Monday, February 16, 2009

And God bless our pastor

It's funny how we're all connected. In some way, maybe through the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, each one of us affects and is affected by everyone else in this world. What's really strange about it is when you can sit back and reflect on it and clearly see it not as a coincidence, but as an actual event, meeting, opportunity, accident, promotion, loss, love, hearbreak, and moment of grief that had to happen. It had to happen. Otherwise, none of it (whatever IT is) would have ever made any sense.

I don't mean to get too deep into this because it wasn't my intention. I thought I could just start typing and blabbering away with the story of how my family began attending a small little church around the corner from our house. But when I thought back to the beginning, it turned into ten different stories that stemmed from the moment my father whispered to me, "Hey, the preacher looks familiar. I think I played Little League baseball in South Florida with him and his brother. Nah, that couldn't be him."

Well, it was. My father decided to start attending church about three years ago after he was diagnosed with cancer. As soon as I saw him backing out of introducing himself to Pastor Dave, I jumped in and introduced them to each other. Over 40 years had passed since they'd played baseball together in a Little League park over 600 miles away. My father was anxious to find out his prognosis and he felt he needed someone to help him find his way to a stronger relationship with the Lord. Who better than a friend from his carefree childhood?

What led my father to this particular church was as simple as proximity. My daughter attended daycare at this church and had even joined the chidren's choir. During holidays, Elle would get on stage and sing about being a Caterpillar at Christmastime or Bugs! Bugs! Bugs! during the Easter service. My parents came with me to support her singing a few times and, because we are creatures of habit, decided this was a perfect church to attend a weekly sermon. My father liked that the church is less than a mile from home, so he met the pastor and they reminisced about their Little League days.

Here we are, three years later and Pastor Dave just left my house after discussing my mother's upcoming baptism. He made some pretty funny jokes about promising not to drown her and also promised he wouldn't pull out a gun and shoot her once she says "Yes, I accept Jesus Christ as my Savior" (for fear that she might change her mind and back out of her eternal promise).

He's a really cool pastor. I struggle sometimes with the whole idea of giving up control of my life to a higher power and I told him this. I mean, if I'm going to accept Jesus Christ into my heart completely, I better mean it. Because He will know if I'm not sincere. And I think that's worse than quietly not accepting Him. Pretending to accept Him is not cool. Respect for religion? I haz it. Most of the time.

But where I start to fall apart is when my church-going daughter schools me in the ways of the Bible and then asks me why I don't go to church.
"Mommy, does that mean you won't go to Heaven with me?"
(listen closely and you can hear my heart breaking into a bazillion pieces)

I've often questioned myself about why I allow and encourage my daughter to attend church, yet I only go on holidays. In fact, I haven't gone to a church service in almost a year and that was only because both of my really awesome bosses died within days of each other and I needed a break from real life. Religion and feel-good sermons took over for about a week and, while it made me feel pretty calm(as in hopeful, inspired, and encouraged), I couldn't help but look at everyone around me and wonder how they could possibly accept this gobbledy-gook speech as a good reason for two incredible people having to die.

And this, my friends, is why I know that I'm not ready.

My father has been reunited with his childhood friend and was declared cancer-free after about 6 months. My mother has found peace within herself by going to church and reconnecting with her family's roots through religion. My daughter has been taught that good and evil do exist and there are challenges ahead, during which she will hopefully make decisions that tell her she is doing the right thing. I don't really know what this whole experience during the last three years has done for me other than make me think harder and harder about any sort of relationship with Jesus I've ever had. I've never had to think about it at all before.

But maybe, just maybe, that was the whole point.

As Elle would say: Dear Lord - Bless our family, bless our friends, and God bless our pastor.

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