Like most of the people that I know in my age demographic, I grew up in the church. Grew up going every Sunday with my parents (sometimes multiple services in one day), going on Tuesday/Wednesday for Bible study, going on Thursday with my mom to meetings, going on Saturday for dance practice, and back again on Sunday for services. Rinse, repeat, and add in a sprinkle of Christian school from 3rd through 6th grade and you have most of my childhood. I grew up in the AME Church and in a non-denominational church all of my life, and I naturally thought that I was going to be extremely active in church through high school, into college, and into my adult life.
Then…well…then my dad passed away. And to make very long stories short, that’s not how my high school, college, and the beginning of my adult life went. Both of my parents played an equal role into how I got to church, but my dad provided me with more of the presence, if you will. You see, my dad was a musician. Every single church that I stepped into that he was in, he was always playing something. Whether it be bass guitar, alto saxophone, lead guitar, keyboard, piano, drums, or any other instrument you can think of, he was always in the front playing. My sister and I would stand in the back of the church and imitate him and when he caught us, he would always grin and laugh at us, and whenever we would be in the hallway during the sermon, he would talk trash about us being there even though he should have been in the church listening to the sermon as well. (All you musicians, I know the musician’s code, I get it! Lol) Needless to say, my father was really influential in my perception of church…he was a familiar figure in the church to me, and losing that familiarity rocked me in a way I never thought possible. Not only did I lose the desire to go to church, but I lost the desire to want to commune with God and be in His house or in His presence. I felt like he took someone away from me way too soon, and I had no understanding of it, and couldn’t fathom how He could claim to love me, yet snatch away the only earthly man that had ever loved me away from me.
The first time I stepped into a church after he passed away was one of the most brutal experiences I’ve ever gone through. I had to not only face the fact that I would never see my father in the musician’s corner again, but I also had to begin to come to terms with the fact that God does everything in His own perfect timing, and that my father’s death happened for a reason, even if I didn’t understand it. A soloist was playing a soprano sax during praise and worship and I simply lost it. I cried and froze up all at the same time, and I subconsciously knew that it would be a long, hard journey to experiencing church the same way ever again. For years, I’ve struggled with going to church for some time, then not going at all…tithing sometimes, then barely putting enough money for an offering in my wallet…listening to nothing but gospel music, then forgetting gospel music even existed…my life for some years has existed in these polar opposites, and only recently has it dawned on me that too many bouts with polar opposites lead to utter chaos in my life.
Was my father’s passing (or my grandmother’s or great aunt’s for that matter) any excuse for me to backslide on my church attendance and on my relationship with God? Absolutely not. I knew better – or at least I thought I knew better. It’s taken me years to admit that his death was the underlying reason as to why it was so hard for me to go to church. I miss him being there, I miss laughing and joking with other musicians, and I miss making fun of him every Sunday like I used to do. Though I miss him like crazy, I know that I can’t use that as an excuse to not be in regular attendance in a church somewhere on Sundays. I’m finding that my quality of life is severely lacking, and this is the one area where I have not been nearly as diligent as I should be.
Am I having a hard time finding a church home? Yes. I’m flighty like that sometimes. Am I more comfortable just watching from my computer in my bed? Yes. Sometimes I don’t want to be around people – I just want to get what I get from the sermon in my own home. Am I trying to actively fix this? Yes. I think. I’m about to buy my first Bible in years…I’m making active decisions to treat myself better, and to try and learn some more about God and the role that He should have in my life. Am I perfect? Nowhere near it. Am I trying to do better? Every day that I wake up, you can count on the fact that I’m trying. Is it easy? No. I haven’t been to an actual church in months. But, God willing, and with the support of others, I’ll make it back into a church on a regular, consistent basis.
I know this was a long one, but it was something I needed to get off my chest. If you made it this far in reading, I salute you!
Until next time, folks…