Welcome to church! I have been wondering how to write about my various church experiences and have been hitting a wall in my efforts. In every other area I have been relatively successful to ‘get back in character’ in order to reflect the contextual aspects of my biography, and I have thought about doing that with my many various and spiraling church experiences, but I didn’t feel it would serve the reader well to do the same in this instance. I have opted to share my current perspective-based commentary, woven with reflective experiences of specific church experiences I want to share, as it feeds into the overall story.
My story, my rules.
Given that my anger-filled, pastor-want-to-be, roommate went to the local Pentecostal church, not to mention my new girlfriend attended there as well, I found myself entering a church for the very first time the next Sunday. I didn’t realize that I needed to have my shit together before entering the church though, something I did realize about twenty some odd years later. However, in the moment, the whole experience was a little overwhelming. I was tossed back and forth in this sea of people as I furiously took notes on what to say, when to say it, and what it meant to say ‘it’ in the first place.
This isn’t to say that my conversion story wasn’t genuine, because I believe I was sincere at the time, but my relationship and faith experience grew over the next two years in some very dramatic ways and were deeply personal – isolated from the crowds of people for the most part – although there was that one time that I found myself flat on my face in front of the altar for three long hours, unable to get up, all the while hearing a voice in my head repeat, “I am God and you are not.”
I sought answers to my thousands of questions and each of them were queued up and answered in a very methodical fashion by my new group of friends. Apparently there were some rules and processes that needed to be followed, according to the many Christian tracts on salvation and sin and the such. I didn’t mind the reading as I took to my new way of life – my new identity – with great gusto, even purchasing for myself one of those 20 lb thumping books.
With great enthusiasm I would take to the streets to ‘evangelize, proselytize, witness’, or simply scare the shit out of anybody walking around talking about a different god other than the one I had only met weeks or months earlier. Apparently, when it came to acting like those I were hanging around with, no experience or training was necessary, just a passion for the work I suppose.
Over the next several months there was an interesting interweaving of my life that was going on and I wasn’t paying attention to any of it. The growing of a faith that was at best insecure and unstable. The developing of my relationship that presented some serious possibilities. The reminders of my broken family and the strained relationships that were present. And then there were my current living arrangements.
On the one hand I was hitting it off very well with my new girlfriend. I had fallen pretty hard for her and was growing more and more fond of her each day. We would spend a bunch of time together, mostly hanging out with all of our friends but sometimes just with each other, which seemed to really piss off my roommate. I couldn’t tell if he was grieving for my soul in fear that I was sinning in my locked bedroom with my girlfriend or if he was jealous. This became even cloudier when he ripped the phone jack out of the wall and attempted to break down my bedroom door. Fortunately I had the foresight to stack my weight equipment up against it in anticipation.
I moved out and into another place with a couple other guys I had met.
But long before that had happened there was the drama unfolding with my family. I had not been talking very much with my parents or my brother but I was aware that my brother was dating a girl and had decided to move out of my parent’s home and in with her as she was a few years older than he was. He had contacted me and wanted to come over, which he did, and he brought me up to speed on the situation, including the fact that my father was now out looking for him.
My father found out that my brother was with me so he was racing over to confront him. Not wanting to be around for that altercation my brother and I hoped into my car and went to leave the parking lot when my father drove in. I immediately panicked and took off through the field in a desperate effort to escape from my father and to help my brother to freedom. What the hell for I had no idea but in the moment I thought it was a good idea.
In a very unceremonious fashion my parents became empty-nesters, left to rationalize what had happened in their lives to get to this point where both of their sons, their only children, had fled the home at the earliest possible chance they had.
They now had one son, their youngest, shacked up with an older woman doing God knows what. Then they had their other son, their oldest, who had limited, to no contact at all, with them, who was suicidal, depressed, and was deeply into the occult, now become a Christian doing God knows what.
The fact remained I was still suicidal and depressed, however now I was playing for the other side – the winning side as we used to call it. I was learning the language of church. Learning how to fit in. Learning this new identity. I think I was learning about my relationship with God as well, certainly I was experiencing a growing relationship with God but as I look back it wasn’t yet clear to me who was going to win this battle.