Facing Goliath

“I cannot go in these,” David said to Saul, “Because I am not used to them.”
—1 Samuel 17347px-Osmar_Schindler_David_und_Goliath

Sunday, 5:00 p.m., Nov. 9, 2008: My girlfriend at the time, AJ, and I attended worship service at House of Mercy, then on St. Paul’s Snelling Avenue.

The previous weekend she’d talked me into returning to regular church services after the death of my father that September.

I was reluctant. It’d been a long time since I’d crossed the threshold of a Protestant church.

“I still think I’d like to do that,” I wrote in the journal. “The commonsensical approach [AJ] takes to emotions and spirituality is really appealing to me. I’ve never met a woman like her. I’m learning a lot and guess it stands to reason that a 48-year-old numbskull like me isn’t going to change overnight…”

Well, we attended services at House of Mercy throughout that Christmas season.

It resonated with me as in days of old: holding hands with my high school girlfriend Kim during Sunday services at our hometown’s Methodist church.

Sitting next to a loved one in a house of worship brought to the surface powerful feelings, both good and bad.

***

There was a time, however, when Sunday was The Day of Dread.

Facing Goliath 1Roused from bed and forced to wash up, dress up and pile into the family car to make it to church in time—it was always a hassle, whether the grandparents were with us or not.

I recall a lot of sharp words, Dad’s scowling face, Mom applying lipstick at the last moment, baby brother absently picking his nose, and me wanting nothing more than to stay at home, head buried in a comic book.

Then there was the sitting. And the standing. Then the sitting. The choir, singing. A prayer, the Gloria Patri, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer. And that torture of torture to a young person—the sermon.

As a boy at my maternal grandparents’ United Methodist Church, in Greensburg, Ind. (above left), I was fascinated by the lone red light above the altar. “Dad,” I whispered. “What is that?

“That’s the flame of the Holy Spirit, son.”

Holy Spirit, Holy Ghost … man, why did this all have to be so creepy?

Years later, after we’d moved to Minnesota, I questioned Dad during service at the evangelical church in Navarre. Behind the altar was a tall, realistic-looking wooden crucifix. “That cross—d’you suppose it’s similar to the one Jesus was crucified on?”

I’ll never forget what he said.

“No, son. That was made with hate. This was made with love.”

Again, spooooooooky.

***

After AJ and I broke up in the spring of 2009, I attended House of Mercy one last time.

It was Sunday, June 14. Pastor Russell had asked the previous Sunday if I’d read the liturgy, a passage from Samuel I about David and Goliath.

AJ had left on an international trip, so I was attending the service without her. It felt strange, like missing a limb or something.

Since the beginning of that month I was sliding into a depressive episode that plunged deeper while I was at work on Friday, June 5. I was so shaky and lacking in sleep that my boss told me to go home and take care of myself. The journal tells the rest of the story:

“When I got back to my car, I was awash in tears and anguish. I prayed to my parents, to God, to explain why … why we couldn’t be together. I never felt so ripped up … I had to almost pull the car over, but I made it home … I slept a lot that Friday, cried, slept, and felt I was sinking.”

Eventually I got out of bed. It was the Sunday I was supposed to read the liturgy. I really didn’t want to. Since the service began at 5 p.m., I finally mustered the energy to go.

“I was nervous,” the journal states. “Pastor Russell and I talked before the service” about the breakup and my current mental state. “I said I’d go ahead with it. I decided to take it slowly. Really read the text. Think about what it said to me.”

“[Saul] put a coat of armor on [David] and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them.

‘I cannot go in these,’ he said to Saul, ‘because I am not used to them.’ So he took them off.”

Goliath 2Young David took up his sling, as he used to do as a shepherd, along with five smooth stones from a nearby brook.

Then he went forth to face the giant, Goliath.

“I brought water up with me and didn’t particularly feel nervous because I was so numb from sleeping and being depressed. But the text lifted me up. I felt David’s power and confidence. It was restoring.”

I couldn’t go back to my old way of being.

I was moving into unfamiliar territory.

“I miss my folks, Mom and Dad. I miss AJ. I miss my friends. It has been very isolating and strange lately. My old friends seem weird and disconnected and half the time I don’t know what they’re talking about, nor do I care about what they’re interested in.

Maybe I’m changing. Or not enough.

[Top image: Osmar Schindler David und Goliath”. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org%5D

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~ by completelyinthedark on December 12, 2014.

One Response to “Facing Goliath”

  1. Reblogged this on Completely in the Dark and commented:

    Brief midsummer hiatus after that massive 5-part post, then all-new posts again starting Aug. 7. Stay cool, cats!

    Like

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