Saturday, September 10, 2011
When you wake up on Sunday feeling like there is no way in hell you are going to church, trust me:
That's just Satan fucking with your head.
I’ve always known this. The idea of spiritual warfare was introduced to me before I can even remember, and it has always made perfect sense. I’m so aware of it, actually, that I have many a time forgotten that it isn’t a typical thing to mention to people you don’t know that well, which leads to a tricky recoil.
My dad used to shout out the fact that our senseless Sunday morning rage was caused by the demons winning the tiny battle in our little, flea-infested house, to get us not to hear God’s word. I couldn’t argue, but I wouldn’t admit the invisible struggle either. Between me and my two little sisters, we could cause a shitfit that would make the neighbors’ dogs howl.
There was something about those fits though. They were always worse than just any family clash.
Only on certain and few mornings would I side with my dad. That would undoubtedly make both my sisters feel ganged-up on, which kindled the high-pitched fire. It was rare when I fully joined in on the familial tantrum, because I was the oldest. I would, though, save my best anti-church fury for when it really counted. And every now and then it would work, and we would get to skip church.
The utter relief of knowing that you’ve successfully beat your own parents down enough to admit that walking into church this late would be more embarrassing for them than it was worth, is a glorious feeling to say the least.
There was something, though. There was something about Sunday mornings. I always felt a distinct pushing; a pushing to be a complete wreck before getting in the car to go to a church service.
This is the unexplainable part.
When things go fine, when it isn’t at all a chore to get to church on Sunday, something is missing. This too has happened as long as I can remember, and continues to this day. If there is a struggle, if there is just a bitter torment to get your ass out of bed and get into communion with good people, if it is just plain hard to do - something ends up touching you on that very morning. This happens to me without fail. It is almost a game now. I know what type of service I’m about to experience because of how hard the enemy tries to get me to avoid it.
Churches in rich, white towns are just the best.
We have an abundance of them within a small radius of our home. Fresh on the search, my wife did a mild mapping of a few nearby, and our digital finger stopped the globe on Oneonta.
On a whispery, residential street twice as wide as any modern road, chunks of ancient sidewalk painfully peaked with roots seeking light, as the arching canopy of elderly oak trees carelessly guided us in.
We chose the earlier Traditional Service as opposed to the more lax Contemporary Service. I felt great about this, as I wanted the real thing, and enjoyed having two options. I was not at all interested in their newest product, which they had the guts to title “contemporary”.
The grounds were a bit hard to navigate, though we heard music, until we found a series of small stantion posts with small, hand-written pointers, leading us into one of what I imagine are a few main church halls.
Oneonta is older, but not like 1800’s old. It shows signs of growth from every few decades.
Everything was comforting to me. It was like I was at my grandmother’s church, without my grandmother, and I was free to watch it and judge it as I pleased. I felt a bit insecure upon entry, but once we realized there were no awkward greeters, and the entirety of the traditional congregation clustered themselves 40 pews down the aisle towards the pulpit, I was at ease. It also helped that the silver-haired worshippers could not care less that some new kids showed up.
We came in, found some seats, did a couple over the shoulder hellos before even being prompted, and sat through the service.
The pastor talked about reaching out to everyone around us and being Christ-like in everyday life. The examples were the post office, the grocery store (including a joke about parking at Ralphs - to a weezy giggled response), and family holidays and functions. What he meant by family functions I could only assume was funerals and reviewing of wills in a lawyer’s office.
The sermon was disasterously geared towards the wrinkled set of individuals around us. I could almost feel the intelligent, well-spoken, early 40’s pastor looking at my wife and I, and thinking “Gosh you guys, I’m sorry - these decrepit trust fund mummies keep our parking lot paved and our stained glass window repaired - hope you come to the contemporary service after this!”
I didn’t mind. I tried to apply his message. It was nice not worrying about anyone around us, and not worrying about an onslaught of emotional trampling. The sermon was lovely, and though only obtusely applicable, just nothing to go home with.
We left without a trace.