Church service

As is frequently the case on Sundays, I found myself in a church service yesterday. As is also frequently the case, I found myself marveling at the dichotomy of my presence in the house of The Lord. Here I am: a drug user, liar, and lecherous man with more skeletons in his closet than I care to remember, singing about holiness and God’s grace. Many days I don’t even believe in the existence of a higher power, other times I try really hard to pray to God. Belief in a God is supposed to help me recover. But my inner life is polluted with everything that is not sacred: anger, hate, jealousy, pride, lust, sloth etc. Sitting there I can imagine having sex with the more attractive members of the congregation or sticking a knife into someone I don’t like’s body. Yet I also experience tender moments filled with love and peace. Moments of pureness and innocence. Sometimes I pay close attention to the sermon and prayer and sometimes I hardly take in a word of it. Yesterday was one of those where I couldn’t really follow much. I know the pastor was preaching about love , you know, that it is kind, patient, forgiving etc. He emphasized that you shouldn’t always feel the need to have the last word in an argument. I hoped my wife was paying attention to that bit! Throughout his sermon he used the metaphor of arsonists and fire fighters – true Christians being those who doused the flames. He spoke of God having amnesia when it comes to sins that you’ve confessed but Him remembering each instance of kindness forever. He preached about how we are always comparing ourselves with others and wanting to be the better man/woman in every category of comparison. “Our” church has comfortable seats – like those in cinemas – built as an amphitheater. A stage in the front/center. There are big screens on which images and lyrics to the songs appear. There are multimedia moments. The lighting is professional and varied. A big band with electric and acoustic instruments plays  under the direction of an obviously gay pianist. Some people make eye contact and some don’t. Some smile real smiles, others fake ones and still others look serious after the service. My wife fetches my daughter from the children’s church afterwards. She never wants to tell us what they did there. Maybe she thinks it’s a lot of bullshit or maybe she has a spiritual experience she can’t describe yet. I leave feeling that I’ve notched up some points for what it’s worth. Sometimes I feel the need to be faithful. Whereas I’ve spent my life as a comfortable atheist since the age of 13, I’m now in this schizophrenic nether-land where I’m confused about God’s existence and (if so) His nature. Some days I’m even a bona fide Christian, forcing myself to believe. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…

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