I don’t know if anyone’s ever done this, but last Sunday I ripped off my shirt, pounded my chest and yelled out, “Let’s all get naked and party!” And everyone in church looked at me like I was nuts. That’s a joke, folks. (Seriously, God, that’s a joke.) The last thing I would ever do is defile the house of the Lord. I already have enough strikes against me as I continue my push for a good seat in the afterlife.
Most jokes have an element of truth, however, and it is true that I went to church on Sunday. I try to make it to Mass once a week. (I would like to tell you it’s because I’m such a good person, but if I did, I would just be adding the sin of lying to my confession next week.) Some might think, after learning of my rigorous Catholic upbringing, that I’d be turned off by church by now. Such isn’t the case. In fact, I like it. I used to be the kid pretending to be asleep on Sunday morning, just hoping my parents were too hung over to drag the family into the pews. All too often, my parents would grab us kids away from the television, kicking and screaming, to bring us to the House of the Lord. What was wrong with our house? We had cartoons on!
But as I got older, I realized Shaggy and Scooby Doo aren’t the ones who would get me into heaven.
Church is somewhat like exercise; you have to fight human laziness to get yourself to go, but afterward—just as after a workout—you feel good. Maybe the constant sitting, standing and kneeling helps sweat out our toxic sins. Church is also a great place to put us humans in our place. I don’t trust people and I don’t think God does either—hence, the Ten Commandments.
For one hour a week I am reminded that there is someone greater than me. It’s not that I think I’m great, but I do tend to focus on myself quite a bit. Let’s face it, I’m not praying for my neighbor’s bills to get paid. I’m worried about me! My narcissism is a big part of why I attend church. It gives me a chance to stop thinking about little ol’ me and look at the bigger picture—to set my selfish desires aside and realize that all “this” isn’t just about me.
Church also helps put life into perspective. It’s there that I learn about all the biblical characters who thought that their way was better than God’s way, only to find out that God knows a little more than anybody. And whatever you do, don’t piss Him off (i.e., that Great Flood thing).
Church (or, for the Jewish, Temple) gives me some quiet time with God. I get to confront Him about the things that happened to me during the week. God, why did I spill bleach on my new jeans? Are these chest pains I’m feeling normal? Why didn’t my car start Wednesday? Sometimes I get an answer. “Oh, the mechanic’s kid’s in the hospital and he needs money.” Well, for what I paid him, the punk must’ve needed a liver transplant.
Another good thing about going to Mass is that I get fed a little something while I pray. A small wafer really hits the spot. The best thing about it, though, is that it symbolizes the body of Christ—so after I eat it I have the strength of six elephants plus two giraffes. It may also contain fiber, which is an added health benefit.
Church is typically that place where people go when they need something from the Almighty, not when they want to thank the Lord for what they have. I guess we feel God hears better in there. Either that, or we figure He might be more willing to help us if He sees we’re making some kind of effort for ourselves. I’ve noticed that when things are good in our lives, it’s rare that God sees us in church. In God’s eyes, we’re pretty much what-have-you-done-for-me-lately type of people.
A great reason I go to church is that I need to be reminded of things. I seem to conveniently forget not to get angry, lie, worry and covet. It slips my mind that we are supposed to forgive and love one another. Boy, what a pain that is. Each week the priest is up on the altar reminding us of all these little, important things that I just couldn’t squeeze in. As he talks, I say to myself, “Oh yeah, that’s right, I’m not supposed to look at a girl and think that,” or “Maybe I should’ve pulled that guy out of the burning car.” It’s tough having to confront what a scumbag I’ve been, but as with most anything else, I won’t do something I’m not reminded to do. Yes, I know, nobody wants to be told how to act or behave, but we might actually want to become a better people, however painful that might be.
We all talk about needing to get away for a vacation, a massage, or simply a little “me” time. But, for whatever reason, we never lump church into the doing-somethingfor-me category. We never think of it as a healthy getaway. In many minds it’s a burden, something we’re supposed to do. But remember, kids, when life is getting you down, you can always escape to Godville. And when you’re feeling blue and worldly burdens are taking their toll, you can always go into His house and He will put you at ease by saying something like, “Don’t worry, my child, you’ll be dead soon.”
Every week I leave God’s sanctuary with a big smile on my face and feeling good, with a renewed strength to take on the next week’s problems. Say what you want about church, but I’ll guarantee you one little visit will make you feel better about yourself. So instead of dropping 20 bucks on some romantic comedy movie with a lame actress, drop 20 into the collection basket. Because God will reward you and Jennifer Aniston won’t. And the best part is, bill collectors can’t get you in there.
Most of all, church reinforces wisdom. Do unto others, don’t sleep around, quit getting drunk, and forgive that lousy spouse—all tidbits that lead to a better life. Because it’s a dogma-eat-dogma world out there, folks. Sometimes life can really suck, and often we are all given various trials to overcome. If a little church time can help us deal with our dilemmas, then why not go enjoy some quiet time with God? He’s a good therapist. Not to mention, the big guy’s free. And when everyone else is walking around stressed out, pissed off and full of that postal rage, maybe you’ll lovingly give them a tip on that little secret getaway that magically takes away your troubles for an hour and strengthens you for a week. The Holy Disneyland. I’m telling you, there’s just something about church that lets you know everything is going to be okay. It’s…heavenly.