My earliest memories of childhood have revolved around church: the tiny cinder block rooms in our church basement that was our Sunday School, the old fashioned upright piano playing as we sang “Jesus Loves Me”, summers spent attending vacation bible school and singing “Onward Christian Soldiers”, the year I finally graduated to attending “big church” with my mom and dad (thinking this would be a good thing, but actually kind of boring for a 10-year-old) and many, many Christmas plays and Easter musicals. I grew up “in church” – we attended a Baptist church until I was about 11-years-old – I also visited the churches of my friends.
Then, without fanfare or rebuke, it stopped. Suddenly we were no longer required to attend church each Sunday morning and night or Wednesday night – my parents, for reasons still foreign to me, simply walked away from the church. Later in life, in my twenties I believe, I remember vague rumblings of feelings getting hurt, mindless gossip and favoritism, but I never really found out why we simply never went back – and in my house, you didn’t ask about ones religious decisions (or their political affiliation either).
When it came time for me to attend high school, my parents decided to send me to a private Christian high school that was started by five area baptist churches, to include the one we had attended for so many years. They felt it was better for me to attend this new private venture than to risk four years in the local public high school that was fraught with a bad reputation of fights, pre-teen pregnancy and humanistic teachings. I wasn’t adverse to the decision and started a four year journey into further teachings on all things related to Christian living and biblical studies. Oh yeah, and there was some math and literature thrown into the mix as well.
So when I tell you I’m no expert in the field of Theology, or anywhere near the expertise of even the most entry-level bible scholar, I mean it – but I am well-versed in the teachings of the bible as it pertains to the everyday passerby. I have read the bible from beginning to end several times, I spent 8-weeks of my Junior year studying the New Testament Book of Acts (I deserved a trophy for that one) and in my Senior year I was the lucky recipient of the Book of Revelation when my class got to draw a name of a book of the New Testament from a box to do our Thesis – the guy sitting next to me got Philemon; for those who don’t know, let’s just say he won the lottery of short and sweet that day!
I hung onto all of the teachings of my adolescence like a kryptonite-deflecting security blanket; strong enough to ward of the evils of the world and keep me on the straight-and-narrow line to the equivalent of the Christian good life via my guilty conscience. When I had a problem while in my turbulent, on-my-own twenties I prayed and read the Bible; if I was tempted to care about anything even remotely “of the world”, I prayed and read the Bible; if I did’t understand why bad things happened to innocent, loving people, I prayed and read the Bible; and then when my marriage was falling apart guess what I did, yup, I prayed and read the Bible a lot!
And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with prayer and meditation to ground and center you during the bad times life will inevitably drop in your lap – the problem was, I was never exactly sure who or what I was praying to. Was I praying to Jesus, or to God? Would God hear me if I didn’t pray “in Jesus’ name”? Did I have God’s ear? Or, was I too lowly? I just did what I was suppose to do – turn to God, through Jesus Christ, when I needed him. Regardless of whether I understood it or not, that’s what I was taught from the beginning of time (my time anyway), so I just did as I was groomed to do.
Through the years my husband and I have attended church religiously (pardon the pun), and then… we stopped. Just like my parents. And with age came wisdom. And lot’s of time to read. I started to research the bible in depth. And I found out many astonishing things – that’s why I’m here. Let me tell you something that may, as a Christian, astonish you: When you leave the Church, you truly find God! You see, it has been my experience that God gets lost in the noise and confusion of the modern church. We sing, praise, preach, listen, sing some more, give testimony, listen again… but we also still gossip, speak ill of our brothers and sisters, dislike those sitting in the pew next to us, complain about the hygiene of the “bus kids” (yes, that happens), and God gets taken out of the equation.
I put God back into my life in a big way. He’s not lost anymore. I see him everywhere around me, hear Him constantly and feel his presence more than ever! Why? Because I left the Church; I walked out of the noise and into a peace and understanding that transcends anything I ever experienced in a chapel, or women’s group or retreat. And God followed me. He’s not exclusive to buildings with stained glass windows and pulpits. He’s out here… in my home, in the beauty of nature and even in beautiful music. And He will be here with you too. Whether God is different to you is irrelevant; you may consider Him to be Karma, Mother Earth, the Universe or a myriad of other relative terms that describe an entity that we know is there but we can’t explain, and that’s o.k.
Join me on my journey to finding a closer relationship with God; one that is loving, nurturing, healthy and makes you a better person!