Church, for me, when I was a kid, wasn't really an enlightening or aesthetic thing at all. It was just sort of something you did, you know. It was more of a community--a gathering of families. I think it seemed a bit like school to me in a way, but I doubt I ever considered that when I was a kid. Though I didn't dread or dislike Sunday School with a handful of other kids, I didn't necessarily look forward to it either. It was nice though that going to Sunday School meant we got to miss the boring parts of the main church service, and we only came in during the part where we sang, prayed, drank juice, and ate crackers. There was a kid in my Sunday School class (I can't remember his name) who used to wait until our teacher had us all close our eyes for prayer, and he would let out a loud fart during prayer. I always secretly enjoyed that part of it, I'll admit. But the very best part of going to church on Sundays was when the main church service let out..it was like when the school bell rang after a long day and you felt free. The adults would gather in the hallways and talk about God-knows-what, while we kids ran off to drink punch, eat cookies, and play extended sessions of grab-ass in the gymnasium.
Now this isn't to say going to church served no purpose for me. I did make some pretty good friends there, and I do believe some good seeds were planted in me. Though I didn't understand the depth of things or why we were really learning them, I do remember the stories...you know, all the ones you hear about: David vs Goliath, Noah's Ark, Jonah & the Whale, etc. I even got a button and bible presented to me by the minister for memorizing all the names of the books of the bible in order.
By the time I was 12, church became optional for me. My mom and grandma would go (my grandma lived with us by then), and I would generally choose to sleep in late instead, and watch the Denver Broncos game when it came on. Yes, I had officially reached that age where football was much more interesting to me than bible stories, cookies, punch, and grab-ass in the church gymnasium. And I'm very grateful my parents gave me the freedom to choose. I honestly believe that very freedom to make my own choice was a huge part of the profound spirituality I would find within myself many years later as an adult. We all still went to church together (even my dad) for special things like Easter or Christmas Eve services and what not. And that was the beginning of a long stretch for me not really thinking about or acknowledging God. It wasn't that I didn't believe in God, it just wasn't something that ever entered my thoughts.
As I got into my teens, my grandmother influenced me a lot spiritually without me ever realizing it at the time. She was so sneaky spiritual lol. She would tell me these stories from her past--sometimes from when she was a kid, sometimes from when she was an adult. She never once mentioned God, church, or the bible in her stories...she was very clever! She would tell me stories about how much she loved the times of the Great Depression she grew up in. How it was such a beautiful time because no one had anything...everyone had lost everything, so no one looked down at others. There was no class warfare. It was just people in neighborhoods coming together to help one another any way they could. Her parents had died when she was young, and she was adopted into a very wealthy family that owned a hotel. But her parents lost the hotel and restaurant and everything else during the Great Depression. This was a strange concept to a kid, you know, so of course I asked her how losing everything could be so great. She went on to tell me about lifelong friends she made while standing in the soup lines, and how one person would find enough work to buy several loaves of bread...and how instead of keeping it for themselves, they would go round the neighborhood and share it with other families that needed it. That did start sounding pretty nice to me, though I hadn't completely bought in at that age. To this day, my grandmother is the only person I've ever had tell me what a wonderful time the Great Depression was. There were many other stories she told me along those lines, but I won't share them here. They all seemed to have a recurring anti-materialistic, caring-for-others theme to them. It wasn't about what you had or didn't have, it was about who you were as a person. This most certainly had a huge impact on my spiritual journey as I got older.
In my later teens I started contemplating the concept of God and church more. My entire family had stopped going to church by this time...even my grandmother (who still lived with us). I still believed in God of course, but couldn't wrap myself around the concept of a CRUEL God, and this is when I really started questioning organized religion as a whole. And I don't mean just Christian churches, but ALL religions. It all seemed so hypocritical to me. All these different religions claimed to be the ONLY right one, so at very best only ONE of them was right and all the others were liars...but it was more likely to me that they were ALL liars. If a child were raised in the "wrong" religion, how could a just God condemn them for something that was forced on them by their family? Were they really given a choice? No. Not if they respected their families. Another thing that affected me during this time were all the mega-church televangelists riddled with scandal. Drugs. Fraud. Prostitution. Sexual abuse. Child molestation. And on and on. And these were the people that were going to guide me into the Light? I don't think so, dude. Homie don't play that. I'll find my own way to the Light, thank you very much!
And so I pushed God and faith aside entirely for many many years after that, and didn't feel even the least bit guilty about it. I graduated from high school, and moved to the Chicago area to become a rock star. And that's enough of my story for tonight.
Thank you for coming along with me on this crazy spiritual journey.
I love you.