That’s my favorite saying when I see underage boys and girls hugging or kissing, or if I’m chaperoning a dance.
Man… I just realized, I’ve chaperoned a dance.
I say it cause it’s funny. Not even remotely do I believe that boys and girls should actually be leaving room for Jesus… or do I?
Well to start off, if I did believe that, it definitely wouldn’t be in the physical sense of two young budding lovers, hugging up on each other–although the older I get, the more unnecessary I think the act of youth intimacy is. But what about leaving room for Jesus in your mind, your heart, or your soul? Should there be room for Jesus there? Should I introduce my son to the idea of religion?
Well let me give you my background story. I’ve mentioned before that I frequented the south to visit my dad’s side of the family. Well in the south you go to church at least 4 times a week… maybe even 2 to 3 of those times actually being on Sunday. Yes… the stereotypes are true and that’s why people joke about it.
There’s the obvious Sunday mass… but sometimes you go to the 5 p.m. mass, after you’ve already attended the 7 or 8 a.m. service. Bible study on Sunday mornings. Choir practice on Thursdays. You have to go for adult choir practice too because your aunt or parent is in the choir… or maybe your cousin plays piano and organ… (and make sure you sit down and keep quiet or you’ll go out side and get something to cry about). Then there’s children’s bible study on Weds, and maybe a pot luck or bake sale on saturdays… and if you’re one of these churches… you visit OTHER churches for their mass…
Yeah… growing up Christian is a full time job.
However when I lived with my mom… that wasn’t the case. She’d let me go to church if I wanted to, but never forced me to. She joined the Agape at one point, which is a non-denominational metaphysical church devoted to one love, and at some point delved into hinduism and all this other stuff that she never stuck with. We had tons of friends with a complete array of ethnic background, and so we learned a little from a lot of people. And that is the greatest thing about living in Los Angeles.
I’d been baptized, I’d changed churches on my own will, I even went to a church summer camp for a few weeks while I stayed with my mother’s Seven-Day-Adventist parents who unbeknownst to me till that summer, attend church on Saturdays… ruining Saturday morning cartoons.
I had a lot, and I mean a lot of experience with religion and the people attached to it.
Even though I got to experience different cultures and religions through friends and family, I’d never really veered away from Christianity as my home base. I think my first real eye opener that made me question religion was when I dated my high-school girlfriend. At that point, I’d stopped regularly attending church, because my mom didn’t required me to go to church, and also because I had a full time job as a full time student-athlete, and there wasn’t a church close to me that I felt at home with.
My girlfriend, however, was super Catholic… that’s how she was raised… that was her culture. So once we started dating, knowing that I didn’t go to church, she asked if I’d go to church with her. And I did. For almost a year I’d attend St. Augustine, and I enjoyed it. I met new life long friends, I enjoyed the youth leaders, went on church retreats, fasted, and I even received the those hidden messages at the times I felt I needed it the most. Going to church again kept me in check emotionally and morally…
But there were differences– small differences that I never participated in. Differences like Catholics take communion every Sunday. That’s when you eat the bread that represents the body of Christ, and drink the “wine” that represents the blood of Christ, in order to wash away our sins. Well at St. Mark (my Christian church) we only took communion on the 4th Sunday. Differences like Confession. Well in the Christian community, we believe we have a direct connection to ask for forgiveness… other differences like the structure of the mass, baptisms, Lent, and praying to Saints are a few that come to the top of my head.
Fast forward some years later, and you’ll find me serving in the Marine Corps. If you think Los Angeles is a melting pot, join the military. It was here, in the Corps, that I had matured spiritually, and understood that with all the religions revolving around all these good people… there is simply no way that there could be one right religion.
I continued to go to church while stationed in Okinawa, and it was here that my honest respect for organized religion shattered.
As long as I’d been going to church, we’d given tithe. Tithe to the building fund. Tithe to the church fund. Tithe to the Lord… tithe tithe tithe! Now I’ll admit… there’s plenty of times that collection plate’s come around and I’ll pass it right on around… but there are times I pulled out my only dollars and threw them in as well. But that plate… it gave me option. As much as you knew the church was greedy and keeping our money… we still had the option to tithe.
However, I frequently attended my Gunnery Sergeant’s church with him and his family… kinda out of obligation for him stepping in and taking a bullet for me… figuratively not literally. I’d never experienced anything like it. Here I was, 21 years old, walking into church like it was the first time I’d seen one. People were speaking in tongues. I couldn’t even focus on church because every time someone screamed HALLELUJAH it was followed by a “Shamlamasonofalamana.” It tripped me out. On top of that, the seating arrangement was tight. The row of chairs in front of you were so close to your knees, that in order for you to let anyone through you were forced to stand up. Why wouldI mention that?
