A fictional story that is all too real…
I am planning on visiting your church Sunday. It took me three months to build up the courage. You see, I haven’t attended church in a long time…not even on Easter and Christmas. I’m not proud of that. It wasn’t how I was raised. It just kind of happened.
I used to go to church as a child all the time. I loved going to Sunday School with my friends. I loved hearing the exciting stories about people with really funny names like Zacchaeus and Bartimaeus. See! I even remember the names. And, of course, I remember Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses, Samson, David and Goliath, Ruth, Esther, and most of all Jesus. We talked a lot about Jesus.
Church services were sometimes boring, but I would sit with Mama and Daddy and my pesky little brother. Our church had a big pipe organ and the whole building shook with Mrs. Leonard hit the low notes. I remember feeling the note in the pit of my stomach. I also remember the candles that burned on the table and the feel of the cold golden offering plate when it passed by. I looked at those tens and twenties and thought that was more money that I had ever seen. And I remember Pastor Bob who always spoke to me when we were leaving. He’d smile and tell me how much I’d grown and how good I had been sitting there like a young lady.
Even in high school I went to church most every Sunday. Sure, my friends and I would skip out from time to time because of a sleepover or when we were old enough to take a road trip to the beach, but I was there most of the time. Mr. and Mrs. Griffin led the youth group. They took us on trips. They let us come to their house for bonfires. Mrs. Griffin would play the guitar and Mr. Griffin would try to lead us in singing. We always sang extra loud to drown him out, bless his heart. And I remember that both of them cried the day I was baptized. I think they were more proud than Mama and Daddy.
It was when I left for college that things began to change for me. My roommates didn’t go to church at all. I tried getting them to go with me the first few weeks, but it was obvious they wanted to sleep in. I went myself to the church down the street. There were some other college students there, but they all seemed to have sets of friends. I felt alone even though the pew I was on was nearly full. I didn’t recognize a lot the songs. There was no Pastor Bob or Mr. and Mrs. Griffin. There was an organ but the man playing it didn’t hit those low notes like Mrs. Leonard. It was church but it was different. After a while, I kind of starting skipping Sundays. The more I skipped the easier it became to skip. Before too long I was sleeping in along with my roommates.
My life went into a bit of a tailspin spiritually after that. I prayed or read the Bible only when I felt really guilty, and honestly I felt less and less guilty as time when on. I met Brad. He was tall with bushy dark hair and a smile that could light up a city. I fell hard. I remember Mrs. Griffin taking us girls aside and telling us the Bible said not to be “unequally yoked with unbelievers.” She said that one of the things it meant is that we should only date Christians. Brad wasn’t a Christian, but he was sooooo cute. Anyway, Brad and I did some things. I got pregnant. Brad didn’t want me to have the baby. I couldn’t tell Mama and Daddy. It would break their hearts! Brad took me to the clinic near the college. I went in pregnant. I came out…not pregnant.
Brad didn’t hang around much after that. I’m not sure I blame him. I had changed. I didn’t even like the girl who looked back at me in the mirror. I had few friends and the few I did have were mostly girls I partied with.
I didn’t drop out of school. I graduated and got a pretty good job here in your town. My Mama and Daddy are proud of me. They tell me that Mrs. Griffin, who is now a widow, tells them every Sunday that she’s praying for me. And I guess that why I’m planning on come to your church.
My life is a bit of a mess. I need friends. I need to belong. I need to reconnect to that Jesus I once loved – a Jesus who I know still loves me. I know it because Pastor Bob said it over and over. I know it because Mr. and Mrs. Griffin assured me it was true. I know it because Mama and Daddy told me it was true. And I know it because I can feel it deep down; kind of in the same place I felt those low notes that Mrs. Leonard played the organ.
When I come to your church, will you come talk to me? Will you hug me? Will you judge me? Will you invite me to lunch? Will you look me in the eye? Will you ignore me? Will I be alone? I’m not perfect. I’ve messed up a lot. Is there room for me in your church?