This post is a piece written by Amy McMasters.
“I still haven’t made my peace with organized religion,” a friend tells me over breakfast.
“I understand that,” I hear my blond twin tell her.
I look sheepishly at my plate of Georgie Browns. I haven’t completely made my peace and I don’t even understand. But I finally feel like I’m getting there.
Religion, specifically Christianity, has always mystified me for a host of reasons. Everything from a less than traditional religious upbringing to feeling like I don’t belong in church because of that upbringing … and the whole gay thing.
Then there’s the Bible. The source of religious truth for Christians. It is a vast book with fine print, sometimes contradictory twists and turns and legions of denominations shouting that their interpretation of the events therein is correct. It’s daunting, to put it mildly.
I loathe not knowing things, so after I’d gone to church with the blond twin a few times I finally purchased my first Bible. After all, I’m a relatively smart gal with a college education. I could read the Good Book on my own and come to my own conclusions. Then I’d have accomplished something and no longer feel that spiraling crisis of faith that gnawed at my soul every time someone asked me where I went to church.
I didn’t even make it out of the Old Testament.
I kept going to church though. I’d just come out of the closet and needed a safe place. In southwest Missouri safe places can be hard to come by. Lucky for me, the blond twin was a member of National Avenue Christian Church. A Disciples of Christ Church, it welcomes those of us who happen to be gay Christians.
Like me, NACC was in crisis as well. The long-standing pastor had left the church. Some members of the congregation were leaving while others maintained a tense vigil to keep NACC alive. A parade of temporary pastors churned through the pulpit, doing their level best to hold together what remained of a fractured place of faith.
It was at this time I decided to become a member.
Things began to slowly level out for both me and the church. An interim minister was hired and I began a long-term relationship with my soon-to-be wife. I felt more comfortable with me than I had in years. Yet old doubts began to eat at me once again, especially when it came to faith.
As I sat in the pew, I began to feel as though so much of what was happening was so far beyond me. For goodness sakes, I couldn’t even finish the Bible. What made me think I had any business sitting in church, pretending to be a good Christian?
I stopped going, for a good long while.
It wasn’t until just before the holidays last year I decided to go back. For whatever reason it felt right and comforting to be there. My doubts were still there, but I’d grown more accustomed to them. The church had found a permanent pastor. It would seem we were both in a more stable place.
But I still hadn’t wrapped my mind around the Bible.
The Wife is fond of saying, “Through God and Amazon.com, all things are possible.”
I had joked to the blond twin that I wished there was one of those “Dummies” books about the Bible. It sparked an epiphany. I pulled up the Kindle Store on my Kindle and didn’t find a “Dummies” book, but I did find “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Bible.” I downloaded it thinking it would at least be good for a laugh.
Laughter is good for the aching soul.
The book is straightforward and without any attempts to interpret. It talks about varying interpretations of the Bible, but doesn’t endorse any particular one. It also pokes fun of itself and manages to present the larger themes of the Bible in a way this hardened old cynic could relate to. I’m finally beginning to understand and feel comfortable with the book that, up to now, has terrified me.
I’m still reading the “Guide,” but I’m well into the New Testament. This small success has made feel I’m now ready to tackle that fear of organized religion as well.
I may even be making progress there. At church this week, we talked about Baptism. I remembered having my own Baptism some what forced on me by well-meaning but ill-advised friends. I didn’t understand why I needed to stand in front of a room of 500 people and have water poured over the top of my head. It just seemed like a good way to humiliate myself.
At the end of this week’s service, the pastor called us all up to be Baptized by taking water in our hands. We then were asked to take a shell or a rock to remind us of that day and to remind us to yield to God. Maybe it’s because I’m older. Maybe it’s because I’m reading that “Guide.” Maybe it’s because God has decided it’s my time to understand … but this time, it felt right and cleansing. And for the first time in my nearly forty years, I felt at home in church.