The coincidence that 13 was the same age where I really started to feel I might not be like everyone else is not lost on my present day understanding of my historical religious revolt. But if it was part of my decision, it would have been in asubconscious way. The same manner in which you sometimes know not to order the salmon no matter how good your friend swears it will be.
And so I did not go. Except for funerals and weddings. That is one reason people come to fear church so much. Like a hospital, they come to associate it only with the darkest of days, which are more obvious in terms of funerals but often the ultimate truth about weddings as well. My experience was the same.
Until a late winter Sunday in 2012 when I found my way to the pews of Riverside Church in the Morningside Heights section of Manhattan. I was not fully familiar with the history of the church, but I knew it was open and affiriming. I suppose I went there for a thousand reasons, not the least of which was to begin to know myself a little better. To gain some understanding of the why and what for that I was missing. Maybe it was also to in some way make it up to my Mother for that stomping so many years before. She who had been gone seven years by then physically, but not more than seven minutes or so emotionally on that day or any other.
More than that even, I went to test a theory. One that had been my tool for self acceptance when I slowly emerged from my closet in the late 1990s. I truly believed that God created me. All of me. Just they way I was and am. And that perhaps one reason for me being who I was created to be was to play some role in showing the world the wonder, mystery, and diversity of God's creation. That, far from being an affront to God, any person who lives up to their creation and calling is a reflection of God. A belief that if you live a life of love, tolerance, acceptance, forgiveness and faith you reflect the best of what we can be. And, by extension and expression, show the world a better path.
In the pews of Riverside Church, on that day and those that would follow, my theory was validated. I will be forever grateful to the staff, clergy, and congregants of that church for helping me along my path and proving to me that Gods love is eternal and total for all of his children. That there are still so many who do not know this truth, that there are so many who do not grasp the pain and hate they sew with their words of venom towards those they do not understand but whom God created, that is one of the tragic realities of our time. I pray that it will ease with greater understanding, but more so I pray that those who only see the darkness of Faith used without Love will come to know the real truth and the possibilites of God that are beyond the bile, blame, and fear. There is another way. A better way.
This week marks the 85th anniversary of Riverside. I will not be able to attend the celebration, but I know that I live that celebration each day. My only regret now is that my Mom didn't ever make it to church with me. But I suspect that, in truth, she was there with me every time
Hopefully, no matter what your particular faith or belief system, you can find a place that supports your spirit. Its an amazing gift to find your way home. .