Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Sunday Sleepover for Jesus

When I was in junior high my best friend asked me to sleep over her house one Saturday night. I was excited because it meant snacks in her bright pink room while we watched her tiny television until 2am.

There was one caveat--she wanted me to go to church with her in the morning.

Ah crap.

I was 13 and had already decided in my middle school, know-it-all fashion that church was not for me.

I had my doubts from the beginning. I did not believe for one minute the story my grandmother told me that thunder was god and the angels bowling. (I had the real, scientific scoop from my dad who told me that the raindrops fell from the sky because they did not get along and the clouds rubbed together and created sparks that became lightning.) Nor did
I believe it when she told me when I had the creeps it was probably the devil at my left shoulder and that I should stomp firmly on the ground and yell GO AWAY DEVIL.

I was also a bit traumatized from one memorable Sunday when I was six and I went to our Russian orthodox church. My mother decided that I, like all the other parishioners, should and get up from the pew, kiss the cross, and get a piece of holy bread to eat from the priest.
I was fine until I looked up at the life-sized crucifix with a bloodied and tortured Jesus nailed to its center. His thorny crown stabbed his head causing punctures I could see from my seat and filled his upward turned eyes with blood. That was IT for me. I would NOT be eating holy bread, and I certainly was not kissing anything is this hall of tortures.

After running from the church into the hot July sun, my mother explained to me that I would not have to kiss THAT cross, but the one the priest was holding. I didn't care. I wanted nothing to do with the otherwise beautiful church, even if my mom told me it was the right thing to do on Sundays.

That evening I asked her why there was a statue of a dying, almost naked man in our church. She explained the story of Jesus to me. I didn't like it. Then I asked her why we had to die. She told me "so we can meet Jesus in heaven."
Nope. I didn't even want to see him in church anymore, and I surely didn't want to spend eternity with him. I got very upset and told her I did not want to die. Not at ALL. She said god was our father. Now I was frantic. Who was the man who lived with us all these years!

I began to cry. She asked, "don't you want to meet Jesus one day?" "NO!" I cried, and continued to cry for about 45 minutes.

"OK," she finally said.

"OK, what??" I sniffed.

"You don't have to die," she said.

And that was all I had to hear. She did not make me go to church anymore, and she tried to make me say my prayers for a while--but I was having none of it. AND I got the good end of the deal. No dying for me. Part of me is still convinced I am immortal.

So fast-forward a few years and there I was, faced with a major choice. Popcorn, cookies, and covert TV til all hours sounded awesome. BUT--I had to go to CHURCH. I had put all this behind me years ago. 

I told my friend of my dilemma. She said, "first of all--there is NO bloody Jesus at our church and no cross-kissing. Second--it only lasts about a half hour."

I figured I could put up with this obviously more civilized version of worship for 30 minutes. I slept over and we had a great night--we talked and talked and didn't even need to watch TV. Totally worth the church visit in the am, I told myself. 

But what they didn't tell me was this church had their OWN version of holy bread. I watched as the rows and rows of people walked to the front to take their wafer and a sip from a gold cup.

"What are we eating and drinking?" I asked.

"The blood and body of Christ," said my friend's brother.

Twilight Zone. The room got hot and I felt like running out the doors again.


My friend told me it was just wine and a wafer--but my Post Traumatic Church Disorder was kicking in full-force, and before I knew it I was standing in front of the priest with my mouth hanging opened like a carp.

"The body of Christ," said the priest, and I stood there blinking like a fool.

Nope again. I do NOT want to eat a piece of Christ.

After 20 or so uncomfortable seconds of silence, the priest told me I should not be there, and I should leave. 

I was kicked out of church.

There was no explanation. He was a bit angry too.

I have been to church several times since without bursting into flames. My wedding, my son's Christening, and several funerals went off without a hitch.
But I still cant quite shake the feeling that something is going to happen every time I walk through the doors...or that I will get my Eternal Life Free Pass revoked.

So for now at least, I will stay away, and keep my immortal status.