I know what Easter is about. I know it should be a day of celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For most Christians, it is. Before you read further, you must know that I base my relationship with Jesus on a spiritual level. I do not believe in religion. Just typing the word “religion” puts a loathsome taste in my mouth. . . and a darkened spot on my spirit. Several years ago, I received a postcard in the mail regarding a new church. It had a picture of the pastor on the front and an explanation of what message would be taught for that Easter Sunday. The idea of that message being spoken when I needed to hear it was like a miracle. My family and I, with a friend of mine and her husband, got all dressed up and headed to church that Easter Sunday. I liked the atmosphere, the contemporary music of the live band, the feeling that I belonged right where I was.
I continued to attend that church for a while. My husband and I went to classes to become members. I went to ladies’ Bible studies and groups trying to fit in. One Sunday, the pastor was talking about having a discussion with a young man who attended one of the pastor’s church services one morning. The young man sat in the back of the church with leather clothing with chains hanging off of it, purple hair in the shape of a mohawk, and he wore eyeliner. The pastor went to him after services to thank him for coming. The young man stated that he was afraid he would not be welcomed because of his appearance. The pastor continued telling the story by saying he encouraged the young man to keep coming to church because it did not matter what he looked like in church, as long as he showed up. The pastor continued by stating it is okay to come as you are.
This was good news to me because I have never been the put-on-all-this-makeup-and-fix-up-your-hair kind of person. I continued showing up for church, and like others, I wore jeans and decent shirts. I did not put on all this make-up, nor did I curl up my hair with tons of product in it. I started getting looks and silent attitudes. I still believed it was okay to “come as you are.” I ended up going to a Women of Faith “thing” in Oklahoma with a lot of the ladies from the church. Going through my own personal stuff at the time, I remember becoming emotionally invested in listening to Sheila Walsh tell her story. Because I was going through my own stuff, I had tears streaming down my face on the bus back to the hotel, and a “friend” told me, “Don’t expect anybody to come to your pity party.” Um, ok. That was a sure sign that my crying was unallowed around these people.
After returning home from the conference, I received a call from the pastor’s wife. She informed me that my dress and my behavior led her and other God-fearing women that I was now a lesbian. Those behaviors included me hugging others in church as they would hug me and putting my hands on shoulders. I asked the pastor’s wife if she was judging me for the way I dressed. “No, of course not,” she answered, “I’m just concerned that your look may make others think things.” My look? You mean my “come as you are” look? I hung the phone up, and I was in tears knowing that I would never allow myself to be part of a church again. I have always had negative experiences in church. I was hoping that this time would be different. It was not. It was emotionally and somewhat spiritually damaging. Is this what Christ’s people were really like? If so, I did not want to be part of His people.
Today, I still struggle with the whole idea of church. My relationship with Jesus is between me and Jesus and whomever I choose to share that with. Most recently, I had a good friend come to visit me. I took her to see a 19-story cross with the stations of the cross surrounding it. Along with the huge cross and the stations, there are steps up to where Jesus is paying for our sins as He hangs with two others at the top of Calvary. My friend and I sat on those steps full of emotion and love for Him. She began playing songs that were appropriate for that moment. One song she played, “Come As You Are,” got my attention. My tears were flowing for multiple reasons already, but that song hit a place in me that I just did not want to remember. Those words from that pastor came rushing back to me. I even questioned, in my mind, if Heaven allowed anyone to come as they are. The pastor and that church did not mean it. Does God mean it? At some point during our sitting on those steps, and while we listened to more music, a bird landed in front of us, and we both looked at it for a time. The question was then asked, “Is that a dove?” I argued, internally, “That bird could not be a dove.” No way! It was a dove. A part of my “Does God mean it?” was answered right then and there. That was a good night.
I struggle with attending church because of all the things I have experienced since I was very young. I do not believe I have to attend church to have my relationship with my Father. I feel less than because I am not dedicated to going to church. My soul has been scarred by those who choose to define God’s word by their own terms. At this point, I do feel that going to church that Easter Sunday was one of the biggest mistakes in my life. It is now Easter Sunday 2011, and I sit here in my home, producing word vomit. I am the disgruntled Easter bunny.