I grew up in the Catholic faith, a church that BrightSide and I spent a number of years attending after we married. About six years ago we decided it was time for a change. This was a pretty big decision in and of itself but we were responsible for our little people, too, so we needed to make that decision carefully. Thus began the Holy Roller Tour of 2010.
We were open to visiting a variety of denominations, though that tour title might be a wee bit misleading since there were a few places we already knew wouldn’t be a good fit. We visited a handful of churches of different denominations over several months, eventually joining one we felt would help our family grow in faith.
We’ve landed in a great place filled with wonderful people, but one thing was glaringly apparent from Day One: I am seriously lacking in Sunday School skills.
The Catholic church has an equivalent to Sunday School for children, but once you’ve been confirmed that’s pretty much it. Unless you’re proactive about forming your own study group (which we enjoyed doing with some friends for a few years), completing confirmation signaled the end of your formal church education.
This brought about some interesting conversations with BrightSide when we first started dating. Frankly, the whole Sunday School thing was just a little foreign to me. It was hard to wrap my brain around grownups spending an hour in a church classroom every week. To be fair, there’s a lot more things that raise eyebrows in Catholicism than one extra measly hour at church: its rituals, the Vatican, Mary’s place in the faith, and then there’s the whole saint thing…
So it shouldn’t have been that hard to dive into Sunday School with an open mind. And it wasn’t, as far as relationships go. In such a large church it was really nice to have a small group of adults – mostly people whose kids were around the same age as our own – to get to know better. It made walking into a huge sanctuary feel a little, well, cozier. Everyone likes seeing a familiar face in a crowd.
Then there are weeks when Sunday School bears a remarkable resemblance to my high school chemistry class – each word is clearly recognizable as English, certain phrases even make sense. But as a whole? It’s like I’m seventeen again, breaking into a cold sweat because I have absolutely no idea what’s going on. And I’m certain that I should.
Take the bible. Now there’s something pretty central to the Christian religion, so how could that possibly be tripping me up? Simple. I don’t know it. “How could that be?” you ask. “You’ve been going to church for forty plus years, how could you not know the bible?” Huh. That’s a great question.
I know lots of bible stories. And prayers – I learned a lot of prayers as a child, ones I can still recite to this day. But actually finding things in the bible? I just don’t remember having a lot of practice at this growing up. So when someone says “Turn to (any book other than Genesis or Revelations)” I get just a little bit panicky inside because the bible is a really big book. I’m lucky if I recognize whether we’re talking New or Old Testament, and that’s pretty much all I’ve got going for me.
Which means I’m flipping through the pages, scanning the top of each for my target word, while people all around me simply open their bibles and find the right place in a few moments. Really? I mean, memorizing the order of books in the Bible just isn’t something I ever got around to, and would it have killed them to add a table of contents?! I should probably put my own in with a Post-It note just to alleviate the stress.
Often we’ll have teachers come in for a certain number of weeks to lead a series. Many of these classes are incredibly engaging, but if you get a really interactive leader it comes with a certain amount of risk. You see, just like I can’t locate books quickly in the bible, I also don’t have a great knowledge base of people in the bible. I mean, I’ve got the main ones down and I do okay with some of the slightly less well-known people, but stray too far from basic bible knowledge and I’m at a loss. “And who was Cain’s first son?” I’ll be the one with my head down in the corner, thank you very much.
But you want to talk about the perfect storm? That’s when the gentleman who teaches the bible based on historical context comes to visit. He pulls out giant flip maps – ones that show Jerusalem and the surrounding regions as they existed in biblical times – and will cross-reference them as he talks about biblical history. BrightSide loves learning from this guy.
Pardon the expression but Sweet Jesus Up Above! This is my kryptonite. History, geography, and bible-based knowledge, all in one class. I know I’m there to learn, but the weeks when these areas collide are the ones I feel like the D- student hiding in the back row.
So I guess Sunday School is a lot like high school for me. There are certain classes where I feel like I can pull my own weight, but there are an awful lot of others that fall outside my sphere of innate interests. Sometimes that turns into an uncomfortable feeling, like I’m sitting for a pop quiz on a chapter I haven’t read…much like chemistry. Or calculus. Or history. (I’m not really making a great impression here, am I?)
Oh well. Sunday School might not be in my wheelhouse but they haven’t kicked me out yet.