Enter me, age 8.

Hymns, hymns, hymns. That word tickles my nose. They’re just a jumble of ancient words that are supposed to be “worshipful.” What does “worshipful” even mean? I’m falling asleep just trying to keep up with the balding hymn leader. This song just said the word “hell!” Is it okay to say that in church? “Ox and ass before him bow…” Well that’s a weird mental picture. Thee? Thy? Thou? Did these song writers have a lisp? I guess I should sing the rest of the song with a lisp, since that’s how it’s written.

Age 10.

Grandma’s church smells like old people… and now a bunch of people are raising their hands during the singing… this is weird. It just isn’t done in our church. Well, at least we aren’t singing hymns. These are the songs I hear on the radio. What are they doing? Are they trying to get closer to God? Isn’t that what the people who built the Tower of Babel were trying to do? I hope God doesn’t confuse their languages. It seems to be doing something to them… Maybe I’ll try it.

This feels weird. I kinda like it. I feel like I’m in school and God has to call on me to give an answer. I do like this. I don’t know why, but I feel… better. Like I actually care about the words I’m singing. I feel like I can connect better with God doing this. Yep. Why am I crying? I feel overwhelmed. With what? I’m not sure. But I feel like it’s okay. Maybe I’ll try this later. This just isn’t done in my church.

Age 13.

I don’t like raising my hands in my home church. I feel like I am being stared at. I want to… really badly. I just feel like I’m making a scene, and that people think I’m just showing off because I worship differently than everyone else. Is that a thing? Different styles of worship? Raising hands just isn’t done in my church, and I guess I have to conform to how they want everyone to worship. Oh well.

Why don’t I feel connected with God like I did at grandma’s church? I just feel like I’m spitting words out. I feel like I’m sleep talking, unconscious and mumbling phrases that mean nothing to me. I want to wake up and say how I really feel. I don’t feel anything from this. I really want to raise my hands and feel something.

Well, now the service is over. I wish I could get a group together so I can tell them how much I’m struggling and ask for advice. But that just isn’t done. Everyone at our church must be perfect, or at least act like it when they’re here. I feel like I will be judged for anything I do that doesn’t conform to how they do things. I feel trapped.

Age 15.

I don’t know what to do. I want to tell people how I feel about church. But that just isn’t done. I wish I could even tell my parents, but my dad’s an elder… He’d kill me. I wish I could just walk up to him and say “I have a different way of worshiping than the rest of our church and I don’t know what to do, there’s more than one way to worship, it’s okay to struggle and it’s okay to ask for help, and church should be a place for people to be open and honest, and especially for people to get help in their spiritual lives. You just shoved a Bible at me and said ‘read it.’ Well, that doesn’t help me. I need to experience God, not just read about him. I need relevant help from mentors who are open books, not basic lessons from whatever the Ephesians were going through.” But that just isn’t done.

I get that people might need to hear from what Paul has to say, but I am in need of a totally different kind of help. My entire church experience does nothing for me. I feel like I’m in the wrong church entirely. But I can’t tell anyone that. They’ll hate me. Worse, they’ll probably blame my parents. I can’t do that to them. I have to get out of here.

But that just isn’t done.