by Katrina J. Daroff
A soggy leaf smacked across my face, leaving a trail of dirt on my cheek. I would have to wash my face a second time when I reached church.The wind had already given me the message that this particular Sunday was meant for staying in bed and threatening anyone who came near; it was simply trying to drive the point home.
The student pastor bounced through the door greeting me. “I expect to see smiling faces on Sundays,” he bubbled.
I stared at him for a second, my eyebrows involuntarily scrunching. Discarding the more wrathful replies that came to mind, I growled “then go to Burger King,” and stepped around him.
I had no interest in playing the “life as a Christian is always wonderful” game. That is a game I never mastered. I grew up pushing deviled eggs at people during church potlucks and knowing all the right answers in Sunday school but failed to learn all the rules to the game of church. I trained and was groomed from a young age to be a professional at the game, perhaps even an All Star or Hall-of-Famer; had some things gone differently, I might have been one of the best. Instead I grew up to be the former potential Olympian who gave up all of their family’s hard work because they did not want to be a gymnast. People look at me and shake their heads, wondering where I went wrong.
I know I went wrong when I pulled back the curtain and discovered that the game was rigged. It was all fake, and there’s nothing I hate more than having to act like I feel happy when I don’t.
The student pastor stammered for a moment before he went back to greeting people. Halfway through worship he stepped up to the microphone to make announcements. “Is every one glad they came to church this morning?” The congregation answered in the usual way; a small chorus shouted yes and a barbershop quartet cheered.
“No,” I called from the third row. I turned to the person beside me, “well, I was not going to lie in church.” The pastor shot me a look but was a big enough person to pretend I was not causing trouble. In a small congregation like that one, you learn not to give troublemakers any attention.
I wanted to be real at church. I was not happy I was there that day, and I knew for a fact that half the people who smiled and happily responded were not either. Even if I was not on Facebook and Twitter, I make a point of knowing a little bit about what is going on in people’s lives. Pastors always talk about being real with each other and not pretending that we are not struggling with things.
I realized the third time the student pastor approached me about my sour disposition that being real at church is nothing more than a lovely theory. It is something that sounds nice when spoken in a southern drawl from the top of a pedestal. The student pastor, flanked by a church elder, folded his arms and would not let me leave after service. “Katie,” he said, “you really ought to be kinder to your fellow Christians, or at least try not to interrupt the service like that. Some people in the congregation are going through some very hard times and need church to be a place of joy and caring.”
I blinked in total disbelief and pushed past him. “I’m doing just fine. Thank you for asking.”
Katrina J. Daroff graduated with a bachelor’s in Creative Writing from Whitworth University in May 2012. Since then she has worked full time as a professional dragon slayer and part time as a vagrant and doing in-home Elder Care (Elder Care is not Katie’s chosen field or skill set but God does not always let us work in our strengths). She keeps up her writing through her blog HotStrongAndTotallySteamed and scribbling notes and stories into many composition notebooks.