It wasn’t long, before I also became the treasurer of the village’s recreation committee, called upon to clean-up the mess of this organization. I had long been pigeon-holed as the one to clean up organizational messes and I had long identified myself well within that context. This was just the next thing I could find affirmation in and the next thing that I could use to stroke my ego. The oddness of this though is that it had become a cycle in my life. I was only a part of that committee long enough to clean up the mess of it before I found myself bored and wanted out. And an ugly side of me is when I am bored, my cynical anti-social tendencies get the best of me – resulting in burned bridges and other social messes that are best left un-messed in the first place. Consequently, somewhere along the way I had begun to try and learn the art of leaving on a high note. I barely accomplished that feat with my departure from this organization.
I wasn’t as fortunate when the time came to leave the provincial organization that I had just started a new job with. However, that is a couple of years away yet.
It didn’t take long to get into the swing of things from a family perspective. Actually, I was pleased to discover that given all of my years working in a noisy environment I found it soothing to spend my evenings sitting at my desk with a stack of books and textbooks on one side, my computer in front of me and my scribbled notes in a pile to the right. It was soothing to me because the house was so small and I was gone so long that the children would spend time with me or play by me and yet their noise and their interruptions did not drive me to a cubicle in the school’s library like most of my peers, but instead I could feel still connected to them without the sacrifice of falling behind in my studies.
Good thing as well, because, although we had saved quite a lot for this new chapter in our life and would be fine for quite awhile yet, that financial path was not going to sustain us to the end of my degree, so I needed to work – albeit part-time would be enough – but it still required time away from the home, on top of school and the consequent papers to write and content to get through in preparation for the next class. I was burning the candle at both ends, but somehow, because I could be beside my family for a good portion of that journey, it didn’t seem as much as a hardship for me.
This strange new world presented a new type of dance for me that I struggled to become a part of. The church community was unlike any that I had yet encountered in my Christian walk and I found myself stumbling around in the dark trying to make sense of it all. We didn’t know what church to attend and actually we had several to choose from, which was something new for us as well. We hadn’t lived before in what could easily be referred to as a ‘Bible belt’ and consequently had no idea what that might be like. In the moment it seemed great, that there would be viable choices for us and amazing micro-communities in which to connect and feel connected.
And so we searched.
There was the large church building just off of the city center 20 kilometers from the village where we lived. A large church building with perhaps just over a dozen people in attendance, eyes drooling as the eight of us walked in and took a seat in a pew. There was an old Baptist church on the hill heading to the city center where it was just my wife and I who attended that Sunday morning, packed into a pew filled with older folks, finding myself listening to a blatant racist pastor’s sermon. I wanted to stand up and call him out in my anger, but instead I opted to just get the hell out of there, stepping over a couple of little old ladies in the process.
We attended the large church on the hill, with those big views of a valley, overlooking the rest of the city – the very positioning of this brick and mortar suggesting superiority, knowledge, and moral authority. Actually, we hung out there for awhile, trying to make sense out of some of the relational dynamics that were present. This was a church with history. A lot of history and the families to back that up. To try and explain what I mean, my wife had explored a theory of friendship, which among other things, simply states that people have x-amount of friends in their lives and when all the slots are full there is no room for any more. “Sorry”, they would say with a ‘nice’ smile, “you are shit out of luck but if someone was to depart and a slot would open up, perhaps we will give you a call”.
Actually, understanding that aspect of friendship has really been quite helpful over the years. Not everyone was being dicks. It was simply that their friendship slots were all full.
But I digress.
We tried out another large church, closer to the outskirts of the city. Well, come to think of it – all of the churches were large, either in building size or in attendance or in both. This really was the Bible belt. This church on the outskirts was really quite uncomfortable as it was apparent that we had not gotten the memo on how to dress and act. My wife and our daughters were supposed to be in long dresses and to keep their mouths shut while in the sanctity of the building structure, while myself and my sons were supposed to be in suits, walking around like we understood absolute truth.
Being a feminist and an egalitarian, I thought it wise not to return.
This church thing was a bit more tricky here than I had anticipated. I had opted not to attend the church that was held in the school’s auditorium as it catered to the college students and my family and I felt out of place there – not to mention there was only so much school that one could take over the course of a week.
Hey, I am beginning to sound like a man making a lot of excuses to not go to church. The opposite was true, however, since we had left such a wonderful church experience back home we (I) was searching for its equivalent in this ocean of churches here.
Only I didn’t know what I was really looking for was the same privileged position I enjoyed in my church back home, where everyone knew my name, where we were the fan favorite, where we were being financially supported. I enjoyed the benefits of being a somebody and wanted the same thing here.