Church shopping at the wrong mall: A story of Easter Sundays. #FGJ2RW Part VII


I sometimes track my faith journey by Easter Sundays.

Two Easters ago, my husband and I, as well as the growing baby inside me, were church shopping with an enthusiasm that would quickly wear off.

It started out exciting. Google Maps showed hundreds of red dots when we searched the term “church”. Each red dot represented so much potential for friendships, belongingness, home.

Easter snuck up on us that year, just four weeks into our church hunt. We were a little bruised from our experiences at the first three, but we were determined to try again.

Springtime on in the central coast area of California is beautiful, and this resurrection morning was especially stunning – all green rolling hills and chirping birds and gentle breeze. The earth knew it was Easter and she celebrated with us that morning as we drank our coffee in our backyard.

Google told us that Calvary Chapel’s Easter service began in a half an hour.

“It’s Easter,” I told my husband. “We can’t just not go to church.”

So he threw on a pastel button down, and I, a soft pink summer dress.

A smiling usher handed us each a color bulletin with a photo of an empty tomb overlaid with silhouettes of worshipful raised hands.

The church was dark, not a window in the entire sanctuary. The lights were dimmed, with lights only shining on the band. We couldn’t see each other, or anyone else around us. We found our seats and sat there awkwardly until the rock-concert style worship began.

The church raised their hands around us, singing:

The time has come

To stand for all we believe in

So I, for one, am gonna

Give my praise to You

My heart started beating fast and my palms got sweaty. I couldn’t shake this sensation that we were in a tomb. I tried to breathe slowly. (I hadn’t yet learned the art of leaving.)

As soon as the service ended, we bolted out to the parking lot. Our eyes were assaulted by the bright spring sunshine.

“That was terrible,” I said.

We spent the rest of the day at the creek, catching small rainbow trout and releasing them back to the rushing water. We knew being in the dirt would help us heal.

We stopped church hunting for a few months after that.

I now know that church wasn’t terrible. It was just a group of people who like Hillsong songs and preferred to sing them in the dark.

The problem was me. I was church shopping in the wrong mall. Despite my scars and anger over past experiences, I continued to look for some variation of the nondenominational evangelical mold because, I don’t know. I just couldn’t conceive of anything else.  We tried a church plant. We tried a megachurch. We tried a “community church.” We tried a “Bible church”. They were all essentially the same thing with different packaging. And each time I left feeling more beat up, angry and confused.

I’ve heard it said before that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  In this case, I was insane for trying assimilate in a world that no longer made sense to me.

A year ago Easter, another beautiful morning, we loaded up our three-month-old daughter to visit a Presbyterian church we found on Google. We hadn’t been to church since Christmas – we were officially those “Christmas and Easter type Christians” I used to mock pray for.

I didn’t know it then, but that Easter was the beginning of my spiritual rebirth. We stood and kneeled. We came forward for communion. We sang the Doxology. Although we didn’t end up staying at that Presbyterian church for long, it helped put me on the path to what I’ve been searching for.

“I love that they read the same creeds together every week,” I said on our way home, after our third or fourth week visiting. “There is something so…safe about that.”

When Empty Crosses Aren’t Enough: From Grape Juice To Red Wine Part VI

When writer Natalie Trust agreed to do a guest post for “From Grape Juice to Red Wine”, I did a happy dance in my kitchen. Natalie is just one of those salt-of-the-earth storytellers: honest, gracious, funny and dead-on. I know you’ll enjoy her piece today. If you do, keep a look out for the memoir she’s working on - Stranger in My Bed. 

When Empty Crosses Aren’t Enough

She had such a kind face; it was as if [...] Continue Reading…

I Hear Fundamentalist Voices

It’s been quiet on the blog for a few days, in part because it’s so beautiful out that I’ve been taking my sweet girl to the park to run in circles all day long. I’ve also planted a bunch of vegetable seeds in my raised beds  - an early birthday present from family – so naturally I spend a lot of time checking to see if there are any ripe tomatoes yet.

But it’s also partly [...] Continue Reading…

Thoughts on “Girl at the End of the World”

In Girl at the End of the World, my friend Elizabeth Esther’s gutsy memoir, we hear the story of her escape from the fundamentalist cult of her childhood, and her ongoing process of healing from spiritual abuse.

Despite the many heartbreaking scenes, some of which haunt me, I finished the book with a great sense of hope.

I want you to buy this book and underline passages and give it to your friends. So I’ll have to [...] Continue Reading…

What I’m Into, March 2014 Edition

After all the intensity on the blog last week, I’m happy to have an excuse to talk about books and flowers today via Leigh Kramer’s “What I’m Into” linkup.

What I’ve been reading:

I’m faithfully making my way through the dozen books I bought at Powell’s Books in Portland at the beginning of the month. (Aside from a 24-hour love affair with a rush order copy of Elizabeth Esther’s Girl at the End of the World. Totally [...] Continue Reading…