This whole going to church thing isn’t what it is cracked up to be.
I grew up in Sunday School and fell in love with the Jesus who was taught there, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that my Sunday School world was different from the rest of my life. I didn’t feel the “joy of Jesus” when I was sitting on the margins of my elementary school, wearing a Christian t-shirt and K-Mart jeans.
My Sunday School teacher had an answer for those terrible feelings.
“We aren’t supposed to be of this world.” She said.
That made sense in my young mind. If we weren’t supposed to be of this world, I must be doing something right. I was not apart of any world, outside of that Sunday School room.
We constructed our own little world in that Sunday School room. We all sang the same songs, wore the same clothes, and watched the same McGee and Me movies.
Our parents protested things like Halloween, cable television and Disney movies, because they supported sinful things like witchcraft, sex and homosexuality.
I didn’t watch the television shows my schoolmates watched —didn’t say the things they said, because I was better than that (damnit). I was called to a higher standard. I was Christ’s chosen, and if I wanted to make it to heaven some day, I better sanctify myself from the ways of the world.
It was us versus them, or at best us and then them. And somewhere along the way I was made to believe it was true — that real joy was found in Jesus and his Sunday School club.
My segmented world began in that Sunday School room, but it didn’t end there.
I went to Christian school, went to Christian skate night, and Christian book stores. Our church hosted a “Harvest Party”, so we didn’t have to partake in Halloween. And our Christian version of Halloween was pretty cool because we got to dress up in costumes and eat candy all without the Christian guilt of living in a sinful world.
And that guilt was the fuel of this whole Sunday School club. And boy did it work. I think I “got saved” 15 times before it was all said and done.
Then in high school I went to public school again, and everything changed. I wasn’t on the outside looking in anymore. I was confronted with the realities of the “world”. I learned that sex was fun, even outside of marriage. That drinking wasn’t just for alcoholics and dead-beats, but when you had a couple beers some things became a lot more fun.
The pillars of my constructed church reality were beginning to shake. What I was experiencing flew directly in the face of the “sin isn’t fun” and “being a Christian is” mindset that had been drilled into me as a kid.
The older I grew, the more angry I became about this constructed reality.
I felt like I was tricked into believing that Jesus lived in a Sunday School room, but he doesn’t. He lives in my small one bedroom apartment and in the cold pour at Pat’s Tap and in taco shops and in the midst of conversations at work.
He lives in the homeless shelter I used to visit after college, because it was a free meal and the church job I had didn’t pay me enough to buy groceries. It was a chance to have good conversation with men who were nothing like the people I met in church, and knew a lot more about the Jesus that I knew.
And if I’m being honest, I find it hard to find God in a building where we sing all the same songs, and recite a list of what we believe (just incase we forget it later), and where Jesus looks like my Sunday School teacher.
I want to experience the God of wonder beyond all constructed realities.
I want to meet the God of majesty.
Have you met God? Where have you found him?
[photo: pellesten, Creative Commons]