I don't need church to have faith in God. What I've discovered is that church helps me have faith in people. Specifically people who call themselves Christians.
Before and just after Katie was born, I worked full-time at the public library. I made quite a bit more money than my husband did. We arranged our jobs so that one of us was always at home with Katie. I worked mostly days. Will worked mostly evenings and weekends, and cut back to about twenty-five hours a week. When Katie was about three, Will wanted to go back to work full-time, so his dad graciously helped us out with babysitting during times when we were both at work.
Katie started kindergarten a month after my doctor suggested I try working fewer hours to help alleviate some of the anxiety I was experiencing at the time. I cut back to a part-time, twenty-four hours a week Information Specialist position at work. Will adjusted his work schedule to accommodate mine. One of us is always home in case Katie is out of school, and one of us is always there to drop her off and pick her up from school each day.
It's been two-and-a-half years since I started working part-time at the library. It's been a terrific opportunity to write. Most days when Katie is at school and Will is at work, I spend the majority of my time writing. It's tremendously therapeutic. I need time to express myself creatively each day or I start to go insane. Time to self-reflect is healthy.
Back when I had less time for self-reflection, when I worked full-time at the library, I got suckered into participating in a Leadership program. I say suckered because the only reason I agreed to do it is that someone told me we'd get a bonus for participating, and I was still new enough to the department that I didn't feel comfortable saying no to anyone when they asked me to do something.
Turns out the Leadership program was a wonderful growth experience for me. I might not have gone into it for the right reasons, but I got a lot of good out of it.
One of the things I got out of it is that I'm an asshole, but I'm capable of change.
This is a big lesson. The world would be a much better place if more people realized this about themselves.
The way I found out I'm an asshole is I took this godawful thing called a 360 Degree Assessment. That means my personality gets analysed from all angles: myself, my boss, and two peers. We each take a quiz to assess how we think I score on various questions.
Is she a team player?
Is she flexible?
Is she customer service oriented?
I scored quite well, but one area stood out to me. I almost had a panic attack right there at work when I first read it on my summary:
One time I overheard Becky make a negative comment about Christians. I'd like to see Becky learn to tolerate people who don't think like she does.
Bullet to the gut. Seriously. I nearly threw up when I read the comment about myself.
Really? Someone thinks I'm intolerant?!
I recalled the time Mom said to me, "You're the most judgmental person of judgmental people" when I was still living at home in high school. I took it as a compliment.
But here I was, years later, in my thirties, and someone was confronting me about the same issue. The thing that hurt the most was that they were totally right. I probably had said something negative about Christians sometime in the staff room to one of my work friends, not realizing others around us could hear and might disagree with my statements. Back then, if someone asked me my religious beliefs I'd say, "I'm not religious. I'm a big fan of Jesus, but I don't like how many people have twisted his words to use for hate." Too many self-described Christians had told me I'd burn in hell that I started to believe it. Not that I would burn in hell, but that Christians were a bunch of assholes.
It was weird to find out I'm an asshole too. I had always considered myself to be quite tolerant. I was the kid on the playground that yelled at the bullies to stop being mean to this big dorky girl who had just been added to our classroom from special ed, and after that my teacher "assigned" me to be this girl's friend at school. I was the one who was sent to the Principal's office in high school when I shouted, "Fuck you!" to the asshole who called my friend a "fag" in the hall. I was the one who wrote a scathing letter to the school newspaper preaching tolerance for each other after one morning someone drew chalk body-outlines on the pavement in front of the side entrance by the gym. They wrote "homosexual slayings" and tossed what looked like canned tomatoes onto the chalk drawings. I was the one who stayed and talked down the Zealots outside holding picket signs saying we'd burn in hell if we set foot inside that gay club when I was just an eighteen-year-old girl by saying, "But I thought Jesus wants us to love everyone?!" until they couldn't answer my question. I'm the one who wrote a scathing op-ed letter to the local paper when a white cashier assumed I'd appreciate her negative comment about black people since I'm white. I'm the one who writes petitions. I'm the one who votes as liberal as I possibly can. How can I be an asshole?
All that time, speaking out for the underdog, I myself was making assumptions about the people I viewed as the aggressors. A few assholes who just happen to be Christians treated me like dirt, so I assume all Christians are assholes? That is pretty narrow-minded of me.
Fortunately I have a seven-year-old child to guide the way for me. Kids are great at reminding adults to open our minds. She's the one who got the church ball rolling by asking last November if we could go to church. My awesome friend Sarah just so happens to go to what she described as a pretty progressive church, Grace Covenant Presbyterian, so we went with her. And fell in love.
I expected Katie to. An only child, she craves social interaction with kids her age. Sunday school and choir are excellent ways for her to spend time around other kids.
I did not expect I'd love it as much as I do. But how could I not? They preach all-inclusive love.
Last Sunday I listened to an amazing eighty-eight year old gentleman talk to us about the Gay Christian Fellowship the church features on Thursday evenings. Eighty-eight years old and he cooks and hosts this fellowship every week!
Here's a blurb about it from the church bulletin:
"LGBT and those who love us...as an outreach to many who have been wounded by church doctrine in other places, this group will emphasize the welcoming, inclusive love of God as expressed in the gospels and lived at GCPC. Please invite friends who would be blessed by this experience of GRACE."
I plan on going. I'd love to see you there. We all deserve love and grace, no matter who we are.
Gay Christian Fellowship
Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church
11100 College Blvd
Overland Park, KS 66210