|Christian Brothers Coffee House 1979|
I understand where he was coming from. Scripture instructs parents to train a child in the way they should go. So dad and mom were just doing their job as parents. I just never enjoyed the programs, the lesson plans, and all the standing up and sitting down and standing up and sitting down that seemed to be the primary focus of corporate worship.
As a kid I'd often sneak out and roam the hallways of the church. I'd often go outside and play in the little church playground or roam around in the woods that surrounded the church. I don't think my mom and dad ever knew what I was up to.
Church would consist of congregational hymns, singing only first, second and last stanzas with all of the unbridled energy of a man building his own gallows. This would usually be followed by a preacher who would get up and tell a few weak jokes followed by a sermon. Don't get wrong, I didn't think anything was wrong with traditional church, I just never connected with it.
To this day scripture speaks with a clear voice. I never understood why people would take a sentence that Jesus plainly spoke and feel as if they have to explain and expound upon the obvious. I have learned from sermons, but most times, I prefer to just sit and read scriptures while the preacher expound and explain.
I liked the people of all the churches I've attended these 50+ years of my life. I think it was mostly my problem. To me church reminded me of school. I couldn't stand Sunday school because it was SCHOOL. Anyone that knows me probably knows that I had a horrific experience throughout public school. I was wounded from school in my youth and yet had to spend part of every weekend in Sunday SCHOOL! Hell, even during Summer I couldn't escape school. Once you think you're out....THEY WOULD PULL YOU BACK IN! There I'd be, sent to Vacation Bible School (I once escaped from VBS, but that's another story).
I didn't really start going to church regularly until I married Gina. The reason I started to go was because the Holy Spirit compelled me to go. He wanted me to go because I was now head of the household. I found myself responsible for someone elses spiritual being - not just mine. It was one of those things that happened that I knew was His will and not mine be done. Okay God.
Even when I went to church, I went out of obedience to that directive. I made some great friends there, but still church was church. The folks there liked me and tried to fit me into the program, to assimilate my talents. They tried getting me to lead traditional worship service and I tried to comply. It was awkward. They tried getting me to be youth director, but I am afraid I am a little too youthful to be a youth leader. I had fun, but as you know now, I am not a Sunday school kind of guy. The only way I fit in that fellowship was that I made friends there. I loved them and miss them still. I never fit in the program. I always felt like a square peg.
Getting back to dad. Back then, dad felt that I was substituting my coffeehouse fellowship at Christian Brothers 'Free House' (later Skylight Coffeehouse) for traditional corporate church fellowship. Back in the day, church was so corporate that we all had to wear suits. Dad and I used to go back and forth about it. Funny how almost all of our disagreements were about church and spiritual matters. Dad felt that I needed to be in church and that my coffeehouse fellowship had taken the place of real church. I used to deny it over and over again.
I found out that dad was right about the coffeehouse being my church. He thought it was a bad thing, but it was a good thing after all. As I looked back on my early years, I realized that my brothers and sisters at that coffee house had indeed been a surrogate church. I am so grateful that God gave me a place to fellowship with the saints when the traditional venues at that time just never worked for me. I know I am a square peg.
My poor dad was so concerned for my spiritual well being. I know he loved me and he knew that I loved him. He couldn't figure me out and to be honest - I couldn't either. Now that I am a dad, I understand his concern for me. We love our kids and want to do our best to lead them to and keep them on the straight and narrow. It's our job - it's what we do. Even though I was an odd kid to figure out, dad knew I loved Jesus. Even though dad couldn't figure me out, I always knew and felt dad and mom's prayers covering me.
I enjoy the church I am attending now. It's a church of square holes - of very unique God loving folk.. Sometimes though...I still have the desperate need to slip outside and head for the monkey bars and the swing-set