This morning I went to church by myself. It may not sound like much to most readers, but it's a big deal for me. I dislike going to church alone almost as much as I dislike going to the dentist. . . and yet I long to go to church. For many years, I faithfully went alone, but then two things happened: my good friend Betty retired as organist. She had always kept me involved in the life of the church, finding tickets for me to sell in the lobby, sign-ups to do, committees to join, even projects to head. I used to say whatever came up, she'd say, "Judy will do it." About the same time, the minister I'd worked with left, all the people seemed to change, and I didn't have the base I'd had at the church. If I weren't single, would I have gone ahead and forged new connections, like my friends Jean and Jim who recently joined the church? I don't know. I do know that's what I should have done.
But the second thing is that my old phobia, a fear of being alone in open spaces (called agoraphobia), came back to haunt me. I lost my balance--or more accurately, my confidence in my balance. Curbs and steps without railings stymied me; so did parking lots. For a while, I really curtailed my travels and avoided telling friends. Slowly, I foiund that good friends accepted and stood ready to help. I began to force myself to do things, to take that step I didn't think I could. I carried a walking stick or a cane, to the puzzlement of many. I even discovered that I could use valet parking at church and not have to walk across the parking lot. But going back to church was hard, and I could usually find some piddling at home to avoid it. We could get really Freudian here and go back to my childhood and being forced to attend church, but I won't go there.
Then Jacob began to spend many Saturday nights with me, and I wanted him to grow up in the church. I regret with all my heart that my children didn't grow up in the church. After a first disastrous experience, where the day-care worked scared the daylights out of Jacob and set him to screaming and begging me to take him home, I waited months, tried again (with his mom this time), and he loved it. He thinks church is fun, though last week when I gave him his choice between playing and going to church with me, he chose church. I suppose next year, I'll have to get him going in time for Sunday school, and then I'll begin going to that again too.
My church has an interim minister. I've never gotten to know him, because of my spotty attendance record, but his sermons are wonderful. He's leaving in something like two weeks, and I didn't want to miss his sermon. LIstening on the radio didn't seem enough. Plus in my ongoing determination to overcome this phobia, doing things I should but would rather not is part of the program. This morning I decided I didn't really have to go, and then I drew mysellf up short and asked, "Are you going to be afraid all your life?" I made a bargain with myself: if I went to church, I didn't have to ride my exercise bike today.
I went to church. Not sure if God knows he won the bargain or not, but I was glad to be there. Sat with an acquaintance, greeted many people I know and like, got a hug from a special friend. I'll go again . And maybe ride the bike too.
Sorry, folks, I can neither explain nor fix the font change. It doesn't show up in draft, but when I publish the postk there it is. Thank you, Blogger!