The lifeless air hung around my neck like an old scarf in the cold. Drowsy eyes of toddlers bundled in layers of coats with their Sunday best underneath, walked sluggishly in the path of their parents. I smelled burning wax from a tired flame as I walked through the decorated glass doors. Rows of Christmas trees lined the entryway, along with the desperate eyes of Salvation Army volunteers. The familiar taste of copper materialized on my tongue while peering into a parted sea of unfamiliar faces. Already, I regretted saying “yes” to her invitation, I knew I didn’t belong here. We pushed our way through the packed congregation and entered the Grand Hall. A stout woman with thin gray hair and liver spots covering her withered hands offered me a program, welcoming me to church.
I grabbed a previously lit candle and walked silently into the resonant hall, catching echoes from conversations around me. My thoughts collided in my head, jumbling my senses into a blur. But one in particular stained itself into my brain, “What if...what if the words from the book don’t make me believe in Him? What if the scripture is another book of words with no meaning to me? Why don’t I have...faith?” I studied hard at the program in front of me, searching for answers that weren’t there. Peering into the crowd, I watched a young woman near me nervously spin her silver banded purity ring. She stood aimlessly among the crowd of people that accompanied her. I pondered the thought that she too, might have doubts, but quickly pushed them aside as the silvery lights died before us.
The man with the microphone spoke the gospels, emphasizing every consonant as if the words stung in his mouth. He cued for the band to play and they sang their words with grace encased in a hollow shell. I gazed at the innocents, their lips curving perfectly to the lyrics “This is amazing grace, this is unfailing love,” while their arms slowly reached for the place that they call Heaven. The place we all strive to reach, a Nirvana for believers. My body remained still through the devoted worship, but myheart beat faster than the audience’s applause. I felt my eyes swell with the tears I was reluctant to shed, promptly swiping them away from my reddened cheeks. It hurt me, all of it did. I wanted to be like every other person in that audience, moved by His words, praising the scripture. I couldn’t believe the way they did, but I desperately wanted to. I couldn’t change myself, even if it was for the better.
That night I walked into that revered structure with a heart of unbeknownst fear, stalking me throughout the halls, singing to me with guitars, crying to me in His words. But I left with a soul no man, no song, no book could ever teach me. Behind the glass doors, I left