing for me. The weight on my shoulders has been devastating.

Imagine my surprise when I walked in to a D.J. spinning records in the middle of the room. A pastor that does not shake hands but hugs. An hour of fast paced upbeat music sung by a former back up singer to a very popular and well known R&B artist.
Then the guest speakers started, they belted out raps to chest bumping bass about asking for help, being there for each other and living a life the best you can.
Hands were raised high, people were dancing in the aisles, people were shedding tears of pure joy.

I was by no means comfortable. I was awed by the passion that oozed from every corner of the room. I watched in mild confusion as people held hands over their heads and yelped in happiness.
This was more of a party then traditional worship. I felt like a fish out of water. But secretly I kind of liked it. My husband stood, clapped and raised his hands in the air. He was not comfortable either, but he was gonna try with all his might. It made me smile.

My daughter cried and asked if I would be returning, I smiled meekly and shrugged. I don't know if this is the place for me. I don't know if I have suffered enough in life to be re-considered for salvation. I don't know if I completely buy into all this God stuff-yet. But I am going to try. Maybe this is what I need, something totally out of my element, against the grain. Maybe these people are just out of their minds.
Maybe I'll go back-or not.

I still have a physical reaction when I remember the venom my former pastor subjected me to. That tells me my faith may not be as far away as I thought, otherwise I simply wouldn't care. But I do. (shhhhh......don't tell anyone-I have a reputation to uphold!!! LOL!)

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4 comments: to “ SABBATH?

  • Lori A
    Monday, September 8, 2008 at 6:40:00 AM PDT  

    OOOHHHH MY GOD. I'm sure you can imagine what I am thinking right now. A giant step out of the comfort zone. Holy cow lady. I am proud of you. I have to admit my church doesn't have all the fun music. In fact we struggle in that department, some of it is older and some of it is new.

    But my pastor rocks. He's young, has tattoo's and was a bad boy for quite a while from what I gather.

    You have just rocked me back on my heels. Good for you.

    I need to ponder this. I'm in awe. You did this and the building didn't collapse on your head, it's a good sign.

    I still have my sceptical moments too but you know that I have said that my life goes better when I attend.


  • Unknown
    Wednesday, September 10, 2008 at 5:43:00 AM PDT  

    That's some heavy words from a Catholic priest! Shame on him! He's playing God and God doesn't like that!!! I too am a Catholic and can't imagine a priest laying this guilt complex on you! Truly he is the one that should go to confession for what sins he caused himself by telling you that you don't make the grade! That priest needs to take a reality check! I too am proud of you and standing up to him! I think it's time for this priest to retire before he loses more of his parishioners! Hang in there Rachael, us Catholics are behind you 100%!

  • maybe
    Wednesday, September 10, 2008 at 9:01:00 AM PDT  

    How sad that a priest would jump on you that way! Sounds like it's time for retirement.

  • Being Me
    Friday, September 12, 2008 at 5:08:00 PM PDT  

    " I don't know if I have suffered enough in life to be re-considered for salvation."

    No one but you has the authority to consider yourself for salvation. It is amazing how horribly some 'people of the cloth' can behave. What your former pastor did was a reflection of his own salvation.

    Sounds like you had a good time in church recently! Alleluia! Amen!


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