The following and all of the other episodes to come are snapshots of what goes on in my head, now and in the past. There are times none of this will make sense. There will be times when I might get lucky and the blog I post will be well constructed and will flow like a mountain stream to an awaiting lake below. Other times it will seem like the ramblings of a madman and you’ll ask yourself, “What the……?”
You should probably get used to the latter.
EPISODE ONE HUNDRED SEVENTY SEVEN: MY CHURCH
Though I believe in God, I have never been one that liked to go to church. To be honest, I have never felt welcomed. Maybe it was my own mind telling me that I was being judged by others there, people I felt were more righteous. And, sometimes, more holy-than-thou. Looking back now, most of the time, it was my own guilt and shame that made me feel that way. They were probably feeling the same way. And there were times when I know that little nagging voice was telling the truth. I have been looked down on by the car I drove and the music I listened to and not being someone who grew up with these people and didn’t grow up in a particular church.
Of course, that’s no reason not to go to church, you might say. You’re supposed to go for you, not other people.
Yeah. That’s true.
But if you don’t feel comfortable there, what about that?
I have always had that feeling since I was little and my parents made me go. The suit I wore was always too tight and itchy and hot and I didn’t like being surrounded by people I didn’t know. I might have even felt judged, even then. And up to the very last time I went, when I saw my daughter being baptized. Thought I was proud of her and shed tears, I still felt eyes upon me. I still felt judgment being thrown at my back (sometimes right in my face).
This is my own hang-up. I know this.
But honestly, I never felt close to God in church. You’re supposed to, right? But I don’t. And I know millions of people do, no matter what religion they worship, no matter what house of worship they attend. Most of these people do feel closer to God (or the deity of their choice). I only feel horrible feelings.
It’s funny. When I was younger, I had watched the movie The Omen II. There is a scene were Damien checks his scalp to see if he has the number 666. Of course, he finds it. After watching it, I thought about it for a long while. I finally got up, went into the bathroom, and used my mother’s hand mirror to see if I could find my own set of numbers. I felt all around with my fingers, waiting to feel the raised scars where the six’s were placed there. Luckily, I never did. In later years, when I started shaving my head, I checked my scalp again for the first time. Still, no numbers.
So, the reason I don’t like going to church can’t be on account I’m the spawn of Satan. Whew!
You may be asking yourself, “Ok, so you don’t like going to church but, yet, you believe in God. Aren’t you suppose to go to church if you do?”
Ok, maybe you’re aren’t. But I asked myself that question, many, many times.
And I finally have an answer.
In a way, I do go to church.
Every time I go to the woods.
Please, understand, I’m not a hunter. But I do take trips to the woods ever so often to hunt for things. I hunt for peace, inspiration, and I hunt for myself.
I have never felt closer to God than when I go for a walk in the woods. I see creation everywhere I look and I hear its sounds. I hear the water of the lake lap the shore from the breeze, I hear the birds and the leaves and the sounds of twigs breaking from an unseen animal looking for hidden food on the ground among the fallen limbs and high grasses. And when I stand on the wooden bridge that connects one part of the trail to the other and spans across the lake, I stand in the middle and feel the southern wind blow over my skin and in my ears and I breathe deeply. I feel renewed. I feel like I matter in this world. I feel God.
There are days, like this past Sunday my wife and I went to our favorite park (which will remain nameless because we don’t want too many people showing up) when we see more animals than you can shake a stick at ( I ask that you NEVER do that). We saw Canadian geese and their gosling following behind on the land and in the water, we saw a mother deer and her young sons (their horns just poking through from their heads) near the trail and not scampering away as we approached, and a flock of turkeys crossing in front of us without a care in the world. We saw all of this within the first quarter mile. Not to mention the dray of squirrels running about (and two engaged in a fight) and the redheaded woodpecker on the search on a dying tree for termites. We also heard boats on the larger lake that is cut-off from the one we walked around and the sound of a faraway train horn that was delivered on the wind. These sounds reminded me that we were walking in an oasis from the human world.
We were in our own world where we were open to life. And to God.
In this particular place, I feel more like myself. I feel like I matter. I don’t feel judged or scrutinized or looked down upon. I feel at one with not just myself but with the world around me. I feel at one with the Universe.
This place is my church. I pray here, quietly in my head, and ask to find my way when I leave there. Not only find my way home but find my way in this life. I ask to be inspired in my writing but to be inspired to find better things that make me feel more whole in the life I’m living. I ask to matter. And here, in this place, I feel that I do matter. And I take it with me. At least, for a while, until the outside world numbs me, until I allow it to do so from sadness and despair.
And when I finally get to where I don’t think I can take it anymore, I think of my walks in the woods and I feel a swallow of cold, refreshing water. It helps fill me up.
So, yeah, this place is my church. It’s where I feel completely whole.
As we drove away to go home, I turned to my wife.
“That was the best.”
Isn’t that how you should feel when you leave church?
-Loyd Elmore Jr.
April 24th, 2020
I’ve decided to keep a blog about how I’m dealing with depression. I’m going to consider this a form of therapy. It might not help anybody else but it might help me.