I have always loved Sundays for as long as I can remember. It used to be the day that, when I was young, I would go to the local community Baptist church with my grandparents. I remember the joys of going to Vacation Bible School, learning about Jesus and creating beautiful crosses out of Popsicle sticks and yarn. I reminisce about when I was four, singing songs (my version) while the adults around me would chorus the beautiful hymns. I recall one of my loudly sang verses was, “I love my dolly”, while the adults parishioners were kicking out “Rock of Ages”. I still have to smile when I think about a time when I wasn’t affected by the world around me.
Through the years of my youth I was a guest in many different churches, with friends and family and remember enjoying the experience of seeing the different ways that people worshiped God. I was a bit taken aback the first time that I experienced a southern Pentecostal church service where the parishioners were speaking in tongue; to this day I have a problem understanding what I saw way back then. I recall attending a Catholic wedding, around the age of ten, and discovering that this faith bored me to tears, only because the services seemed to last forever; and I felt so lost when all the true Catholics were able to recite the Beatitudes and Hail Mary’s with such conviction. Catholicism, although a beautifully orchestrated devotion to God, is a faith that appeared a little too rigid for me.
I became disillusioned with the church when I was sixteen, homeless and pregnant. I was staying at a friend’s home at the time and her mother was trying to pressure me into giving the baby up for adoption to them. This wasn’t going to happen, because I saw the way that these people treated their own children. When their request fell on deaf ears they set their pastor to work on me. They were affiliated with a little corner church that had, maybe, forty members. The pastor was a Detroit police officer during the day and minister by night. Assuming that I was a run-away (remember I said I was homeless, not a run-away), he threatened to have me locked up and stated that with me being incarcerated, they would ensure that the baby would be given to a “good home”. This statement would mold my views of the church for many years to come. Of course, nothing he threatened came to fruition, because I told him to send the police to my parents’ home, where I sat on the front porch until two o’clock in the morning waiting for the police to come. The police never showed up and I quit attending church. It would take another ten years before I would enter another church for services.
When I was twenty-six, I was coming out of a self-imposed bad time in my life and I turned to the church. Not to the people in the church, but the church itself. I wandered into our local Presbyterian church, kneeling in front of the cross that adorned the front of the church, praying for God to take me far away from the path that I had chosen since I had turned my back on the church. At that time I was under the impression that my choice of abandoning the church had set all my mishaps in motion. The church’s pastor, whom had witnessed my desperate prayer and pleas to God, approached me and offered me a shoulder to cry on. I would bare my soul for the next two hours to this wonderful man of God. This would be the man that would renew my faith in the church; the man who would make me feel good about the way that I communicated with my father and enabled me to see the difference between faith and religion. The Presbyterians’ believe that your conscious is your guide. They don’t believe in walking around spouting that this is a sin, or that is a sin. They believe that if it is wrong your conscious will be the first to tell you that it is wrong. I personally believe this heart and soul. God’s voice within you is your conscious. I had found a church that I could believe in; however, it did not and will not alleviate all my problems with the concept of church.
I still do not normally attend church on Sundays; however, not because of what happened way back then. I do not attend church regularly because I am not comfortable knowing that so many that attend church do so for appearances sake. Don’t get me wrong, I know that there are many that are true, faithful Christians that practice their faith throughout their lives and not just on Sunday, at church, surrounded by friends. That is the part of religion that I have the most problem with. How can you live your life one way during the week and then portrait something else on Sunday? This is something that I have never been able to wrap my mind around.
In my mind, I see the community as the church. Even though all these souls go to different church’s on Sundays, it’s about all seven days of the week. I believe that if you are good to your neighbors, promote positivity and good citizenship, and truly care about those around you; I believe that is what is meant by being faithful and part of your community; the true church. No religious lines, no our God, your God, his God or her God. Just exhibiting plain goodness and honesty to all you encounter; pulling together to help those in need, that’s my vision of “church”. When you look at the history of the church, it is riddled with wars and crusades; there were times we actually persecuted those that did not believe the way that the “church” demanded that you did. I’m pretty sure that’s not what God had in mind.
I have always looked to God as my friend and savior. I don’t feel that I need a special day of the week to demonstrate that. I speak with my father every day of my life, several times a day. Whether my life is kicking my backside or blessing me, he is there for me and me for him. I know that there is a purpose for community and I will always be available to help those that I can, but I don’t feel that I need to be a member of the church to do so. I believe that God hears me when I sing “The Old Rugged Cross” loudly going down the road in my car; and I believe that God hears me when I am praying silently at my bedside. I believe that he has led me down a path, which although not well defined at times, has developed clarity as my life continues.
Even with mortgage fraud wreaking havoc for the past eight years in our lives, it has not dampened my love and devotion for my Lord. Some would have looked at this as a “Why God?” situation. That is not a question I have, because I understand that man’s free will did this to us and not God. Someone, somewhere thought, through their own free will, that it was alright to lie, cheat and steal; and that someone was not God.
Throughout this past decade of our lives we have experienced death, loss of a job and the fight of our lives; and although I have experienced about every emotion a human being could possibly go through, I have never lost sight of my friend. I didn’t understand why we were going through this; I only know that my Father never had anything to do with it. Where ever he was leading me I was going to go, despite all the earthly distractions and the emotions that go with them.
On the flip-side, throughout this past decade we have also experienced the birth of three grandchildren, the gift of having skills that, even though we don’t have a forty hour a week job, have been able to survive and keep a roof over our heads despite the criminality of others. That is because God is in our lives and I know that he doesn’t hold it against me for not visiting some brick building every Sunday in an attempt to prove my devotion to the world. Please don’t misunderstand. I do believe that good people go to church and work hard on their faith; it’s the ones that go to church to impress and put on a false face that keeps me away.
I may not attend services on Sunday, but I try to live every day of my life as if it were Sunday. I practice my faith, although outside sanctuary walls, and I work continuously on being grateful for the gift of good health, sound mind and a loving family. I still honor Sunday’s in my heart as that special day of the week; the day that bridges last week to next week. I thank God for helping us survive another week and thank him in advance for his constant presence in the week that will come. I love that I can spend Sunday’s with the man that God chose for me to spend my life with and I relish in the knowledge that God loves me whether I am sitting in a pew or on a couch next to my husband.