applespice: it is a sparkly fairy ([girls] shy)
The time for Easter dresses is long past - since I stopped going to church six years ago, there didn't really seem a point. So instead of a frothy little frock in springtime pastels, I slide into spangled black tights, a just-enough-above-the-knee-to-raise-an-eyebrow-or-two red silk skirt, and a snug black cardigan. The choice of colors seems a rebellion against the entire concept of Easter service, but truthfully I just look better in dark shades. Anyway, as I've already been convicted of godless heathenry in the court of public opinion, I might as well look the part.

My parents have, for the most part, taken my withdrawal from the church admirably. In the early days there was the expected gnashing of teeth and well-intentioned guilt tripping, but after a few years of that didn't send me running back to long denim skirts and long, split-ended hair, they gave up and started down the slow road to acceptance. Still, there are certain things on which they just won't budge - Christmas, Easter, and Mother's Day services among them. So here I am, 8 AM on a beautiful Sunday morning, thinking longingly of my bed as I begin the drive out to the 'burbs.

Pulling up under the cheerful marquee marking the First Pentecostal Church ("Come join our church family!") brings on a kaleidoscopic whirl of memories, marking everything from my status as church celebrity to my secret decline into "worldly ways." I remember captaining the Bible Quiz team the year we won first place at the state competition; the way the congregation stretched out their hands in blessing to us as we quoted Bible verses from the pulpit. I remember pulling my non-parental-approved boyfriend into an empty Sunday School classroom and kissing him heatedly as the sound of hymns rose around us, my body tight with desire and fear. I remember storming out of yet another classroom, weeping furiously at judgment laid down upon me by my teachers, all because I chose to cut my hair.

My mother is waiting for me in her usual pew, near the back of the sanctuary on the right-hand side. My father, an usher, will be in the foyer, directing latecomers to empty seats. Women flit from pew to pew, unwilling to sit and wrinkle their new linen suits, the feathers on their elaborate hats swaying in time with their stride. The youth group has a reserved section at the front - here and there I spot a surly-faced sloucher determinedly ignoring the brightly-colored bustle of the room.

My entrance is marked. It's been long enough that many of the faces here are unrecognizable to me, but the old mainstays make a beeline in my direction. Some I'm pleased to see - my old Bible Quiz coaches with their adorable sons (chubby-cheeked cherubs with perfect blond ringlets), a few friends from my own youth group days, and even the pastor, an energetic man of 5'3" who always greets me with a compliment and an enormous smile. Others, unfortunately, I'm not so pleased about. The Sunday School teachers who told me that cutting my hair was unfaithful to Christ, smiling guiltily. The gossips who spread rumors about me in my absence, all dutifully reported to me by my younger sister. These are here to get an eyeful of my latest getup, to greet with a smile and turn away with a laugh.

As the tide of people ebbs away, leaving me in relieved peace, my mother beams in my direction. Isn't it nice, her smile says, how much everyone loves you here? Wouldn't you like to come back?

It is a trap laid with with tenderest hand and the best of intentions - the trap of love and friendship and acceptance. It would be easy to fall back into this life. The church would happily forgive me for all of my sins, and I could easily find a place among them once more. I could probably even marry a preacher - always my mother's deepest desire for me. My place in Heaven would be assured (at least in my parents' eyes) and everyone could rest easily knowing that I was in compliance with God's plan.

But I turn away at the last moment, my feet missing the trap by inches. This world isn't mine anymore. I would never belong. I would be an instigator, a rebel, a thorn in the side. I don't believe. I can't believe. And so after these two hours have passed, after I have stood for the hymns and the word, after I have smiled and hugged and said goodbye, I will return to my apartment, my jeans, my Sunday afternoon. I will return to my real life.
applespice: it is a sparkly fairy ([girls] shy)
The time for Easter dresses is long past - since I stopped going to church six years ago, there didn't really seem a point. So instead of a frothy little frock in springtime pastels, I slide into spangled black tights, a just-enough-above-the-knee-to-raise-an-eyebrow-or-two red silk skirt, and a snug black cardigan. The choice of colors seems a rebellion against the entire concept of Easter service, but truthfully I just look better in dark shades. Anyway, as I've already been convicted of godless heathenry in the court of public opinion, I might as well look the part.

My parents have, for the most part, taken my withdrawal from the church admirably. In the early days there was the expected gnashing of teeth and well-intentioned guilt tripping, but after a few years of that didn't send me running back to long denim skirts and long, split-ended hair, they gave up and started down the slow road to acceptance. Still, there are certain things on which they just won't budge - Christmas, Easter, and Mother's Day services among them. So here I am, 8 AM on a beautiful Sunday morning, thinking longingly of my bed as I begin the drive out to the 'burbs.

Pulling up under the cheerful marquee marking the First Pentecostal Church ("Come join our church family!") brings on a kaleidoscopic whirl of memories, marking everything from my status as church celebrity to my secret decline into "worldly ways." I remember captaining the Bible Quiz team the year we won first place at the state competition; the way the congregation stretched out their hands in blessing to us as we quoted Bible verses from the pulpit. I remember pulling my non-parental-approved boyfriend into an empty Sunday School classroom and kissing him heatedly as the sound of hymns rose around us, my body tight with desire and fear. I remember storming out of yet another classroom, weeping furiously at judgment laid down upon me by my teachers, all because I chose to cut my hair.

My mother is waiting for me in her usual pew, near the back of the sanctuary on the right-hand side. My father, an usher, will be in the foyer, directing latecomers to empty seats. Women flit from pew to pew, unwilling to sit and wrinkle their new linen suits, the feathers on their elaborate hats swaying in time with their stride. The youth group has a reserved section at the front - here and there I spot a surly-faced sloucher determinedly ignoring the brightly-colored bustle of the room.

My entrance is marked. It's been long enough that many of the faces here are unrecognizable to me, but the old mainstays make a beeline in my direction. Some I'm pleased to see - my old Bible Quiz coaches with their adorable sons (chubby-cheeked cherubs with perfect blond ringlets), a few friends from my own youth group days, and even the pastor, an energetic man of 5'3" who always greets me with a compliment and an enormous smile. Others, unfortunately, I'm not so pleased about. The Sunday School teachers who told me that cutting my hair was unfaithful to Christ, smiling guiltily. The gossips who spread rumors about me in my absence, all dutifully reported to me by my younger sister. These are here to get an eyeful of my latest getup, to greet with a smile and turn away with a laugh.

As the tide of people ebbs away, leaving me in relieved peace, my mother beams in my direction. Isn't it nice, her smile says, how much everyone loves you here? Wouldn't you like to come back?

It is a trap laid with with tenderest hand and the best of intentions - the trap of love and friendship and acceptance. It would be easy to fall back into this life. The church would happily forgive me for all of my sins, and I could easily find a place among them once more. I could probably even marry a preacher - always my mother's deepest desire for me. My place in Heaven would be assured (at least in my parents' eyes) and everyone could rest easily knowing that I was in compliance with God's plan.

But I turn away at the last moment, my feet missing the trap by inches. This world isn't mine anymore. I would never belong. I would be an instigator, a rebel, a thorn in the side. I don't believe. I can't believe. And so after these two hours have passed, after I have stood for the hymns and the word, after I have smiled and hugged and said goodbye, I will return to my apartment, my jeans, my Sunday afternoon. I will return to my real life.

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