Going to church, as a child/teenager/young adult was torture. It signaled the end of the weekend, the return to school; there was no fun in church.
Church at Christmas however, that was different. They had real Christmas trees in church. The lessons were literally magical, full of promise. We could decelerate from the hectic race and blurring colors that streak pass us at Christmas. Christmas lights in church are golden/white; not multi-colored; the light is peaceful; hopeful; warm and bright; I felt I was inside a Christmas carol:
“I wonder what this looks like from the outside.” “Wonder what looks like..?” “Us.”
I do not attend church. I have nothing against any organized religion. A belief is important. I do believe; I have my own struggles and questions; but I believe. I have to. If it is “just us” on this planet then what a waste.
I enjoyed meeting my grandparents for church (when I could). I did it for them. It felt good to see my grandmother happy. Is that selfish? I don’t think so.
My grandfather, who could not whisper, would always have a comment when I sat down between them in the pew:
“Oh, look who woke up in his own bed this morning; Did any statues turn as you walked in? " [me, whispering]: "very funny..." "Did you go out again last night?” [me, whispering]: "Yes…now shhh.” “Is she still at your place?” [me, not whispering]: "What? No, she….will you please stop.”
I know I get my sense of humor from him.
I miss them, terribly. Moreso when I’m in a church.
As I grew older, I began to see religion differently. I no longer see just the elderly; the sick; the hurt; the pompous; the self-righteous; the desperate; the hopeful.
I see that 13 year old (I used to be) this time, checking a cell phone; I see the child drawing on offering envelopes; I see a couple touch as they pray; I see a man do absolutely nothing and just stare; I see the acolyte light and extinguish the candles, candles that only smell that way in a church. Even the acoustics ‘look’ different; the sound and light that only exist in a church(y) way.
My wedding was not in a church; it was on the very edge of a golf course that backed up to the desert. My son was not baptized in a church; it was in my backyard.
Inside the Notre Dame in Paris, I was overwhelmed, from the architecture, the city, the enormous presence of history, the moment. Then an eledry French woman, making her way between the thousands of toursits like me, finally got to a pew so she could kneel and pray. I took her picture; remembering (and knowing) I was in church, not a tourist trap.
Belief is important. It's what sustains you. It's something. Unseen.
But is that the point? Is that the test: To be like God, Buddha, Allah, The Greater Power…the test, is to keep loving.
Keep loving; no matter what you (or they) did.
“What do you think happens when you die, Wyatt?”
“Something….nothing… I don’t know.”