“Chin up, have fun, and learn bunches!” My mom would always say to me while closing the car door. I can do this, I would keep telling myself. Smile! Learn more about our savior, and when 8:30 would come, I could leave feeling more complete. Walking up the steps into the church, I struggled to keep my positive attitude.Three months into the confirmation process and the ride seemed way bumpier than anticipated. Opening the door I could hear Christian music and began walking to the main room in the basement where class would start. The room looked the same since I was four. It was plain with white walls, had a musty smell, and a big cross hung at the front of the room. Leaning against the wall, I looked at the front of the room. An old wrinkly sheet with the projector in front of it, with a title across the top in big black letters “Anti-contraception walk this past weekend.”
Standing there I remember back to the end of August. Being sat down at the kitchen table, “Time to sign up for confirmation classes!” The smile on my parents faces could be seen from a mile away.Their parents had been confirmed, their grandparents, siblings, cousins, and a majority of my family had decided to continue in the Catholic faith. There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to do it. Getting stronger in my faith was something I needed to do to be more connected with myself. The year prior I wasn’t going to church due to other conflicts, so I was excited to start the process again. Passing me a long packet, they pointed out to me exactly where to sign. Butterflies of excitement could be felt in my stomach and it felt as though I was going to fall out of my chair. Swiftly I signed and that giddy feeling lasted all of August, until classes began.
“Anti-contraception walk this past weekend” stared me down at the top of the screen. I could hear the bell ringing in my ears, meaning class was about to start. Like always a short prayer was held at the start of class before we discussed the images on the screen. Praying was something that was always “necessary” with reading a few verses from the bible to follow. I always seemed to interpret the bible in a different way from my peers. Sitting on the floor looking at the images, I remember this being about the fifth time this year we’ve talked about birth control. Each time the floor grew cold, my smile drained, and I realized how much I wanted to be anywhere but there. Repeatedly the instructors would describe it as a sin, and doing something like this was completely unacceptable. Before when these “chats” happened I would go home that night telling my parents how I didn’t agree. “No matter where you go to church, you aren’t going to agree with everything” was always their response so I continued going to classes. The bell rang again meaning it was time to break into our individual rooms with our grade.
A scratched record repeated over and over again in my head, smile, learn lots, as I walked with my classmates to our room. The white walled classroom had the same musty smell, and a long white folding table sat in the middle surrounded by several brown folding chairs. Our teacher said, “Today’s theme will be how faith is being broken in society.” Passing around pens from his brown bag, he then handed us paper. With a smile he told us to write ways faith was being broken, then afterwards we would have a discussion. Well this would be easy, in big proud letters I wrote, “People aren’t loving one another. God would love and accept everyone with their flaws and call them beautiful.” The paper felt good in my hand. Writing it on the page didn’t take any thought it just flowed from brain to my pen. I got the same tingly excited feeling I got in August, and the discussion portion seemed to take forever to come.
When he felt ready, our teacher asked us to share. Quickly I raised my hand and read what was on my paper. My teacher responded, “Good. That is an interesting way to look at it. Anyone else want to share?” Scanning the room for a few moments nobody raised their hands as quickly as I did, or even raised their hands at all. With nobody’s hand up our teacher openly stated his opinion. “One example of faith being broken in society is when the supreme court passed the law on gay marriage. People who believe they are gay are just defying God, and wanting to be different. Other examples are when lawmakers pass laws expanding reproductive rights. God would not want this, and people who believe and support these things are sinners.”
My face grew hot, and under the table my fists clenched so hard they turned white. This was being said to me at church. Church, a place where we would learn about someone who would accept us, and be love us under any circumstances. A sanctuary where everyone belonged. I could handle the small things here and there, but that comment pushed me over the edge. Outraged with the rudeness in my teacher's comment I can remember bursting out with a laugh. Laughing at the thought that he knew exactly what God would want. My head began racing in thoughts, and I was drowning in all the things I wanted to say. “Is there something you would like to share with the class Emma?” Politely I said no and watched the clock not saying a single thing the rest of class. My face was left hot, my fists were left white, my stomach knots grew tighter and tighter until it felt as though I was going to be sick. Never before did twenty minutes tick by so slow.
When class was over I hopped in the car, and instantly bursted into tears. That night I talked with my parents about how I couldn’t go back there, how I should have said one of the comments swirling in my head. In that moment I knew being confirmed in the Catholic Church wasn’t for me. I wanted to be confirmed because that is what everyone did in my family. My parents vivid smiles as I signed up for classes was why I wanted it. Them being proud of me, their little girl being good and holy, that’s what I wanted. That was the last night I went to church school. Occasionally I am still forced to go to church on Sunday’s but that was the compromise. My parents have been so kind with the whole situation, and the love I didn’t find in the church, they continually give to me at home.
Going into this journey I thought I was going to find myself through faith, and I did in a different way. It wasn’t through the church, but a determined part of myself came to the surface that I never knew existed. The whole experience wanted me to stand up for what I believed in, and confirmed even more that my beliefs are very different from the church. A church should be filled with love and acceptance, and writing “People aren’t loving one another. God would love and accept everyone with their flaws and call them beautiful,” helped me learn that God would still love me even if I decided not to get confirmed. Now I finally understand what finding yourself in the church means; confirming what my heart and mind believe.