Yesterday, I tried to create a new page to talk about the church and what it means to me.
Unfortunately, it did not work for reasons unknown to me, so rather than continuing to frustrate myself - and my editor, I plan to write as if it might print and when it doesn't, at least I'll have a copy to share with others. So, here goes...
I grew up in the church. I was a little over three years old when my sister was born, in the outskirts of Cleveland, OH. We have moved there from Toledo because of a job change for my father and it was the onset of the what we know today as the "Great Depression". To help my mother, her mother came down from her home in Yale, MI, to help and later, it was decided that she could take me home with her to the farm where there would be plenty to eat and I would have acres on which to play. They even bought me a dog ("Tippy") to be my companion in case I got lonely for my own family.
My grand parents were church folk. They lived on a two mile stretch of gravel road, at the end of which was Cole A.M.E. church and that is where you would find us on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings for prayer services. Sunday School for the kids was held in the basement and as best that I can remember, we had the same teacher until we went to high school. Then, we had our own class in the sanctuary - as long a we were not too loud. My favorite memory of church was my grandfather snoring in the middle of the Pastor's sermons. I hardly recall the Wednesday evening services.
The Sunday morning habit lasted for years, through seven years in the USAF, my college years, and would continue through two marriages. I liked being in the church, it gave me a sense of being good, because I assumed that all of the others were good. I was married twice in church and my four children were all baptized in the church. I was almost 45 years of age when I realized, all of those years - in church, were not helping as I came to the conclusion that since the mother of our children had committed two Federal crimes of stealing from neighbor's mail boxes, there must be something wrong with me as well. She was in prison for an evaluation when I decided it was time for me to get help for myself.
The church had not helped. Perhaps, it was me because before my second marriage, I would learn that some in the church we attended had failed to tell me all that they knew about my bride. However, by that time she was pregnant and I was not going to leave her. Later on, I sought counselling after the first incident and I would discover, the counselor had no experience in dealing with marital problems.
So, I asked a reputable Christian I had known of for years and his office scheduled a date. It meant travelling out of State and I became uncomfortable with the fact I had so very little knowledge of the Bible, so I decided to take a "cram" course as I was travelling on a bus to my appointment. About the only thing I knew for sure was that Jesus could be found in the "red" letters and I decided to start where He started, at Matthew 4:17 where He says, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Repent! Repent? I had no idea as to what meant - even after attending church for so many years.
I started mulling that word over in my mind as we raced along and then I realized, I was no longer thinking about that word and I began thinking about my mother and my grandfather and the arguments they used to have about the cost of my care. I had to have been very young as I could vividly recall crying and heading for my favorite rock that was hidden away from the house so that nobody could see me. The arguments continued over the years and I also became angry because my extremely beautiful mother would bring her "suiters" up to the farm and spend time with them and not me. Little did I realize that those tiny seeds of resentment would later become "mighty oaks" of unrighteousness. It was true. I would join the Air Force, be sent to Japan and my tour eventually extended to include involvement in the Korean war and I never heard of any concern for my life and well-being.
I began to realize that I had reasons to repent and with tears streaming down my face, I begged to be forgiven. And then they stopped. I became fixed on the side window. It was raining and as the bus roared on through the night, it seemed as though the wind was "rolling up" the road dirt and cleaning the window. All of a sudden, I recalled something I had in church - about Jesus saying our sins had been rolled away. I have yet to find a verse that proclaims that but I didn't need a verse. I began to believe, really believe.