Church was something that I hated because I was forced to go as punishment for acting out, as if church would save my wandering pre-teen soul from a life of damnation.
Ugh! I hated it! I did whatever I could to NOT fit in. Those were not my people or my beliefs. FUCK YOU! I’d draw the Nine Inch Nails logo on my catechism book, listen to Marilyn Manson full-volume on my headphones and wear my Zero skull jacket to Sunday school. Nothing got me kicked out, but I was determined to never, ever become part of their congregation.
My plan was to flunk catechism, so I walked in without memorizing a single commandment, bible verse or psalm, but – as the pastor said to me with grave disappointment – no one had ever failed catechism and I wasn’t about to be the first.
Now, not only was I baptized with the church, but I was officially a member of the Lutheran congregation! Hooray!
In my parent’s proudest moment, they handed me a bible and whispered to smile and NEVER throw that book away. I haven’t. To this day, it’s been the only book to survive my many manic purges.
Fast-forward to a year ago, when I was involuntarily admitted to the Psychiatric Unit and spent ten days in the Abbotsford hospital because of a psychotic split from reality that made suicide seem like a perfectly reasonable solution to end the misery that danced inside of me. Quietness. Complete, selfish silence, forever.
Once I was stripped of my belongings and clothing, among the first things I asked my wife to bring me was my bible. MY bible. Not hers. Mine. I don’t know why it all of a sudden became so important, but I was filled with an urgency that wouldn’t be calmed until the day that my bible arrived. Something deep within me said to keep it close to me, so I did.
After she brought it, I spent my days lost in the gospels while sitting at my desk that overlooked the dying autumn garden outside, praying to see a sign of life – a bird! – so that I knew everything was going to be alright. I felt powerless. After a few days of obsessively reading and secluding myself to my room, it alarmed the nurses. “Are you okay?” they’d ask me multiple times a day. “You’re not having a moment of schizophrenia, are you?”
The truth was that I was scared. The only books about insane asylums – sorry, psychiatric units – that I’ve read are the biography of Francis Farmer and the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. If you haven’t read them, neither end happily ever after.
In the middle of the night, I was scared and alone and didn’t know what to do, so I decided to pray and in that moment I accepted that I was powerless. In that moment, I put my faith in God. That’s when I felt a huge release of tension and knew that everything would be okay.
About a week into my stay-cation, I was granted a weekend-pass to “dip my toes back in the water of life,” to see if I could handle living outside the hospital, again.
The day after I was back home I was sitting in a chair at my local church, South Side. I felt nervous, but not out of place. When the sermon started, I knew that it was the right choice. Still – technically – a patient of the psychiatric unit of the Abbotsford hospital -because of my disassociation from reality – and Pastor Mike’s sermon was about suicide. I broke down and cried in the audience. Never had I felt so moved, so touched and so strangely cared for by complete strangers.
I felt like I’d made the right choice in coming to church that day – over twenty-years past my first experiences with God – and now I go as often as I can. And when that boggles the mind of someone who doesn’t believe in heaven, hell, God, etc. I tell them that “it’s my weekly dose of positivity,” and they can agree with that, at least.