So, I Went Back to Church

...and I didn't get burned at the stake, or hit over the head with a Bible. I wasn't even asked to join a cult.

I just went.
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Driving back to a place I didn't think I'd ever go again, we pulled our car into the parking lot and I took a deep breath. The pit stains were well-formed, and not going away even after angling my arms just so in front of the vents as I drove.

"I'm doing it for them. I'm doing it for them. They need to know Jesus at an early age, and know what I know, but don't understand. 

Also, there is beer in the fridge."

The church doesn't even look like the church I went to many years ago. And truthfully, this one isn't really the problem.

The Baptist church. That's my problem.

Bible-thumping, fear-mongering, shaming, judging. Those are the emotions and feelings that envelope that building. The kids not knowing or understanding God, and being told, "God will give up on you one day because you will screw up too many times for Him to forgive you." Apology letters being written by teens, who made a bad choice and got pregnant, and being forced to read them aloud during assembly. "Why is she apologizing to me? She didn't have sex with me. Is this normal? Do all Christians shame other Christians? Shit. I'm screwed."

There were good things too. The football games, the parties, the underground dances, the friendships, a select group of teachers. But chapel? Chapel was when I suddenly had cramps. Forget P.E. Chapel scared me more than an old fart with a stopwatch.

And here I was: opening myself up to all the shame, the guilt, the inferiority, the fear, the anxiety. Oh, the anxiety. The kind that a Xanax can't touch. Church was the C word. I wouldn't darken those doors until I had to - maybe a funeral. Maybe I could stand outside while they sang Ave Maria.

I could drop my kids in service and head to Starbucks. It wasn't my worst idea. I know other people who do it all the time. They'd get Jesus, and I'd get? Well, I wouldn't get the shame or the guilt. I was showing up to church after an 8-month hiatus. Surely, God was going to pillar-of-salt me for that kind of shit. My Bible teacher told me: He'd give up on me one day. Walking away from church was probably one of the best reasons to give up on me.

I texted the pastor's wife because she's normal.

"I don't want to do this, but I have to. For them."

"Come a few minutes after service starts. It's dark in there - like a night club. You don't have to talk to anyone, and you can sit in the back. Easy escape."

My kids betrayed me that night. They ran (read: bolted) for their classrooms. I carried them in my body for 9 months, and they left me in the dust to sit with a bunch of Judgy McJudgersons. Alone.


I texted aforementioned pastor's wife the entire time.

"Something is weird about the music."

"What's wrong?"

"No one was rolling around on the ground, and I didn't see one flag being waved." 

"If you've never been hit by a flag during worship, then, you've never been to a charismatic church."

Ok, so, the worship wasn't terrifying, but we have yet to get into a sermon momentarily where, surely, I will be told I am a scum bag who is going to burn. Wait for it...

I waited.

The shame never came.

Maybe next week.

Week two, Maddie asked Jesus into her heart, and proudly told me that she had "bathtized" herself in our tub not too long ago.

Eight weeks later, and I feel no shame. I have never once been made to feel less than. Quite the opposite. Daughter-of-The-King-level opposite. In fact, I ditch the kids faster to be sure I don't miss something. That feels weird.

I even asked about serving in some capacity.

"I know oils, I take good photos, and I'm sarcastic. What's the position for those gifts?"

Jesus & I? He & I are tight. God? If we had a Facebook, our relationship status would read, "it's complicated."
(And yes, I know about the trinity. Keep up.)

So, maybe God & I need some couples counseling for a while. Maybe I can see that He's not going to backhand me when I screw up. He wouldn't do that to my babies, so why would He do that to me? I guess...I guess He wouldn't.

Stay tuned as Andrea + MJJ Go To Church continues. Maybe I'll get hit by a flag next week.

* * *

Also, Josh works for a church in another town on the weekends, so we don't go with him because of distance. Don't ask.

Also also, I am grateful for my education and the private school I went to, so please don't mistake this for being ungrateful. Just have some junk to work out that was put there by some buttholes who worked there.

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