Occasional thoughts from a young adult reveling in the messiness of life.
Spurred on by nothing in particular (at least nothing of which I’m aware at this point), I find myself in a spot that is at once familiar and unfamiliar: embarking on the next leg of my spiritual journey.
Searching again for God only knows what, I am comforted by and confident in the knowledge that He does know what. My spiritual life has been on the metaphorical back burner for the last year—or more—and I recently felt God calling me back into a more full experience with Him. So here I am.
As I took the first few steps on this leg of my journey, I began to reflect on where I started and how far I had come, only to realize that I’m nowhere near where I used to be a few short years ago.
I have always explored my world, and particularly my faith, through writing, so it was only natural for me to dig into the archives. In doing so, I found the following little gem: the journaling I did the weekend I first went back to church after a 15 year (or so) hiatus.
It embodies a lot of how I have approached my journey – with much thought, sometimes great trepidation and a healthy dose of (my) humor. So I share that with you now—typos and all. The place? Auburn, Alabama. The time? January 2006. Enjoy.
Day 1 – The Saturday Before
I accept that there is one God, and I know that the hardest times in my life have come at points where I felt farthest away from Him, but I’ve never put much time into the relationship I know I should have. So, this is my first step in that direction.
However, my search for God has gotten off to a somewhat silted beginning. I guess the first place I went wrong was when I misspelled “Episcopal” in the Google search box, as I did just now, again. Not even being able to spell the name of my supposed denomination is proof of how far away I am at this point. But I will not let such small obstacles obscure the need I am now feeling for more of a connection to God.
Once Google corrected me on the spelling of the Episcopalian denomination, I started clicking on a few of the links. Once I found a page that seemed like it could give me substantial information, I clicked on the “Resources” link to find some daily devotionals. Of the first two daily devotional links I clicked on, one could not be found, and the second attempted to redirect me.
Now my search for religion has truly gotten off on the wrong foot. Even using the internet, I’m having trouble finding God. Perhaps the search will go better later.
Later on Day 1
After much searching online, I have come across enough information to be comfortable with my choice of denominations at this early stage. Perhaps the scariest part of all this is that I don’t know what to expect at the service tomorrow. Aside from the basic worries, like what to wear and what to bring, I don’t know fully what to expect.
As I was trying to find information on what happens at services, my mom called to check in. I hadn’t told her of my plans to attend church yet because she’s always been rather critical of religion.
Brought up Catholic, she quickly found the faith too restrictive and converted to the Episcopal faith. That’s the faith in which I was christened. But with all of the religious zealots out there, mom, and I to some extent as well, have become malcontent and almost disinterested in religion.
But, when I told her that I am planning on attending a service tomorrow with one of my close co-workers, she was very receptive to it and took time to answer my questions. I tread lightly in the conversation, making it seem like not a huge step for me, but her generally pleasing response put me at ease. For now, I’m off to read more.
Even Later on Day 1
It’s been a day of discovery for me – the first time that I have actively spent time researching my faith and religion. As I dropped by the entertainment store to pick up a copy of The Wedding Crashers, I meandered over to the Christian book section of the store to scan the shelves.
There were so many different copies of The Bible that I didn’t know where to start. For now, though, I decided to stick with the King James version that once belonged to my mom. A while back, my father and I discussed the differences, and he said that the King James version was one of the most beautifully written. As a writer myself, I figured I could both enjoy the language and discover my faith.
After perusing the shelves with The Bible, I walked over a few isles to other prayer and inspirational books. I nearly picked up a copy of The Bible for Dummies until I realized that I would have to take it to the counter and look the cashier dead in the eye as I purchased it. There’s just something about announcing my limited biblical knowledge that I just couldn’t confront in public. Amazon.com, I thought, would be a more appropriate choice for that purchase.
Day 2 – My First Sunday with Church Plans
I woke up rather late this morning and was immediately thankful that I found a church in my denomination with an evening service. Perhaps part of what has kept me away from a service all these years has been the fact that I love to sleep in. Since attending church had not been a part of my life since I was a toddler, I found no reason to get out of bed on the last day I had each weekend to get much-needed sleep. Although I knew that it wasn’t a great excuse, it was still part of a larger reluctance that has been with me all my life.
When I finally got out of bed, I felt a determination that I had not felt for quite a while. Because I knew that I would not spend a great deal of time at my computer today, I put up an away message on my IM that said “Today is the day.” I wasn’t necessarily announcing my plans to my friends, but I felt my determination needed a physical home, someplace that I would come to periodically throughout the day for reaffirmation.
