Going to church was a huge part of my childhood. Several of my closest friends to this day are the friends I made in Sunday School. It was a small church but it was during the baby boom so there were lots of kids there and we all grew up together. One of my earliest memories of Sunday School was also one of my worst moments. The teacher was praising the Lord about something and she was sure that we were all equally filled with the Holy Spirit, when she stopped to ask if any of us would rather be anywhere else than in the presence of God. I promptly raised my hand and announced that I would like to be home watching cartoons. As all the other kids started to slide away from me, to avoid the lightning bolts that were sure to follow, I came to realize that honesty is not always the best policy.
After that I tried my best to behave in Sunday School but it never quite took. By the 6th grade we were no better than the Wild Bunch. In a class of 15 boys and 2 girls we were just barely manageable for the male teachers we had had, but for some reason that year they sent us a young woman. This was one of those times when I really questioned God’s plan. I don’t remember her name because she didn’t last long but I do remember her trying her best to bring us salvation. I’m not sure what finally broke her but she eventually ran out of the room balling her eyes out and never returned to teach us again. Of course our immediate reaction was high fives all around. This lasted for a couple of minutes until my Father and several other large men came to rehabilitate us. Our “Come to Jesus” moment had arrived and we finally got the message.
During junior and senior high we had a very active youth group. We had our own room in the basement of the church and we had a young assistant pastor and his new wife to guide us on our spiritual journey. They lived in a house just down the street from the church and we had an open invitation to visit any time. I don’t know what they were thinking. Every Friday night we took over their lives. I was amazed that they actually seemed to enjoy having us there all the time and it really made me wonder how they got so much faith. That took about a minute till my head started to hurt from too much deep thinking.
They did inspire me to volunteer my services around the church. I even helped out with vacation bible school one summer. I was in charge of getting ice cream for all the kids. I was right up there with Mickey Mouse in there eyes. That went over so well I decided to volunteer to work in the nursery during church one year. My parents were shocked, to say the least, but they agreed. My real motivation was to get out of going to Sunday service. I had no idea how hard it was to manage a room full of 4 year olds. It got so bad I had to resort to scare tactics. One day as they were all bouncing off the walls, I got them together and told then that the next one who misbehaved was going to be flushed down the toilet. To emphasize my point I went into the bathroom, flushed the toilet and made sounds like a little kid drowning. I returned to a room where there was complete silence and somber faces as they tried to figure out who among them had met their fate. Luckily 4 year olds don’t count well. After church every kid ran gleefully to the security of their parents and the adults gave me high praise for doing such a good job. Those poor kids are probably still afraid to go to the bathroom at church.
In retrospect I might have gotten saved sooner if I had gone to church and listened to those sermons. I do remember what Martin Luther had to say, ” The fewer the words, the better the prayer.”
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