The first time I went to church I got tied to a pole. Something like that kind of gets burned into a five-year-old’s mind, so I remember the details very clearly. I had been feeling ambivalent about this whole church thing ever since my mom had mentioned it. On the one hand, my brothers and I would miss out on our usual Sunday morning ritual of Animaniacs and apple slices. But then weighing it pretty heavily was the fact that I had heard Church was a place I could wear my new green dress with the big white ribbon that made me look like my Rebecca doll. It’s all very ironic, you see, because I had almost named Rebecca doll “Renee”, which turned out to be the name of the girl who tied me to the pole in the church basement, using that pretty white ribbon. Then Renee’s big brother David told my little brother Ryan that his beloved Peter Pan hat was for girls because it had a feather and I thought “that’s it…I’m going back to Animaniacs”. But the thing is, a five-year-old has zero control over her own life, so I was back at church the next week and every week after that.
Church is fun when you are little. You get to wear your prettiest dress while snacking and gluing things together in the basement. There is a 70 percent chance that an enthusiastic “God!” is the answer to the question being asked, so you look smart and pretty. The Donutman led you in sing-alongs about love and joy and then, just when you didn’t think it could get any more magical – they introduce Flannelgraph. Oh, the hours I spent in front of that red felt board, listening to the stories of Moses, Daniel and Joshua, (interchangeable) itching to arrange the pieces myself and be the one to give them life.
As my parents grew in their walk with God and knowledge of how the church expected them to act, we started shifting to be a Christian family. We prayed at mealtimes (even in restaurants! Out loud!), my parents got new friends and we learned a new language. I’ve heard it referred to as Christianese. It’s very subtle, but for example, we didn’t say “lucky” anymore, we said “blessed”. I scolded the kids on the bus who took God’s name in vain and we said weird things in secret Christian code that must baffle anyone not in the loop. Imagine walking by someone and hearing them say “Hallelujah! I’ve been washed in the blood!”
Once, during this transition to Christianese, my parents set up a fantastical scavenger hunt for my two brothers and me. It took us all over the yard from the “waterfall” (our bright blue slide) to the “diamond mountain” (our neighbor’s granite wall), even to the woods, where a snack was buried for us under a log. It kept us busy most of the afternoon and we couldn’t wait to get to the end where we would find “the greatest treasure you will ever possess”!!! We were sure it was gold or rubies or Sega Genesis. Inside a rotting log, we found a wooden box. I held my breath as Billy opened the lid.
It was a Bible.
Not even a colorful Psalty bible like Karise had- just a maroon leather Bible like the ones you found in a hotel. We looked at each other, crestfallen but also guilty that we didn’t think the Bible was even as cool as Sega Genesis. My mom made us sit on the log and have a lesson together and I remember being really annoyed and bitter. But it was all a part of this new life we were starting together.
(I’m going to add more to this section and discuss how Christianity becomes a culture within itself, with it’s own language, select people group, artifacts, etc. I just need to brush up on my sociological definitions….Trista!? Jason!? The point was to show how we had to change into almost a new “ethnicity” or something in order to fit in. It seems fine when you’re in it, but as a kid it was weird at first and rightfully so)