*This post sounds very complaining, but I didn't mean it that way.
It was apparent from the first that this was a completely different proposition from what we were used to. For one, this church was enormous, and completely lacking in stained glass, vestments, or incense (we also never had Communion in all the years we attended- which were few, but still. Was it a once-a-decade thing? Maybe only at weddings and funerals?).
The children also appeared to have been raised differently, much like my new elementary classmates, which was soon made apparent to myself and my older brother, Petrovich. We belonged to a family of six kids, were low-income, and did things like paint walls with dandelions and drink from the garden hose. It also transpired that my appetite was rather larger than the other girls'- or the boys', for that matter. In the third grade, it became something of a carnival attraction to scoot your little plastic chair over and watch Grace eat her lunch, followed by, "Wow, she eats so fast". Naturally, I thought there must be something terribly wrong with me because I ate more and faster than the others, so I stopped bringing my lunch to school, and merely ate more food when I got home, which wasn't the most brilliant idea I ever had. It was then that it really began to sink in that we did not fit into the cookie-cutter family mold of Riverdance and the school (which will henceforth be referred to as CMS for brevity and protection's sake- I sure hope that isn't the abbreviation of a rare disease; if it is, my sincere apologies). From my speed-eating trauma onward, it became more and more obvious to me that we were weirding everybody out. What I had thought was normal behavior wasn't actually acceptable behavior, and what I had believed happened in every home was actually what people called 'unstable' and 'neglectful' and 'abusive'. Thankfully, I had very close friends whom I loved, so getting through school was easier than getting through church.
Church was confusing. Where was the reverence? Where was the tradition? Some of the things we were taught in Sunday school didn't make much sense at all to me. Would God really have a computer? If we were supposed to read our Bibles everyday, wouldn't it make sense to actually hear the Bible at church? I wasn't convinced.
On top of this, we were expected to be extroverts. We had to participate in numerous group discussions in Sunday school- meaning we all had to talk about our private lives- and were made to feel guilty or abnormal for not sharing; actually going into deep subjects, or pursuing a further knowledge of any given spiritual topic, was not encouraged; we were also not told about advancing in holiness, the focus being more on hopefully avoiding breaking the Ten Commandments while swaying meaningfully to catchy music. Emotion was the guiding factor, and how unfeeling it was to not cry or be in ecstasies! Having a few close friends as opposed to myriads of less-close ones, or studying on one's own, was practically unheard of. At CMS, quiet-time was actually a punishment, as was having individual desks in rows rather than pods of desks facing each other.
It was this feeling of nonacceptance, of being the weird one, because I was quiet and didn't swallow everything the Sunday school director fed me, that I felt like a bad Christian. I wasn't comfortable crying- I didn't see much to cry about, frankly. Did that mean I wasn't as good a Christian as the next person? I liked having my own desk, so obviously I was a bad student, antisocial, and too shy for life, which would greatly impair my future (or so I was told). I went out of my way to participate in class discussion, raising my hand for almost every non-mathematical question asked, and talking incessantly to escape being branded as shy and weak. As the years went by, I not only became more introverted, but my conviction that I could not be a good Christian while being me deepened. Pretending to be emotional when I wasn't was terribly exhausting, but even more was the less-intense version of the Prosperity Gospel taught in school and church. I wasn't happy all the time. I was depressed. My family members were depressed. Therefore, we were failing as Christians, but it was all good at the most basic level because we were 'saved'; not by virtue of Baptism, striving for holiness, or even Faith, but because I signed a small slip of paper saying that Jesus was in my heart.
Yup, I was in a fine state of theological confusion. So I did what I did best: ignored my nagging terror of going to Hell, the things going on at my home that weren't acceptable, and my call to something deeper, because I was sure that I was a bad Christian and beyond rescue from the Slough of Despond.
So, we stopped going to Riverdance, beginning our second period of churchlessness. At which point will theological stability finally be found? And was this a commercial for Susan Cain? Stay tuned for when it gets really complicated ("Perfect, yeah, thank you, 'cause I'm weirded out already") ...