When I was 3 years old, I loved going to church. Mass was held at Assumption Grotto, in Detroit. The church was majestic with its Gothic architecture. It boasted beautiful statues and stained glass images that captivated me. I studied the Stations of the Cross and felt sad as my mom and dad explained how Jesus died. I was a bit traumatized the first time my dad went to communion as I thought he was leaving us. Even though I couldn’t grasp the entire message, church was one of the highlights of my week. I loved Jesus. I loved God.
That love grew as I entered kindergarten. Sister Mary, a nun, taught us. She lived at the convent and explained that she was married to Christ. I decided that I was going to marry Christ, as well, although I couldn’t understand how He could have so many brides. Nonetheless, I practiced by putting a towel over my hair, like a habit.
That summer, we moved to California. I was not happy to be leaving Detroit, my house or church. My mom and dad assured me that California had churches too. That made me feel a little better, until we attended mass. It was nothing like Assumption Grotto. To make matters worse, my parents enrolled me in public school. I wouldn’t be going to church every day.
My parents went to mass on Sunday. I went to school so that I could make my First Communion. Many of the kids in my class also went to parochial school and I was treated like an outsider. I begged my mom and dad to let me return to church after I made my First Communion. They let me.
Meanwhile, I made friends in public school. My best friend went to another church. I also met kids who didn’t go. One Saturday night, I slept over at a friend’s house and was surprised that she didn’t go to church. I asked her how she talked to God. She said that she didn’t believe in God. I asked her if she was afraid of going to the Devil. She replied that she didn’t believe in that either. When my dad came to pick me up, I asked him if I could still be friends with her because even though she didn’t believe, she was nice. He assured me that I could. I was relieved.
Over the next three years, i realized that even though i still loved God, I no longer wanted to marry Him. Part of that had to do with the fact that many people in my life who didn’t believe were nicer than those who did. The hypocrisy confused me. My dad stated that going to church didn’t make a person good anymore than not going made a person bad. I asked him about God and he responded that it took all kinds of people. I realize now, he was practicing respect.
I also learned how true his words were.
The night before we moved from California back to Michigan, my best friend Rick told me that his cat wanted to say goodbye. Instead of his cat, I found Rick’s hand gripping the back of my neck and his voice hissing that he could kill me. He quickly backtracked and said that he didnt want me to move. I slept with my eyes open and repeatedly asked God how He could let this happen. My faith was shattered.
We moved to the same town as my dad’s family and went to the same church. I was apathetic. My grandpa, aunts and uncles were heavily involved. Many times the priests would come to my grandpa’s parties and leave drunk. Parishioners would make fun of other parishioners, right in church. I prayed to God to make it stop. It didn’t. That along with what happened with Rick caused me to question why God would allow things to happen and voice my displeasure. My aunt told me I was earning a ticket to Hell. My retort was, “some like it hot.”
Over the past three and a half decades, I’ve coped with various methods of self-abuse. With each method, I’ve challenged God to stop me, to grant me peace. Peace never came. My most recent battle has been with alcohol. In the past 10 years, I have been drinking or drunk nearly every day, with the exception of two 29 day periods of sobriety, this being the second one, and one 11 day period. Many times I broke down and prayed and even went to annointings, with no results.
I gave up hope of ever having my faith restored, three months ago, after a friend died. He was only two years younger than I am. He had a stroke due to high blood pressure. He left behind a wife and two young kids. At the funeral, his little girl asked why God took her daddy away. Her mom said that God needed him in heaven. It was so sad. I bit my tongue and held my tears of anger back.
Last month I had my own brush with high blood pressure. My feet were swollen and my reading was 210/163. I could have had a stroke at any second. I spent four days in the hospital having my blood pressure regulated, and detoxing from alcohol. My nurse said God wanted me alive for some reason. I expressed my anger in light of the fact that my friend died and I was still alive with no real ill health, and I really didn’t deserve to be. She outlined the events: going to work when I felt awful, showing my friend my feet on a whim, admitting my alcohol usage for accurate diagnosis and treatment, and having no desire to use again. I was too tired to argue.
When I came home from the hospital, my kitchen sink was plugged up and water had somehow leaked into my bedroom. I shook my head and wished I was 3 years old again, when my faith was solid. I still don’t know what to believe.