The Day That I Didn’t Go to Church.

When you think of Sunday, what is the first thing that comes to your head? For me it was different at one point in my life than it is right now. To suggest to me at age sixteen that one-day I would look at organized religion and cringe was completely out of the question. God was my savior, my guider, and my reason for existence. Now he is my friend, an acquaintance at best.

One sunny day in April, my mom informed me that I was nominated to head one of the Sunday school classes, being that I wanted to pursue a career in teaching. I remember the weather that spring day because it started out as one of those mornings that make you take a deep breath and thank whoever it is that you choose to thank in situations of almost complete fulfillment. The birds were blasting out glorious hymns and the smell of the first lawns being mowed were enough on their own to make me love life just a little bit more than usual. What happened to the weather later on that afternoon is extremely appropriate to the changes that occurred in my mood.

It was around 4:30 and the shadows were beginning to give way to the approaching storm front. The wind picked up and lightning flashed in the distance, not yet accompanied by thunder. Nonetheless, I was excited to say the least about my chance to prove the congregation that I was the best sixteen-year-old Sunday school teacher that Holy Trinity had ever seen. I was going to prepare a lesson that would hit the hearts of the children and at the same time be extremely simple in both speech and idea. It was challenging to say the least.

I spent the better part of the stormy evening going through my picture bible and choosing, preparing, and practically scripting my lesson. The final draft of my 30-minute spiel was nonetheless something to gloat about.

It was the Saturday before my scheduled debut and I spent the night at my best friend Sarah’s house. We were listening to the Spice Girls and having a discussion about why her parents didn’t make her abide by society’s standard and attend a weekly service. She used an analogy that will stick with me for the rest of my life.

“Connie, my parents told me that church was like a shoe. You buy it because it looks and feels good but over a period of time the shoe becomes engraved to your soul and almost personalized to meet your expectations,” Sarah explained.

The weight of her words didn’t seem so heavy at first, but as soon as I reevaluated her remark, it hit me. Being sixteen years old and having just been told that the religion that I have grown up to trust is nothing more than a comfort zone, something to make my life a little more convenient, ended up making me more confused than anything. How selfish of me as a member of the Holy Trinity congregation to sit there weekend after weekend and fill my heart with empty promises and rehearsed lines when I should be out helping others not just feeding my conscience with metaphorical pats on the back! I remember wondering if I was committing a sin just by sitting in church trying to grasp and practice the concepts and standards of a “personalized” religion.

As the dark room illuminated periodically with flashes of white light from bolts of lightning, we laid there in silence. Not the silence of sleep but the silence of uneasiness. Sarah new just by the look in my eye that a blanket had been lifted. To this day, I don’t think that she was prepared to be the deliverer of such a spiritual awakening at that stage of adolescence.

That night, I fell asleep to the arguing in my head. One part of my rational thought kept telling me that what she said was true. The other voice was yelling at me to maintain comfort and stick with what I knew best. The mental conversation continued through the night and well into the R.E.M. stage of my sleep.

I began