An episode of “the shitty” — the drunk sleep that occurs when you go to bed while inebriated and, for whatever reason, wake up far earlier than you would under normal circumstances — last Saturday night woke me at 8:30am, an ungodly hour for an “I aint got shit to do all day” Sunday morning.
Unable to go back to sleep, I remembered that a group of 20 or so guys play pick-up basketball every Sunday morning at a nearby gym, so I got out of bed andÂ decided to go play.
I made it there by 9:15 or so, played a few games, dunked in a game for the first time in maybe 10 months, slightly sprained my ankle while jumping around and screaming like a banshee after celebrating said dunk, and made it back home by 11.
After showering and glancing at the time after getting out of the shower, I thought a thought I hadn’t thought in (at least) a few months:
“Hmm.Â I think I should try to make it to church.”
I got dressed, ran out the door, and made it in time for the 11:45 service.
Now, my reasons for not attending church more often range from lazy (I just never get up early enough to go.) and logistical (I occasionally spend Sunday mornings working on various writing projects.) to practical (My favorite brunch spot stops serving food at 1:30. I usually don’t get out of church until 1:15.) and pragmatic, but the main thing limiting myÂ appearances to one per every three months is the fact that I just don’t feel anything when I go.
I understand that everyone isn’t going to catch the Holy Ghost whenever they attend service, and I also get the fact that even in church, your personal relationship with God — not your connection to the parishioners — is what really matters.
But while I do always enjoy myself when I’m there, I never seem to actually be doing what I’m supposed to be doing. While we’re supposed to be praying, I’m thinking about how many calls and texts I’ve missed since I’ve been there. While we’re supposed to be paying attention to the word, I’m scanning the crowd to spot familiar faces (and thinking some, um “unChristian” things about some of them). While we’re supposed to be standing and singing, I’m wondering if the people behind me notice that it’s been a month since I took the suit I’m wearing to the cleaners.
This isn’t a new development, btw. Even as a child, I was never able to immerse myself into church the same way some of my classmates and family members seemed to. And yes, I realize that a good percentage of that was probably an act — many of the kids were likely just going through the motions to appease their parents and teachers — but I didn’t even care/feel enough to fake it.
Despite all of this, I’m not one of those faux intellectuals who think that they’re just too smart and tooÂ analyticalÂ to be swayed by God, church, and religion in the same way many others are. In fact, my belief in God — and yes, I do believe in God — is from an intellectual perspective.
Basically, I believe in God because theÂ existenceÂ of Earth and the universe (and Stacey Dash) — the evidence of His existence — proves that He is real. I also understand and respect the purpose of religion and church. I’ve just never been able to cultivate the type of spiritual and emotional connection that seems to keep churchgoers “filled.”
I’m also not a church cynic. Both the church I attend when I do go to church and the pastor at that church are the embodiment of what’s good about Black churches. I give (most) churchgoers, even the moreÂ demonstrativeÂ ones, the benefit of the doubt, and I’m definitely not sitting there thinking “Look at these fake-ass motherf*ckers hooting and hollering.” Not only do I believe that they feel the way they act and say they feel, I’m envious of it.
I realize that my issues with church could just be a case of confirmation bias. I know how I’ve felt before while there, so perhaps every time I enter the building now I just assume that things are going to play out the exact same way, and I start to look for things and search for feelings to prove my point.
I discussed this issue with a friend yesterday afternoon, and she thought my inability to connect was a bit deeper than that.
“Your problem is that you expect your relationship with church and God to be easy. It’s not. You have to work at it and want it to be successful. It’s actually like any other relationship with friends or even a romantic partner. Things aren’t just going to magically work. You have to put in the work for it to work, and the basis of this effort is the love you have for your friend. You want things to work because you love them and you know your life is better with them in it. You’re not connecting with church and God the way you think you should be able to because you’re just not trying hard enough to keep a consistentÂ dialogue. As close as I am to my best friend, if I went two years without calling her, we definitely wouldn’t be as close anymore.”
I think she’s right. Perhaps my problem with church is basically just my problem with me, and “going all in” with things.Â I guess it’s just up to me to decide how important it is to change that.
Anyway, people of VSB.com, can anyone relate to my struggles connecting with church and/or religion? For those who are able to make that connection, how were you able to do it?
—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)
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