I made the NRO video ticker, with this:
My social skills disappeared when my husband was deployed to Iraq, because even casual greetings at church immobilized me. I detested the automatic responses which fall from everyone’s mouths — as if “How are you” is a quarter in the Presbyterian Vending Machine and “fine” is the conversational candy, all dusty and stale. It doesn’t matter if the dog died, the rent check bounced, or the in-laws are staying an extra week, it seemed the only appropriate response was “fine.” And, frankly, I wasn’t.
However, since I could tell the conversations would go no deeper than lyrics to a Mariah Carrey ballad, I lied.
Far worse than casual greetings, however, were the sincere ones. Church members with furrowed brows and low tones of voice, who asked — really, they emphasized — how things were. “Is David in a dangerous place?”
Later, their well-intentioned but overheard questions would reemerge in my children’s dreams. Consequently, “how are you” led to deception either way… whether I answered a reassuring “fine” because the person wanted to hear it or because the kids needed to. I skipped church, but my plan backfired. Within hours, the phone rang off the hook, and I could tell my church friends half-expected to talk me down from a ledge.
“How are you?”
When I worked with youth at a rural Pentecostal church many years ago, we had a “Soul Repo Van” — a dilapidated vehicle we drove to retrieve church-skipping, troubled, teenagers. We showed up on doorsteps of trailers and dragged their hides to church, whether their hides wanted saving or not. A real sense of urgency propelled us — Satan wouldn’t keep our friends from the balm in Gilead. But Presbyterians don’t operate that way — if we skip church, people assume it has less to do with Satan than golf at the country club. Nevertheless, my church-skipping raised eyebrows, because the church vowed to keep an eye on our family in David’s absence.
The next week, I put on my best dress and steeled my nerves. After all, if David could survive a year Iraq, I could survive a Sunday at Zion Presbyterian Church.
Wanna know how the service went? Keep reading…