I have mixed feelings about the role church and religion played in my life. You know how sometimes when you go out to eat, you keep ordering the same meal, even though you know there’s something not quite right about it, even though you are fully aware your body will reject this meal, even though you are fully aware this meal will not leave your body without a fight? And as you pay your bill, you are in a full sweat, wondering if you’re even going to be able to make it back to the privacy of your own bathroom to have it out with this beast you voluntarily swallowed, or if you will have to live through the embarrassment of shitting your pants in public. Growing up, religion was like that big, dangerous plate of creamy fettuccine and funky alfredo that I always ordered, always ate, and could never digest properly.
Granny & Poppa: I got to spend so much time with my Granny and Poppa because of church. I got to sit next to my Granny and hold her hand and play with her long mauve (always mauve) fingernails, and lean on her shoulder and pass notes back and forth and see her play the piano and go to her Sunday School class and watch all the other kids, who also called her Granny, hang all over her. Looking back, it even felt good when she shushed me for whispering too loud with my friends during the sermon or when she barked at me to ‘pull up my britches.’ I didn’t interact with my Poppa so much as I observed him: the way he shook hands with everyone and meant it, the way he spoke to others with a kind heart, the way he laughed out loud at his own jokes. When we got a little older, my Granny would give us kids some money to run across the street for candy. He would always find an excuse to be outside at these times, just so he could keep a watchful eye on us. I see so many kids now who seem to have no watchful eyes on them…I wish everyone had a Granny and Poppa like mine. Every awful sermon I endured was worth it in exchange for the time I got to spend with them.
For Goodness Sake: I am a good person. Mostly. I guess. I don’t know, you can decide when you’re done reading this. I could be wrong, but I think I am I good person because of lessons I learned in church and from my read-the-bible-every-day religious mother, go-to-church-three-times-a-week religious grandparents, and pray-before-every-basketball-game religious dad. It was like someone was constantly spraying a god-flavored air freshener in my atmosphere. Sure, it was full of destructive byproducts but it made the world smell a little bit better, ya dig? I learned a lot about unconditional love, honesty, forgiveness, and most importantly, compassion. I learned about making an effort to practice these values, even if you can’t perfect them. I learned that perfection itself wasn’t an option, but the ambition to work toward goodness was a requirement. I learned that I was no better than any other person. But I also learned about conviction and knew that no other person was better than me. I learned about the comfort of community and the power of positive thinking. I knew the importance of letting go. (Let’s be real though, I didn’t quite get the hang of that one ’til I started seeing a therapist). From a young age I made a decision to be good for goodness sake, and I think that had a lot to do with the fact I was surrounded by so many good, God-loving people.