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Going to Church from Confessions of a Rule Following, Tax Paying, Church Going Sinner
by Linda Gage 
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Rule Following, Tax Paying, Church going SINNER
‘Going To Church’
How God works in the details of one sinner’s life: This is my ‘going to church’ journey from “it’s the most I can do” to “it’s the least I can do.
The 70’s, that’s where I spent my preteen and teen years; wearing bell bottoms, playing disco music, roller skating, watching drive-in movies and going to church. Church was mandated by my father, though I don’t remember him ever going. In church no one could talk, except the priest. At times I thought he was speaking a different language. No it was not Latin; that was my mom’s era. I followed the pattern of ‘sit, stand and kneel’ like a robot. My favorite part of church was getting to dress up. Back in those days going to church was for some Sundays and holidays. And, oh, how fun those holidays were.
On Easter I would get a pretty new dress sometimes made special by my mom. The service was at sunrise so we had plenty of time for the real fun of Easter. There was an Easter basket full of candy, get-togethers with the family, huge Easter egg hunts with my cousins and lots of food to eat. After the family get-togethers, at home, my little brother and I would continue to hide the eggs for each other over and over. We hid the real eggs; not the plastic ones. One year my mom found one in a book shelf- weeks later- rotten. We laughed. She didn’t.
Christmas was exciting because I would get a new dress and get to stay up late for Midnight Mass. That would have been the hour that Santa was supposed to come. I am not sure I believed in Santa, but I did believe I would get lots of presents. I loved Christmas songs and not just the ones about Santa coming to town. No, I loved the songs about the birth of Baby Jesus. And in 1974 I saw Jesus in the Christmas tree! One evening, I turned the lights in the house off, turned the Christmas tree lights on, blasted the Christmas music and sang until I was out of breath. Then I plopped on the couch and while staring at the lights flickering off the artificial branches of that Christmas tree I saw Him. It was the face of Jesus Christ! If I would have told anyone they may have thought I was crazy, but to me He was very real. That year, as often as I could, I would turn all the room lights off, turn the tree lights on, play the Christmas music, slouch on the couch and stare at Jesus. He was there every time. There was something special about that year.
It was 1977 and I at 15 had to attend mandatory Catholic classes for my confirmation. Classes intended to give me understanding of my ‘confirmation,’ just seemed to raise a lot of questions. Though, I did like getting the new beautiful, white dress with red flowers for the ceremony. On confirmation day I walked down the aisle of the church and made a commitment to something of which I was not sure. (actually to Someone:God- makes me sad to think of this now)
Though I can’t remember the questions that stirred me, they are what led me into my ‘searching year’ at age 16. My best friend was Mormon, so I began to study Mormonism. Once a week we would meet with two elders from her church. They impressed me with their kindness. They would discuss and teach me about Mormonism. In the beginning I would nod in agreement. It was making good sense. But, one day as they were describing Jesus, something happened- something that did not happen in the prior weeks during our study time. Suddenly everything they said sounded ‘dumb;’ for lack of a better word. While they were talking I was thinking, “This is really dumb.” I was no Biblical scholar nor could I form a logical let alone a spiritual rebuttal to their teachings. But at 16, thinking something is ‘dumb’ is enough to get you away from it. I quit the study. Then for one day I explored the Jehovah Witness religion. I asked my mom if I could go to a service with her sister who had converted to Jehovah Witness. My mom had no problems with me going to a different church. I thought it strange that my mom did not object to me ‘scoping out’ (70’s jargon for searching, checking out etc) different religions. With her permission I went, sat next to my aunt and I listened. My first thought was, “This makes no sense at all.” I never attended another service.
My ‘searching other religions’ was short-lived. I believe, God was intervening in my mind to protect me from lies. I was blind but eventually He would open my eyes and heart to the Truth. Now old enough to drive myself, I continued the tradition of going to church on some Sundays and holidays.
In the early 80’s I was living on my own, working and going to college. Going to church was the only god-thing that I did. Oh I still had religion. It was my own religion of ‘Linda being a good girl.’ Going to church fit into that image and it was opportunity for me to dress up. In 1984 Tim and I got married. We came from different ‘going to church’ backgrounds. He was reluctant to go, so I felt I had to be the ‘good one’ and go. When we moved from California to Indiana in 1987 I found a Catholic church to attend. When he did not go I would show him my ‘you should be going too’ attitude. Up to this point my thinking was, ‘going to church was the most I could do for God’ and that’s what I did on some Sundays and holidays.
Everything changed in the 90’s. In 1990 we moved to a new town, I had my first job after graduating from x-ray school and we had our first baby. We did not know anybody and with me starting a new career it was a pleasant surprise when our nice new neighbor offered to baby sit. She and her husband also invited us to attend their church. I wasn’t so sure that I wanted to go to a church other than Catholic. Tim wanted to go because it was not a Catholic church, so we went. I was a very nervous about having a noisy baby in church but Gay (our sitter) took care of that. While she rocked Kassie to sleep in her arms during church, God rocked our lives (mine and Tim’s). This church was different. The people talked to each other in the church! There was no stand-up, sit-down and kneel to worry about messing up. Gay’s family was friends with the pastor. Everyone seemed to be friends with the pastor, his wife and family. He had a wife and kids! How does that happen? Priests did not have families. At age 27, I was very naïve about such things.
It is important to say God does not change. God pursues each one of us. And I believe the entire time I was going through all of these changes He was there pursuing me and my heart; with me at every place and time in my life showing me who He really is, showing me Truth. He brought me to that moment in 1991. In that Wesleyan church, both Tim and I (though, not on the same day) each accepted Jesus Christ as our personal savior. God saved us. It was our rebirth .
I grew up with the education and knowledge that Jesus died on a cross. I saw Him there at the front of the church on some Sundays and holidays. But GOD opened my eyes and heart to see that He did this for me; to save me from my sins, to give me eternal life. He did the same for you. (Jn 3:16) It was overwhelming to me then as it still is today. This was just the beginning of getting to know my personal Savior. In 1991 we moved away from that town. God took us there to that church to bring me to Him.
While moving into our new home the previous owners came to welcome us and invited us to their church. Tim and I, in total agreement (definitely of God) began to attend a small community Bible believing church. Our second child arrived in 1994, which brought on another wave of closeness to our God (a different story)
In the new millennium of the 2000’s… I love to go to church, sing the worship songs very loudly (if no one is right in front of me) and hear what the pastor is teaching. God, speaking through pastors, showed me a gift that He gave me and now I am blessed to be helping with the youth drama team. Through study and devotional time in His Word, He speaks to me, reminding me what He has done for me and telling me what to do (yes, telling me things to do; like write these confessions). Going to church is for every Sunday and especially holidays. I still dress up- sometimes. But, I know that while man looks at the outer appearances God is looking at my heart.

Recently- I still attend church on regular a basis on most Sundays and holidays. I have had to give up going to Bible study class and helping with drama team has been minimized because of work demands. My career is invading and engulfing my time. The pastor has been teaching that church is not just a ‘place to go’ but that the Bible says ‘WE are the church.’ His church (people) will come from any and every denomination. Loving God and loving others is God’s greatest commandment to us. (Mt 23:37-40) As my work demands are increasing to stressful levels, I feel like it becomes the testing grounds to see if I can ‘love others’ well. I fail sometimes; often times. Thus the challenge for me the rule-following sinner is to ‘be the church’ at home, at work all the time, 24/7. I am a work in progress that only God himself can complete. ‘going to church’ is a blessing and is the least I can do to thank and praise God for saving my life. Do you ‘go to church’ or are ‘you the church?’

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Linda Gage  12 Sep 2012


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