Well, gentlemen, it would be very easy for me to mount the soap-box and blather on about some ancient story. That's what I do for a living, and I guess that's what people expect from a "devotional." But what would be the connection to real life? I don't walk the heroic life that I talk so much about, much less the Christian life!
So I will simply try to be honest about what the experience of going to church is like, for me. This simple act is freighted with so much baggage that it's REALLY HARD TO DO! That's why this devotional is late! But maybe if I talk about my own struggles it might be helpful for someone who is thinking "Oh, man, there's no way I could go to church." Perhaps some will be my inspired by my heroic struggle to PUT MY ASS IN A PEW against tremendous opposing forces; perhaps some will find my internal debate "silly." I wish I had more to offer, but hey, this is where I am right now:
DIDASKALOS' REASONS FOR NOT GOING TO CHURCH:
FIRST: I am the kind of guy who like to organize his life so that HE is in charge. My time, my money, my emotions. And in church, I have to let go of that.
SECOND: I'm an artist: I like to present the kind of image that I *know* people will respond positively to. I DON'T LIKE to show those weak parts of myself, and have people know all about the icky parts of my life. I don't like "relationships," in short.
THIRD: EVERYTHING ABOUT CHURCH creeps me out. As a boy, I followed along with the minister's son, and did "church stuff" with him. Then one night I stayed over at his house and he abused me. So I have all those baggagey memories to wade through, and "put down" continually as they occur, and keep occurring, to my mind.
FOURTH: Presbyterian is all about professionalism. I'm now a professional...but it's a profession my church doesn't know how to recognize. So I feel stripped, like I have no adult male identity: I'm not a Doctor, Lawyer or Indian Chief; I'm a poet and a recording artist...but those "shields," those professional credentials disappear when I come in the door of the church. But the minister gets to swagger about in his outfit, and all the good church people come dressed up in their neck furs and wool jackets and ties....but God Forbid I should show up in a toga! That would be "drawing attention to myself."
FIFTH: I have a book coming out, and I can't talk about it!!! That kills me right there! When you work on something for a year and it's finally going to the publisher and you can't talk about it, it really burns a hole in your chest.
SIXTH: I know that I have a problem of talking too much. If I'm "serious" about being part of a church, I have to walk on eggshells, watch what I say, and create good relationships over time, before I "drop the P-bomb." And that's hard for me to do. That's WHO I AM, DAMMIT!
SEVENTH: There are kids around. And that means I have to be disciplined, guard my eyes, and not identify emotionally with the kids who are obviously feeling trapped, bored, and restless...which is hard, because TRAPPED, BORED AND RESTLESS is EXACTLY how I feel about attending church!
EIGHTH: I feel like I know everything about the Bible already! One of the by-products of my career is that the fabulous little nuggets and gems which are presented in Bible Study in order to illustrate, for a General Audience, how the Ancient World worked, ARE NOT NEWS TO ME.
NINTH: This is now, what?, my fifth church in this area. I've sung in choir at two for extended periods, and visited two others off and on. I have a pretty good friend at one, a guy's who's willing to talk about his own issues, which are equally icky but not BL, and he makes life in this town bearable for me...but the pastor of that church (a sparkly palace on the rich side of town!) is pretty evidently a materialistic charlatan of the old school. It's pretty tough to get my hopes up for another attempt at making a "landing" . . . And of course, becoming a "church-taster" means I feel like I am smart enough to judge, after fifteen minutes in the pews, exactly where the church is on such weighty matters as: how the choir sounds, their taste in window draperies, and what the average income per person is, and what the annual church budget.
TENTH: I've been on the road for six months of 2008; travel is NORMAL for me. I don't know if I even WANT to have any "settled church home." It feels NATURAL for me to be treated with effusive hospitality...and then turn around and never see those faces again.
ELEVENTH: As I travel, I get to meet other BL's and hang out with them. THIS FEELS SO MUCH MORE LIKE CHURCH FOR ME, because it's REAL PEOPLE talking about what is REAL FOR US. I feel like I'm doing what God has called me to do...so that all the little "church projects" that the concrete church is all about are to me like...styrofoam peanuts!
TWELFTH: There is a huge difference between the "Christ" and "God" and "Church" that I get from a "physical" church, then what I get from my own life of reading and praying. There's always a feeling of a hundred pallid, clammy hands touching me at church...join my group, donate, listen to me, come help with this, don't you think X, Y, and Z? (I don't, but I don't feel like I can say so!)
ON THE OTHER HAND, I should balance my long tale of woe with the reasons I feel it is important to go, DESPITE EVERYTHING:
OK, yeah, I admit it, I'm narcissistic twit. I *do* like it when it's "ALL ABOUT ME." There's a reason I'm in show-biz. AND I NEED TO GET BEYOND THAT SOMETIMES.
SINGING IS GOOD, as a non-per*f*o*r*m*ance per*f*o*r*m*a*n*c*e time. If you know what I mean. To sing just for the joy of it!
My friend at the sparkly church EXPECTS IT. He doesn't say anything about it, but he is far enough "advanced in the enemy's service" as Screwtape says, that it's in the air around him.
The church I went to this morning is more of a working-class church, and it's one I'd never thought of going to myself. But my roommate (not gay!) took me there. Wow....the stench of material self-satisfaction was absent!!!!
I need to get out of the house; my work suffers if I try to make it be 16 hours a day...
There is a long history and tradition of the Presbyterian Church USA.
HABIT: I have really tried to make church-going a habit. And that sustains me when I REALLY DON'T FEEL LIKE IT.
I need to make friends with people here in this town.
The energy of vocation: when I'm at church, I feel like I should be OUT DOING SOMETHING. This usually lends energy to my projects....
GOD! Who else would continually forgive me for being an arrogant, self-centered ass-hole?
---Well, there you have it, the story of my sad lack of Christian Zeal. Christ died to make the church possible, and here you have my response, a resounding "MEH." I hope this will inspire others to live in fellowship with others, as God intended. It is nice to know that even when I'm spiritually "empty," and have nothing to offer but my own vanity, God somehow uses me in my emptiness to help people....