Nerd in Transition: A Christmas Without God
Christmas is fast approaching and I am eager for it’s arrival. Actually I am eager to get on a plane back to the frozen Michigan tundra. I wasn’t able to go home for the last two Christmases and spent my holiday in the open tomb that is an empty Los Angeles. While traffic may be great this one and only time of year, it’s just not enough to make me feel warm and fuzzy. I need cold, snow and my Mother bitching at me while I get drunk with my Dad.
Family really is what makes this event so special to me, that and the Church services. I used to love the lead up to Baby Jesus’s birthday bash. The greens hanging around the pews and out in the narthex, the huge tree covered with all white ornaments made by a long grown up youth group, the singing of carols and the weekly lighting of the advent wreath; all of this topped off with a candle lit Christmas Eve service. The religion that accompanied this month was like sugar for my weary soul.
This year though I have been struggling with my faith in a very profound way. Before I moved to Lincoln Heights I was living in Venice where I regularly attended a Four Square church. The Four Square movement was founded by Aimee Semple McPherson who I happen to be writing a play about, so I started attending one of her churches to gain a better understanding of the denomination. For two years I walked to a small building in the heart of Venice and subjected myself to the worst kind of religion; fundamentalism. You know what happened? It completely fucked up my relationship with God. This belief system designed to bring people to the naked truth of the bible left me reeling for God’s love as I felt myself dragged further down with guilt and shame. Instead of becoming closer to the Holy Father I was left naked in the dark.
After I left Venice, and that church, I returned to the Hollywood United Methodist Church to hear messages from a liberal pulpit. Proudly displaying a giant red ribbon on the side of their building this is an open loving community with a huge homosexual constituency and places for dog owners to enjoy the service with their best friends. I should have fit right in, boy did I try. I volunteered to help with Sunday School, took the greens down at the end of Christmas, talked to people and even went to a choir rehearsal. As nice as everybody was I just couldn’t find God. So I left.
Sadly I have now stopped even my daily personal worship. Such as drifting off to sleep while conversing with my heavenly Father, an old habit that offered years of comfort. I don’t read my Bible. And I never weigh the options of Heaven over Hell. While there isn’t much guilt left there also isn’t much left but me. One is the loneliest number after all.
Now as Christmas approaches there is knowledge that I will have to attend some services. Those candlelit Christmas Eve’s are beautiful, but what’s the point without God?
As I pondered this question during my nightly dog walk I debated just not going this year. Returning to my neighborhood I dropped the dogs off and stopped over at the neighbors that had offered me dinner when I was first headed out. Excited about the free homemade Mexican food I managed to unwittingly walk in on a weekly bible study. I stayed, nothing was keeping me from those sopes. I followed along with each passage while the girl next to me translated the Spanish fellowship. Looking around it occurred to me that the main reason religion continues to thrive in the face of advanced science has less to do with a supernatural being and much more to do with the sense of community. Sure I already knew that, but I never really cared. As with most things in my life God had become all about me. In losing myself I lost my Father.
I stayed for dinner, eating one sope then taking another for the road but not before I had conversations with various people in the room. They were from another Foursquare Church, how ironic, but they welcomed me in, translated for me and fed me. Nobody told me how to vote or feel about “the gays” and my single motherless woman status bothered not one person. They were just happy to share their community. I was happy to not be alone with the dogs for another night.
The night didn’t end with some tear-filled break through. It ended with me thinking that maybe God has been waiting patiently and is now looking for me. At the very least a door beyond myself has been opened. Maybe this Christmas Eve as I lift my candle high while singing the sweet words to “Silent Night” I’ll find the joy that is a room filled with like-minded people. Maybe I’ll get one step closer to living beyond my personal interests. And maybe, just maybe I’ll feel God’s love once again.
featured image credit: ?alr