If you know me, then you know that I don’t do church.
I don’t do church, religion, or God, for that matter.
At this point in my life, there is no desire in me to work out the “salvation of my soul with fear and trembling” or to “enter in at the strait gate”.
By no means am I an atheist and the probable reason for that is my upbringing – which is a whole separate issue.
I am aware that I am digressing, but since it all ties together and I am sleepy, I’ll keep on typing.
I consider myself: apathetic. Apathetic – such a beautiful word that describes my views quite accurately. I simply don’t give a f*** (pardon the modern expression).
Do I believe that I am going to hell? Yes, well provided there is a hell then, sure, why not? I’ve done things that I have been taught are wrong.
But see, there pops up the issue of my upbringing.
To be honest, I have never tried to sort out what I believe versus what I was taught. Oh, and I know the Bible quite well. I understand doctrine. I can argue portions of philosophy. I have read the entire Bible.
The result? A total lack of interest and a hotter section of hell for me.
Most people that meet me, think that I’m a Christian and that bothers me.
That assumption is generally based on my lack of public cursing, intimate stories, or angry tirades. I don’t do those things because it is unprofessional, TMI, and would remind me of my dad (and of course the unspoken reason of my being taught better). Granted, I think that I still believe in the tenets of Christianity i.e., virgin-birth of Jesus, inerrancy of the Bible, Jesus’ death and resurrection……you get the point.
However, I am not accepting Jesus as my “personal Lord and Savior” right now and am not living my life to His glory, so I don’t consider myself a Christian. I won’t even let people call me “a sinner saved by grace”, I make them delete the last three words of that phrase.
A “sinner” simply defines me.
But back to my church visit this morning.
I was invited by a friend which was the only reason the idea even entered my head.
I didn’t acquiesce right away as I was a little unsure, but I finally agreed to go with her. So this morning I suited up and headed over not really sure what to expect. I knew that the experience would most likely revive memories that I have successfully repressed so far, but the realization of what I had done did not hit me for a while.
We went in; greeted her friends; spoke to the pastor; and eventually found our seats. The congregation was predominantly black yet with a strong showing of Latino and white faces. Up on the podium sat the all-male ministers, while the ushers patrolled the aisles making sure everyone had a seat.
Then worship began. It was black gospel style. As the first song was being sung, you could sense the anticipation and energy of the congregation growing. They anticipated an outpouring of the Holy Ghost and were determined to not be disappointed. Then they sang the second song “God Reigns”.
It was during this song that I could hear the hearts joining the voices in singing. I sat silently in my seat as the congregation surged to their feet in unison lifting their hearts in song.
My friend stood and silently wept. It was an uncomfortable moment. The sight of my friend crying opened the lock to my vault of “forgotten” memories. I simply stayed in my seat as images flashed through my mind.
I remembered seeing my mom weeping as the glory of God was felt by her, feeling God’s presence in worship services, watching as saints lifted their hands and hearts to God, seeing people melt under the presence of Holy Ghost conviction, and hearing the weeping and shouting while God’s blessings were poured out. As the last strains of the song died away, the sound of weeping could be heard across the auditorium as people appreciated the message of the song.
But I sat resolute.
Determined to endure the onslaught of memories combined with my current environment, I willed away my spark of emotion and fought to close “Pandora’s Box” of memories.
And I was successful.
I’ve often heard preacher’s preach on the great peril in hardening your heart to the Spirit of God, or fighting conviction.
Yet, I don’t think that was what happened. It almost seems that I was simply reminded of my past, the past that I have chosen to forsake and forget, and I simply shoved those memories back into my memory bank.
To me, becoming a regular church-goer would be hypocritical.
I know that I have no intention of changing, no drawing by the Holy Spirit, no conviction, and no Godly sorrow. Thus to go to church would mean playing games with people and God. Since I have decided to live a life sans God, going to church and hearing about Him every Sunday would be counter-productive. There is also a small fear that should I go to church, I might end up feeling conviction and thus have a curve ball thrown into my current lifestyle. A hazard I intend to avoid.
In many ways for me, this service was perhaps good for me.
It did remind me how many people take God and religion seriously, and how the few who are truly serving God with their whole heart are serenely happy. The service also scratched the armor of my hard heart through the wave of memories it released.
To buff away that scratch, I will throw myself even further into my sinful lifestyle.
But at the same time, I’ll look at my next shot glass twice before downing it and slightly hesitate before accepting the next girl’s invitation to dance.
That will be the short-term effect of my church visit.
The long-term effect is undetermined………yet will have consequence.