I sit in the car, yawning after being awoken earlier than any fifteen-year-old would want, going to a place most teenagers wouldn’t want to be at. My interrupted sleep is made worse because I’m stuck with the family. I sit quietly and do not feel in the mood to have conversations. My parents try but I give them one-word answers and soon they stop, making me more uncomfortable with what feels like disappointment.
Can you really blame me for not being excited to go to church? I think to myself. They wouldn’t understand. I’m going to a place where I have no friends, to participate in activities I have no interest in and wearing clothes I never usually wear. When I’m there I always feel a bit anxious. I don’t really want to be there and neither do the people who usually go there. Worst of all, I don’t even know if I believe any of that stuff. I remain silent.
We arrive at church and park a street over. I walk across the busy road with what feels like a million eyes driving past staring at me. I feel like they are looking at me, criticising me, laughing at me. I am even more worried because I dread seeing someone I know. Will they think I’m weird? When I finally get to the church door, I walk in, but nothing soothes my worry. Why do I feel like no one is happy to see me? I receive the customary welcome, barely. The group runs a small “get-to-know-you” activity, but no one gets to know me. No one, I think to myself, would notice if I disappeared. I sit alone in a room full of strangers.
“For now, I’ll put up with it, but mark my words, soon I’ll be gone and I hope I’ll never have to come back.”
The structure of the program is divided into two parts. The first is a group discussion, the second is a worship service. The group leader talks to us about something from the Bible. We all take turns reading the Bible. I fear when it will be my turn and I must read the Bible aloud. The Bible study comes to an end and everyone begins talking to each other. I have a conversation with one other person my age, but he doesn’t seem like the person who wants to hang out with me. He doesn’t. I go downstairs on my own.
I walk into church and find my seat near my family. It’s in the back. Church goes the same every week. We stand. They sing. We sit. They talk. We kneel. They talk. We stand. They sing again. I can’t wait for it to finish. I can’t wait to be old enough to never have to come here again. Sitting on the hard seats makes me wish I could be anywhere else but here. For now, I’ll put up with it, but mark my words soon I’ll be gone and I hope I’ll never have to come back. That thought is a sweet solace for my soul. I know my parents mean well for me and they love coming here. This is just not my thing.
After church finishes, the preacher standing at the door shakes everyone’s hands as they walk out. When it is my turn to be graced by his handshake, the preacher smiles at me and shakes my hand. “Blessings to you” or “God bless you.” The cliche phrases of religious people sound more like, “I don’t care about you” to me. Really, it just doesn’t mean anything to me. Like everything else that has happened that day. It all feels like empty, cold, pointless activities. I’ve driven 30 minutes to a building full of strangers, to talk about a God that seems strange to me, leaving me feel strange as I leave.