The Day I Revisited a Church
An intimate recount on Carrie's recent visit to the church after many years.
I sat quietly, like a mouse, while everyone sat and prayed. I didn’t feel a need to close my eyes if I didn’t feel like it or to clasp my hands in prayer. It was my first visit to a church in years. Was it twelve years? I think so. For someone who identifies as a Christian, but hated the idea of church and the hypocrisy of it (ironic, I know since on the other side, I’m sure I was looked upon as a hypocrite as well – a lip service Christian so to speak), this was a surprise even to myself that I had agreed and I followed through. How many times have I quoted the Bible, or mentioned something, and everyone thought I was mocking the religion! Way too many times!
Don’t get me wrong, but I do believe in God, just not the physical church, nor church leaders who are only human, nor the strict rules that “religion” commands I adhere to. I always thought it was too contradictory – the religion reels you in with stories of never-ending love from a God that is benevolent, magnanimous, wonderful and then the next thing you know there’s an atmosphere of intolerance about things that don’t conform, sometimes even a painful contempt for things that the community can’t understand.I don’t buy it. I really don’t. I believe in my God and that’s that, because I can’t trust that the rest of it, all that terrible things done in the name of God, can be true. So, I’ve refused to attend church for many years. I did briefly pop by one or two churches, but I never connected.
I’ve also broadened my horizons, went to temples, tried to understand Buddhism, Taoism, Feng Shui and its concepts on nature, energy, went for meditation, read up about Islam, tried Goddess Oils… It goes on. In some way, with Feng Shui and Meditation, where there are no designated “Gods” so to speak, I did connect and I was really intrigued, but as I’ve confessed to a few close friends before, the “magic” of those experiences, reaffirm that we all experience the same God in different ways and develop different explanations for it. I’ll be honest here, don’t fault me for it, I am experiencing God and all the beauty there is in the world, why do I have to go to church on a Sunday, and sit through a sermon, trying not to nod off or because I look forward to fellowship (a.k.a makan time after church)? Isn’t that just plain hypocritical. If I don’t connect with the messages, what is the point of attending?
This time, I went to this church out of curiosity, because Ting, piqued my interest by offering me a reasonable debate with her insight on the recent LGBT hoo-hah “the church” was making (I use inverted commas because I know that not everyone shares the same stance or approach). She invited me to join her at an “offbeat” church that she insisted would be different. I put aside my prejudices and told myself three times, I said in my head, “just be open, just be open, just be open”. What happened after, was not what I expected at all.
The message was different and I appreciated the change of tone and the approach they took. They welcomed the so-called “un-church”, people who resisted the idea of church for one reason or another. They spoke about a love, that I could connect with, from a God I remembered. I thought I would skid-daddle after that and skip the whole prayer group session, because I just didn’t feel like I wanted to be a part of it, but I eventually just ended up in a chair, in a circle, with a group of strangers.
As I slid into observation mode in my chair, at points I closed my eyes because I started feeling so overwhelmed by a strange feeling and I was fighting it. I was fighting it hard. As they prayed for each other, I felt a sensation at the tip of my head and then flow through to the tip of my fingers and at one point it got difficult to breathe without deep breaths. I just couldn’t understand and I didn’t want to accept it as well. Logically I knew it was no use resisting, but internally, instinctively, I did. I worked hard to regain control. I felt this way at least one other time when I first went for meditation, but the feeling was just a tingling at the top of my head and briefly for a couple of minutes. This went well on for more than ten or fifteen minutes.
As all this was happening I asked so many questions in my head. Since they were praying, I would to.
“Why am I back here?”
“Why am I not fully convinced?”
“What am I doing here?”
“This is annoying, I’m not even paying attention and focusing on the other prayers fully.”
And as I struggled internally, and I thought the prayer group was going to end, I wanted to heave a sigh of relief that I made it through, suddenly the person who was leading the prayer group, prayed for me.
“I have two words for you: Meticulous Ballerina.”
What followed was the most amazing and puzzling things to happen. This dude barely knows me and I’ve hardly spoken a word and there he goes about how he sees my meticulous nature and how I seem gifted with administration. How it could be that I wanted to be a ballerina when I was younger or that I used to dance. That he saw me dancing with the Father. He went on and said that I seem stretched, could be work, or maybe it was someone at work that made me seem burdened and the group prayed for me.
And then for no apparent reason, I started to cry. Tears down my face, nose running, darn, this was clearly not what I expected. Let me just put it simply, it was like my mind said to me repeatedly, “Why are you crying? There’s nothing to cry about! You aren’t really tired or sad or unhappy!” and the body just did not comply – it was on its own – doing things on its own – releasing emotions I couldn’t put my finger on.
Then another person prayed for me and said he knew I had questions and that God would answer them all. Another person later on prayed for me to say that I was loved and that I did not need to gain any favour, do anything to be loved, because I am. Nothing I did more or less could make God love me any more or less. I am loved.
Needless to say, that made it fairly hard to get my emotions in check again. It’s amazing how sometimes the most spiritual experiences, happen when you least expect.
So that’s the story of the day I revisited a church. Funny, huh. I found it funny too.
Photo Credit: FEElim Photography