Today I went to church. I go about once a month now. This is partly due to my health; each weekend I choose one or two main activities and all the rest have to go, including church. But it's partly due to the fact that I want to silence the voices in my head that tell me if I don't go to church, I'm not a good Christian. The voices say this: "Of course you're still saved, but..." Some weekends I actually dare myself not to go to church, risk God's wrath, just to erase those words. Funny thing, God never seems angry at me at all.
Today I walked out the front door into spring. After a mild winter, spring came suddenly and forcefully. The bulbs burst into bloom at one time, then the trees all blossomed at once, and the early spring days were so hot we almost put the air conditioning on. Halfway through March it got cold and terribly windy. I wondered if spring was done for good. Instead, this is a spring with more life in it than I've ever seen before. This morning was warm and humid and overcast, scented with growing grass and cut grass and the abundantly blooming dogwoods, wisteria, and azaleas. I came out the door in my church clothes and half my neighborhood was out in shorts and tank tops, doing yard work and playing catch.
Going to church always set me apart. I was always conscious of how different my family was as we piled into the car every Sunday morning and left our neighborhood for church, where a lot of other similar people had gathered after leaving their own neighborhoods. I knew that plenty of other people went to church, but they didn't go to my church, or churches like mine, or didn't go every Sunday. I knew that going to the right church every Sunday meant I was special and holy. Church was the place where all the special, holy people gathered.
Church was a club where I didn't fit in. I tried. When you're not allowed to be part of "the world," you try desperately to find a place somewhere. But at church, if I wanted to fit in with the youth group, I couldn't fit in with my family. If I wanted to fit in with my family, I couldn't fit in with the church leadership. And all of those systems operated by complex rules of behavior that constantly re-determined whether I was in or I was out.
Today I went to church because I wanted to. And my neighbors worked in their yards, because spring tugged them outside and made them happy. I drove to church through a town bustling with people walking and riding bicycles and setting out on motorcycle rides and going to church. For the first time in maybe forever, I felt like I had a home - a real place in the world. Inside the church, the sanctuary smelled of Easter lilies.