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,”
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
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 to dream that I was in church staring at my new pair of shoes
and wondering how long it was going to take to break them in. Paying no
attention to the sermon, I looked around at the different faces of the
congregation. To my surprise, they were all asleep with expressions on
their faces that would suggest that they were following the pastor’s
lesson. I got up from the pew to run away but as I tried to lift my feet I
realized that my brand new shoes were stuck to the ground. After what
seemed like minutes of trying to wriggle free, I tried to say something to
try to wake the stranger next to me but every time that I opened my mouth
the pastor’s voice got louder as if to drown me out. The last thing that I
remember about my nightmare was the fact that the pastor’s outfit was one
of a car salesman. His light blue leisure suit was horribly tacky and out
of date, his tie was tied too short. I woke up startled but content.
To me the dream portrayed a number of things. The shoes of course
were those of which Sarah spoke of earlier that night symbolizing church as
a whole. The people being asleep acting like they were listening
represented the fact that they had not “woken up” to realize what I had.
When I spoke and the pastor’s voice overcame mine, it lead me to believe
that what one individual person has to say about how life should be lived
has no meaning before God. Last but definitely not least, the image of my
pastor dressed like a car salesman portrayed the idea of forcing religion
like selling a car onto seemingly innocent minds. The dream was even more
powerful than the metaphor that Sarah used.
The next morning when my mother called to tell me she was on her way
to pick me up to head to church I politely declined. I explained my
epiphany not expecting for her to understand completely. I could tell in
her voice that she never thought the day would come that I would turn my
back on church and the congregation. It saddened her, I could tell, butt
nothing could make me more happier than I was that day.
When I got home, I marched straight up to my room and in to my closet.
I grabbed the new pair of shoes that I had bought earlier in the week with
my allowance money and brought them to my lock box that I keep under my
bed. I let out a sigh as I opened the box and put the shoes in. In
parting with the shoes, I parted with a big chunk of my life but,
strangely, that was all right with me. I still have the pair of shoes and
to this day they have never been broken in. I can definitely say that day
changed my life from how I knew it then to how I know it now and I am