Because there was no tithing plate.
Yes, every time tithing came around, we were forced to stand up and walk up the front of the church and pay our 10%. Well at that point I felt obligated too. EVERYONE’S WATCHING! And if you don’t, then you hear a mini sermon on how important it is to give, so you can reap what you sow. Meanwhile the pastor is preaching that Christians need to be more wealthy… Christians need to prosper… then leaves church in his new S-class Mercedes to go get all his few thousand dollars worth of bling on his wrist and fingers polished. I watched literally dozens of families come up to the alter and give to this man’s family on Pastor appreciation day anywhere upwards to $2000. Not only just give a card–but announce the amount they were giving… all in the name of God.
I’ve never heard of pastor appreciation day.
I left that church after I felt my obligation to my Gunnery Sergeant was done with, however I sought out another church for me to try to make my “holy home.” Over and over again, I’d go, and the same things were going on. People speaking in tongues and, people subliminally forced to give money. Sermon’s became about money, church got a little too flashy, and I think the messages got lost in translation.
I stopped going to church.
I can literally go on and on with stories that are similar that would make you sick to your stomach, and don’t even get me started on these “Mega-Churches”– can I get an Amen…?
However, despite my disgust for organized religion now, I believe I learned a lot from going to church as a child. I believe there were lessons that I learned there at sunday school, that prepared me for the every day social world, and even family life. I believe church had a lot to do with the development of my moral compass, and my willingness to easily forgive. I believe that because I went to homeless shelters and handed out food to the needy, I believe that gave me an eternal internal compassion for those truly in need of assistance.
Religions are too different to agree upon, but the people behind them are all the same. We believe in something greater than ourselves, and most of us are kind-hearted, and try to do the right thing at all times.
This last statement is similar to how I addressed why I think Baby Jake should go to church.
Despite my increasing distaste for what organized religion has evolved into, I do believe that I’ve pulled a lot of good from going to church in my youth. I believe it taught me my moral standings, however Paps (my wife) is a good person too, and church was not a lifestyle for her. I believe that it is necessary to know the stories of the bible as something to refer to, similar to fairytales or Aesop’s Fables as encouragement or even as a discouraging lesson to remember. However Paps said she didn’t go to church and her mother read her the bible stories so she knows them too. My wife makes pretty valid points to counter my points on the non-necessity to have to go to church to become a good person, but I think ultimately I want to teach my son that you should only walk in faith.
Believe in whatever God you want to believe in. Hell, believe there is no God, but do believe in something. Faith has carried me through so many broken roads, that I refuse to deny God. But that’s my personal belief. I talk about it a little in 11:11, how I came to be in this position I’m in today. I want my son to have the option to know that even if our prayers aren’t answered exactly how we want to them to be… that talking with God, or your conscious, or your inner-self, or even just your walls… talking it out and asking the universe for help in the most darkest of times, is sometimes just enough to show us the light… sometimes that’s just enough to help the crying start (you know… that good cry… that healing cry), or sometimes praying helps spark up and that idea. Sometimes praying for the strength to forgive or even achieve builds an immediate confidence boost, and maybe it just gives you the time to collect your thoughts.
Or maybe God hears us. Maybe God answers our prayers.
It’s impossible to say what is right and what is wrong. But I think denying, or even not introducing my son to the option of wanting to practice religion would be the worst thing I could do for him. All I have to do is introduce it, and like his father… he can make his own mind up about it in the long-run.
I’ll sign off with this poem that I’ve carried with me for so many years. Looking upon it, it screams at me that everything will be alright… and that’s all I want my son to ever know…
Everything will be alright.
One night I dreamed a dream.
I was walking along the beach with my Lord. Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand, one belonging to me and one to my Lord.
When the last scene of my life shot before me I looked back at the footprints in the sand. There was only one set of footprints. I realized that this was at the lowest and saddest times of my life. This always bothered me and I questioned the Lord about my dilemma.
“Lord, You told me when I decided to follow You, You would walk and talk with me all the way. But I’m aware that during the most troublesome times of my life there is only one set of footprints. I just don’t understand why, when I need You most, You leave me.”
He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you, never, ever, during your trials and testings. When you saw only one set of footprints, It was then that I carried you.”
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