When Church Gets Cancelled…

It comes as a relief. Did I type that out loud? Sometimes I cancel church myself without any winter storm warning. Bedside Baptist is what I used to call it. Skipping church some call the equivalent of AWOL. I know in my Catholic beginnings, missing Mass was a Cardinal sin. I didn’t know what a bright red bird had to do with God, but before my parents separated we went to church.

In grade school once I hid behind our garage all day to walk into the house just minutes after the dismissal bell rang. The only hitch; it was a fifteen minute walk from West Main Elementary School to the dead end of Grand Avenue, my childhood home. Either my mother ignored the incongruity or she was still at work when I arrived home thirteen minutes early.

I don’t remember why I skipped school that day. Maybe it was fifth grade, the year I cussed out Mrs. Linde a few times. She sent me to the principal’s office so I could throw the same “wash my mouth out with soap” words at him too. If I didn’t get some educational concept easily, frustration would turn to tantrum and Mrs. Linde was first responder. School work, she reasoned, wasn’t the root cause of my behavior.

I ended up hanging out with other troubled kids in Mrs. Hoenes’ office on occasion. She was the school social worker who introduced me to Mr. Gregory, a jolly man with a jolly big stomach. Some of the best hugs, which swallowed my body whole, came from Mr. Gregory, the counselor. He showed up as Santa Clause at our house and I didn’t know it was him until he hugged me. When he showed up at my High School Graduation open house years later, his hug wrung tears helplessly down.

Before that day behind the garage, skipping only meant a happy jaunt down the sidewalk. Since then it has taken on a duality of joy one moment, avoidance the next. Church, over the years, has occasionally taken on elementary school ambience. I have walked out of many services, mid stream, with the same frustration and tantrum tendencies of my youth. Within the walls of stained glass light sat a boy hiding behind a garage. Underneath the steeple the same boy wished for a jolly God that could stomach him.

Mary Karr’s Liar’s Club autobiographies’ title catches the mutability of the processes in which I am engaging. There are lies to be addressed. Not people or God per se, not even church, but the whole of perception and perspective inlaid in twisted interpretations of situations.

As snow keeps falling down like flakes of forgiveness and grace covering the tracks of the past, I will shovel as needed to keep walking forward. I know walking on snow could be like walking on water, like faith steps over injury and those I have injured. Sometimes in the sinking or drifting there are lessons to be learned. I pray that less snow will be needed in our future, but I am thankful it will snow again.

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