My church story: the cheat sheet
I think it’s time I give you the Cliff Note’s version of my experience in and out of church.
I got saved at the age of six, which is what my Vacation Bible School teacher at a tiny Baptist church in my hometown said I had to do to get to heaven. For saying the sinner’s prayer, I won a green and white stuffed bunny that was hand stitched by one of the faithful old church ladies. I had a Sunday School teacher who loved me unconditionally and found magazine clippings of my favorite animals to decorate memory verses on index cards.
I got on fire for God at a Calvary Chapel-esque church in my pre-teen years. It was here that I was exposed to Teen Mania Ministries, a giant and rather fundamentalist revival organization based in Texas. I took two overseas missions trips with Teen Mania, which stoked my passion for travel and taught me dating was sinful.
I got kind of weird on God at a Pentecostal church I attended for the bulk of my teen years. I received the gift of tongues and witnessed my friends from youth group screech, convulse, and roll on the floor when the Spirit came down. It was during these years I believed secular music is always bad, playing rummy is the appearance of evil, and my developing body kept men from being right before God, unless I covered it up. I got used to three-hour sermons, loud preachers, and prophesy.
I got some rest at the Christian college I attended. Compared to the doctrines that saturated my teen years, the college seemed open minded and accepting of different views. I stopped attending church regularly, but I continued to go to campus chapel twice a week. It took me awhile to detox from the thinking I binged on in high school – I remember during my first semester I actually made an anonymous written suggestion for the school to implement a dress code because I thought my peers were dressing too immodestly. Lord help me.
I got angry, really angry, at the non-denominational church Joe worked as a youth pastor right after graduation. He was a youth pastor for 10 months at this church before the senior pastor – who is a narcissist in the most clinical sense of the word – fired him two weeks before our wedding. He screamed at Joe and told him to increase the youth group’s numbers, but only with rich kids so the church would grow financially. I watched Joe endure verbal and spiritual abuse for months from this church, and with each Sunday it got harder and harder to slap on a smile.
I got bitter. I got a bone to pick with that guy.
I got a little healing in a small group of people we found in Boston, a group of students and artists who accepted us and prayed for us no matter what kind of anger or arrogance we threw at them. These were the kind of people that sat cross-legged on their rug in their fourth floor brownstone, talking about life and God. They were the type of people that celebrated with champagne when one of us landed a long-awaited job, and tearfully sent us off with prayer when we moved back to California.
I got a little bored, a little numb, a little tired of church shopping in the town we live in now. I got indignant when a hyper 23-year-old male Bible study leader berated his soft-spoken wife in front of the whole group. Meanwhile, at a church across town, I got anxious when the pastor, red in the face, yelled at his congregation for being “lukewarm.” I got discouraged after off-and-on attending another church – not a large church, mind you, but a congregation of about 100 – for nearly two years without ever being reached out to by anyone. Not so much as a cup of coffee.
Then I realized. I got to stop this.
So there you have it, the cheat sheet to my personal church history. From this, from what is written and what is between the lines, many more stories will flow.
Does anything stick out to you, anything you’re dying to hear more about? Anything about this post make you uncomfortable? You don’t have to agree with me to join the conversation.