"Lotus Opening" by L. Folk

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Honoring Your Inner Emily D.

My mother and I went to vespers at an Anglican Church last Sunday.  I had not eaten dinner yet and had a full day of errands and taking care of the kids beforehand.  I went because I felt I should for it was lent.  There was a small gathering of people in the church and there was a band singing songs.  I say band, but that somehow implies electric guitars or marching drums.  Really there were a few singers, an acoustic guitar player and a piano player and they were singing about God.  It was lovely, really.  There were people in the pews getting into it, raising up their hands and closing their eyes.  I was impressed by the music, but the people with the raised hands intimidated me.  Later, my mother told me, "that's how the spirit affects people", and I believe this to be true, but at the time, I was almost annoyed, as if they were putting on a show.  After the singing there was a Bible reading; it proceeded like a Bible study really, with the priest asking the audience questions.  We talked about how the devil took Christ up to a high place and showed him the cities of the world, telling him it could all be his if he would just get down on his knees and bow before him.  The priest asked us if we believed the devil was the ruler of the world and my mother raised her hand and said yes.  The priest asked her, "Why do you believe this?" and my mother said, "Just look at the world."  And everyone in the church laughed and nodded their heads.  "By empirical evidence," the priest added, who was, by his diction, well-educated.  I knew my mother didn't know what empirical meant and I almost leaned over to tell her, but the whole thing embarrassed me, her causing attention to us, the two people who didn't attend that particular church regularly.  Also, I know my mother is angry at the world for her frustrations and grief and she needed a scapegoat, thus the devil.  There was satisfaction in her face when she said raised her hand and said yes.  The truth is, I felt like the devil because I was anxious to leave; I hadn't eaten and I was hungry.  Besides, churches tend to make me anxious and I get more anxious, it seems on an empty stomach.  But she didn't want to leave and I didn't want to inconvenience her or make a scene.  It's ridiculous, how much I care about what people think of me.

I went to that church because I was curious about it and heard that it was a tight knit community; that they were a spiritual group.  I am searching for a community and I had high hopes for this one.  But when they broke out the Bible, I shut down.  I don't know why.  Perhaps it is because I can't get myself to take it literally.  It is a text of stories; I write stories, I know how they can become altered through the fictional tendencies of the mind.  I don't believe God put a hand up to stop these fictional tendencies.  I do believe there are some worthy allegories and parables, but many have almost become tiresome.  I am learning that I feel closer to God just saying a few words in my mind, not making sense of an allegory.  I'd rather reach God through my imagination than dogma, as Emily Dickinson did.  I've been teaching Dickinson in my Comp II class and I've felt this kinship with her.  This poem, in particular, reached me.

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church – (236)

By Emily Dickinson
Some keep the Sabbath going to Church –
I keep it, staying at Home –
With a Bobolink for a Chorister –
And an Orchard, for a Dome –

Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice –
I, just wear my Wings –
And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church,
Our little Sexton – sings.

God preaches, a noted Clergyman –
And the sermon is never long,
So instead of getting to Heaven, at last –
I’m going, all along.

So I told this to a friend one day, this conclusion I had reached; I also told her I felt guilty about it.  There is that old Christian belief that the devil is the one keeping you from God.  But that wasn't the case here.  The devil isn't keeping me from God if I don't feel comfortable in a church.  It just means that church isn't for me.  My friend responded, "Yes.  You have to feel entitled to your own life.  Not someone else's life."  And that made a lot of sense.  

No comments:

Post a Comment