As the day wore on, I accomplished a great deal. Early in the day I decided that I would wear my black knee-length skirt, teal LOFT shirt, and black knee-high boots. The teal shirt has short-sleeves with a silk collar and cuffs around the arms. Demure, yet striking. I wanted to look good, yet not show too much skin (for obvious reasons). I had considered my red long-sleeve sweater-shirt but the red would call too much attention, which was certainly out of the question.
After doing laundry, getting groceries, and washing my car, I came home with just enough time to vacuum and then get ready for church. My hair had spent most of the day in a ponytail, so it certainly needed some attention.
Mark [my friend/co-worker] called around 5:15, with news of his intentions to attend the evening service as well. In our conversation earlier in the day, he was still unsure whether time would permit him to go, but it was in that conversation that I realized a little more fully that my want to attend church had more to do with spirituality than anything. I wasn’t angry that I might have to go alone. I told him that if he couldn’t finish what he needed to get done, to not worry about me. I was going, even if it meant going alone. And I truly wasn’t angry.
Day 2 – The Service
Before the service, everything was as perfect as it could have been. My makeup was just translucent enough to cover my flaws but not be overbearing, my hair didn’t frizz out so much as to call attention to itself, and my outfit looked nice. As I pulled the look together with a matching earring/necklace set and put on my lipstick, I started to feel a bit of my nerves kicking in. I knew that I would miss some cues during the service. If anything, my research showed me how much pomp and circumstance there is in Episcopalian services. So, my attempt to pull myself and my outfit together was more about exerting control over as much of the situation as possible than trying to look good for the sake of looking good. I know that God could care less about what I wore – just that I was there.
Mark stood outside and waited on me to arrive – we lived too far apart to attempt a ride-together. As I showed up the typical 5 minutes later than expected, we started to walk up the stairs to the church. Just as I passed through the doorway, I recognized a familiar face from my past. I stared at the curly-haired guy standing at the door, and said “I know you.” He stared back, seemingly searching my face for any cues as to how I knew him. “You used to live at The Commons,” I said. A split second passed, then for what seemed like a while, his mouth hung wide open. It felt good to surprise someone who hasn’t seen me in 6 years. He looked good in his blue button-down shirt and khakis. We talked for a few and did the 3 minute run-down of our last 6 years. He’s graduating with his Master’s in May and hopes to head to Manhattan for a while. I graduated with my Master’s and live in town. He’d briefly kept up with Kevin; I still talk to Doug once in a while.
But one good moment was followed by the first of many snafus I’d make throughout the night – I walked right by the minister without saying hello. Just as I almost passed him, he stopped me, stuck out his hand, and introduced himself as Father Wells. “I’m Julie. Julie Zorn,” I managed to get out. I felt like Bond. James Bond. But it was an introduction, and I moved on. If that was the worst that I’d do all night, I told myself, I could live with it.
But naturally, it wasn’t. I couldn’t find the first hymn in the hymnal, even after looking over into Mark’s. When we knelt to pray, I grabbed the cushion from under my seat, but was quickly corrected by the woman next to me as she grabbed the one in front for me to kneel on – then I couldn’t find the prayer in the Book of Common Prayer to absolve me of my sins until everyone else was halfway through. So, with only half my sins forgiven, I attempted to get back into my seat when my heel got caught under the bars of the chair. I didn’t draw attention to myself but it did slightly distract me for a few minutes following.
Perhaps my greatest fear was realized during Holy Communion. I had prepared myself for two days to receive the body and blood of Christ, but sitting on the third row with Mark (he sat first, so I followed) didn’t give me enough time to watch what the people in front of me were doing. Father Wells, who had already asked my name twice before the service, gave the wafers, and when he did, he said each person’s name. To spare him asking my name, as Mark (who was in front of me) cleared to the right, I stepped up, smiled, and quietly whispered my name. Father Wells smiled and then placed the bread of life, body of Christ, in my hands. But no one told me that you were supposed to be able to finish the wafer before drinking the wine. So I stood in front of the young girl holding the silver goblet, attempting to chew my wafer. To waste a few seconds, I did the sign of the Holy Trinity, then gave up on the wafer and drank the wine. Making things a bit worse, I got part of the wafer stuck in my molar, but I had the remaining 20 pews full of people to remove the bread of life from my teeth.
The service was as I expected it to be overall – a healthy mix of breathing in a new air of spirituality, a beckoning to my comical lack of knowledge of the customs and procession of services, and simply good time. My favorite parts of the service were 1) when we all turned to each other and said “Peace” or “Peace be with you”; 2) the conversational when Father Wells stood in the middle of the isle and requested participation from all attendees; and 3) holy communion – however snafu-filled it may have been.
Charles and I spoke outside the church for about 15 minutes, and I emailed him tonight to inquire about Wednesday night Compline. For now, my journey has just begun, but I must rest my head and prepare for a full day tomorrow at work.