Welcome to a series of stories that basically make up my autobiography. It’s not entirely thorough, but I’ll do the best I can with the memories locked away inside my head. Could be therapeutic for me. Could be humorous for you. Either way, enjoy…
Previously on Life Story… I got ahead of myself in jumping up to first grade. But that’s okay, because I was misbehaving there. Keep reading and you’ll see a little more of my personal misbehavior.
Church has always been a very big part of my life. I was raised in a Baptist church. In high school we changed churches, but it was Baptist as well. During college I explored other options, but going to a Baptist college kept me close to that tradition.
Until my senior year of high school, I went with my family to Villa Heights Baptist Church. As a kid, the church was located in this ancient building in what had become a crumbling Roanoke neighborhood. I began my church experience as many kids do, with Sunday School and Children’s Church. It’s all very alliterative. While Sunday School would remain a constant throughout my adolescence, I quickly outgrew Children’s Church.By the age of four, the teachers in the Children’s Church were asking my parents to do something else with me. Apparently I was a difficult child. I don’t think I was to the point of sticking my tongue out or turning desks over, but I was asking the tough questions. You know, like, “Who was Cain’s wife?” “What was Noah’s last name?” “What are boils?” Things of that nature.
So Dad gave me a chance. It was time for me to see if I could handle going to Big Church. This was a huge thing. I would be sitting by myself at the age of four. Probably a mistake to let a kid that young be left to his own devices during a church service. There’s only so much scribbling on offertory envelopes that one can do. Why would a four-year-old be sitting alone in church? I’m glad you asked. Mom and Dad were both in the choir. And, at that point in our church’s history, the choir sang every Sunday and stayed in the choir loft for the entire service. Looking back, I kind of felt sorry for those choir members. They were wearing heavy robes and a room that wasn’t always that well ventilated. Falling asleep during particularly boring sermons could be embarrassing when you’ve got an entire congregation staring at you. So, anyway, I sat in the third pew on the organ side. Remember, this was a very traditional, conservative Baptist church. This meant that the first few rows in each section of pews were empty. Everyone knows the best Baptists sit in the back.
So there I was, alone in the third pew, with not even a stranger to shush me if I so much as breathed wrong. I was minding my own business, not really paying attention because, I’m sorry, do you really expect a four-year-old kid to pay attention to a 25 minute speech in an age without PowerPoint? Suddenly, I was jerked out of my seat by my Dad. There he was in his full choir regalia and yanked me into the little room behind the organist. “If you ever do anything like that again, you’ll be in Children’s Church until you’re in college!”
What’d I do?Okay, I’m not so innocent. I was lying down on the pew. With my arms up in the air. I was pretty much just being a kid who was left alone in church. Did that really deserve exile? I put the blame for this one on my parents. Look, just because I’m asking mature questions in Children’s Church doesn’t mean I’m mature enough to handle sitting quietly for over an hour in the church sanctuary. What kid under the age of 12 could really be expected to handle that without supervision?
I spent the rest of that day miserable in Children’s Church. I was angry at myself for disappointing Dad. He had placed a lot of trust in me and I felt like I shattered that. But, like I said, what can you expect from a four-year-old? Especially in a church where sneezing during the worship would be considered blasphemy.
The next week I was back in Big Church. But this time I was sitting in the balcony with my grandparents. Why wasn’t that an option the first time?
And yes, I realize this story is slightly out of order. It just didn’t occur to me to tell church stories, but that’s ridiculous. I have so many church stories to share. And church has always played such a pivotal role in shaping the person I’ve become, for better or worse. So I figure there will be more later.