“I don’t object to the concept of a deity, but I’m baffled by the notion of one that takes attendance.”-Amy Farrah Fowler to Sheldon Cooper on “The Big Bang Theory.
I believe in a higher power. I also believe in guardian angels. I believe in miracles. I believe in all that stuff. However, what I don’t believe in is that you need to dress up and put your behind in a pew every Sunday just to show people that you are a Christian. I know there are people who go to church religiously. Every Sunday. Rain or shine, snow or sleet, neither snow nor rain nor darkness can keep them from it. Oh hang on a minute, that’s the Post Office. I’m happy for them. I’m really glad that they do that. I wish I could be one of those people but I am not. And believe me, I feel guilty as hell for it.
I have had an on again, off again relationship with the church I attend. It has nothing to do with the church itself. It has everything to do with my life these days. When you have other people who control the various aspects of your life, you don’t always go. And for the record, it’s not MY church. I am not a member. Neither is my husband. We live in a very small town where there are only two churches. Both are Lutheran. I am a Methodist, currently without a church. They disowned me. No it’s not as bad as it sounds. We don’t live in that town anymore and my husband does not desire to drive there every Sunday. When they changed pastors, they basically threw out all the members that don’t attend. Anyway, we attend the church a couple of blocks from our house. It’s a nice little church.
I have two children (you knew that, right?). When I have gone to church I don’t get to sit and listen. I haven’t actually heard a whole sermon in years. Most of the time I am dealing with my children, or really distracted by them (damn ADD). I really don’t get a whole lot out of it. It’s too small of a church to have a staffed nursery. There is a small room that the children can play in, but I have to go with them. It’s not like I can just send them down by themselves. And there’s something in that room. SOME. THING. In that room (just picture William Shatner saying it). I get some sort of allergy attack when I go in there, in addition to the fact that I am extremely claustrophobic. When a room has no windows, I have issues with it. I end up going home with a migraine every time. So we don’t do the nursery.
My husband has gone to church this whole time because he sings in the choir. Is that weird? The non musician sings in the choir. And does solos. I have recently started attempt #2 to be in the choir. Princess Naughty pretty much put a stop to it last time. Between the fact that we had to find someone to watch our kids during the time we sing and misbehavior during choir practice, it didn’t last long. My choir career stopped the night during practice when she managed to empty the contents of the organist’s purse in between running sprints around the church like a maniac during practice. Evil Genius can’t track all of her movements because tenors sit up in the back corner and he can’t see her. This time, a year later, she is older and is semi well behaved during practice. Sort of, at least comparative to last year. Last practice I missed quite a bit of what was going on-I dealt with her laying under the choir pews, hanging off the pews, and generally being a stinker. When I threatened to take her out of there, of course she wanted to go. I stuck it out, though. I don’t know how long it will last. Which is too bad, because I like singing in the choir. I don’t get to do much anymore.
And then we went through a period where the kids only wanted to go to Sunday School. Evil Genius didn’t want to make them go to church if they didn’t want to. So I stayed home with them and he went. Occasionally there would be a morning where both wanted to go. One of two things would usually happen. Like I assumed they weren’t going and therefore didn’t do something important like showering (trust me you REALLY want me to shower before I come to church.) Then both kids would go with my husband and I stayed home, while people thought I was smoking crack with Satan. Or my husband didn’t go, and therefore none of us went. Now we’re to the point where they both want to go most weeks. Which is good, since I have started singing in the choir again.
Where am I going with this? I just get tired of people who have to point out that we weren’t there. I know I wasn’t there. You don’t need to tell me. It wasn’t like I fell into an alternate universe that morning. There was a reason why I wasn’t there. I always feel like I then have to explain myself. No, I really don’t. I have literally had people come up to me at our Post Office and tell me that we need to come to church. I live in a small town. I’m glad that you feel so passionately about your church, but you don’t know what goes on in my house. I’m not in control some days. Most days.
This morning was particularly bad for me. I have not taken my meds for a couple of days. I had anxiety oozing out of me. If you could see it, it probably looked like ectoplasm. Anyway, I got up in plenty of time to get my kids up and around and get presentable and so forth. I had just laid church clothes out for my daughter when Evil Genius called from the bedroom that we weren’t going. The guy works the equivalent of two full time jobs, that’s like a zillion hours a week. If he is tired and wants to rest, that’s ok! He told me I could go if I want to. No. I have tried that before. When my kids misbehave, I can’t stand people staring at us. And they do that when their Dad isn’t there. More the little one, but The Professor has his moments. I don’t want to disrupt anyone’s church service.
Our church is a little different from others in that Sunday School is after church, not before. I missed that meeting, not sure what the reasoning was behind that. Anyway, I took the kids over about the time that church gets over in my yoga pants and hooded sweatshirt. As we turned the corner, I saw a gazillion cars in the parking lot. I so wanted to turn the kids loose and just let them go in by themselves. But I can’t let my kids be unsupervised. I see too many kids that just run wild. So I went in. There were people everywhere. There was cake and a very formal reception. Of course my children HAVE to go in and have snacks, because it’s all about the snacks, right? Long time members of the church were having a wedding anniversary. People were decked out in their finest, and I was in my sweats and my hair in a ponytail. I stood out like a sore thumb. I made sure they got their cake and their punch. I know I got a couple of dirty looks. I just wanted to run and hide. “Missed you in church today,” was said by a couple of people. I tried to defend ourselves: “My husband wasn’t feeling well”. “I just live there.” “Talk to my husband”. I just wanted to run and hide. The Sunday School teachers were nowhere in sight. Someone asked a question, I cheerfully answered it, and she acted like I wasn’t talking to her. How dare I talk to anyone! I didn’t go to church today! I let the entire choir down because I wasn’t there! Or something like that.
I finally was able to locate my daughter’s Sunday School teacher, to make sure I wasn’t just leaving my children. And I literally ran out of there. I felt awful. I was just bringing my kids to Sunday School. I guess I could have kept them home like I have so many times in the past. There are so few young people in the church as it is, and I was horrible, evil, terrible. As I walked home, my ears felt like they were on fire, tears welled up in eyes. I wanted hop in my car and drive away from this town. All because I was feeling bad for not going to church.
I walked in the door, told Evil Genius he was picking them up, took my meds, and took the dog for a walk. I walked around town as far away from the church as I could, tears streaming down my face. Why do I care what people think? I know my husband doesn’t. I shouldn’t. I know that I can’t please everyone all the time. I know not everyone will like me. But often I feel like people hate me. It’s part of the anxiety. But what people don’t understand is that I’ll just quit coming instead of dealing with it, because I hate confrontation. And I feel bad enough, I don’t need more stuff to feel bad about.
It didn’t particularly end well. Evil Genius went to get the kids. He came back with one child. Princess Tantrum was waiting just where she was supposed to along with her Sunday School teacher. The older kids tend to run way over, and he couldn’t find the Professor. So he brought the Princess home and went back for my son. Who had been playing in the nursery for some reason and then tried to walk home by himself. Apparently punishment for his evil mother who didn’t come to church. After everyone was home and lectured, I realized they had both left their coats there. I wasn’t about to go back for them.
If you are one of those people who do actually get to church every week, I’m very happy for you. If you feel welcome and accepted where you are, how does that happen? What’s the secret? Just do me a favor, if we don’t come that week, don’t mention it. Because we’ll be back. I just don’t know when.