Sunday, September 28, 2014

Lizzy's Holy Toilet-Papering Incident

I took Lizzy to church today, something I do from time to time in an existential quest for purpose and meaning. I have been on the lookout for this mysterious “meaning” for a while now and at this point I’m open to almost anything – well, not completely open, but there’s a crack in the door and I’ve been tip-toeing around.

When I texted John I was taking Lizzy to church, he texted back, “You can’t go to church. God knows you don’t believe and he’s mad at you” – this from a man who had the word “Lost” tattooed on his forearm.

“You have outdated information,” I texted back feeling annoyed. If I am able to evolve with my changing beliefs and opinions, discarding the ones that no longer make sense and adapting to the new ones that do, why can’t anyone else? What do they care? Even if it doesn’t make sense to them, what difference does it make? It’s the chatter in MY head that I’m trying to calm the hell down, not theirs.

“Besides, you’ve got it all wrong,” I replied. “God isn’t mad at me. I’m not that important. I do however get the distinct impression the universe is laughing at me.” I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I sense…something.

I didn’t bother elaborating further. We speak different languages and it is futile trying to bridge the gap with explanations he isn’t equipped to understand. His mind is closed. I can appreciate why he keeps his closed mind, however. I’ve left my own so open that my brain temporarily fell out and it’s a scary, unanchored place to be. Still, once the jar’s been opened it can’t easily be resealed even after you’ve screwed the lid back on.  

When I screwed my own lid back on, I found my cynical belief in nothing no longer rang true and I was pulled to the nearest church – that great fishing net of men or in this case a solitary woman. I wasn’t completely unfamiliar with those houses of worship, mind you, so it wasn’t that far-fetched that I would find my way back to one, even temporarily. It didn’t take a clairvoyant, genius, psychopath or "highly functioning sociopath" to have guessed that one. Any uncreative degenerate with a scrambled moral compass, poor attention span and questionable intelligence lurking in the cyber shadows, masturbating to a copy of Hacking for Dummies, like the slimy nocturnal animal he obviously must be could have predicted that one. I’m not impressed. Fuck you.

Lizzy isn’t impressed, either – at least not with me or with this church business. She does not suffer from doubt and doesn’t see why she has to sit through the excruciating boredom of a service just because I’m having issues. She is seven and her belief in not only God, but the tooth fairy, Santa, the Shelf Elf and Edgar the Easter Bunny is unwavering.

Last Easter during the height of my identity crisis I tried to come clean about Edgar. I told her and DJ that Edgar was an imaginary Easter bunny, one I had made up for the sake of amusement and to create a sense of magic, as well as a way to give them "outside" advice they might accept more readily than had it come directly from me. 

This "advice" was delivered to them in the form of a hand-written, personalized letter from Edgar  in handwriting that looked suspiciously like my own. The letter always ended with the reminder to always, always remember the most important thing. If you ask any of my kids (including the adult one) what that most important thing is they will, often begrudgingly, tell you "always listen to mom". 

But as far as my coming clean with the mythology behind Edgar or any of the other mythical characters they've been led to believe are real, Lizzy would have none of it and all my family, believers and non-believers alike, were appalled I would speak such blasphemy.  Edgar was real and that was that.

Even so, Lizzy is not thrilled about going to church. It is wholly unnecessary as far as she's concerned. Faith isn't a problem for her so why should she have to waste her time when there are so many other things she could be doing?

There was little point in attempting to explain to her young, as yet uncorrupted mind, that there may come a day when she too finds herself lost in the dark seas of this world, not even realizing she's lost until the moment she's violently woken up, choking and gasping for air. 

She too may find that as she tries to make sense of what's going on in the midst of this alien whirlpool of chaos and confusion, she may need to reach back into the memory of her childhood experiences, to the Sunday school lessons, the basics, for a spiritual life-saver, a beacon, a sign  any sort of crumb to guide her out of the darkness and towards the light and hopefully the ultimate relief of solid ground.

Unencumbered herself by the damage of a tormented past, Lizzy is adamant no such holy confusion will ever befall her. She studies me with a shrewdness of eye whenever I try to convince her to go to church with me, eventually determining I'm not just yanking her chain and interrupts to say "you're so weird". But she is a pastry enthusiast and an artist and there’s usually cake, crayons and admiration with its concomitant ego boost at church, so for those reasons alone she’ll reluctantly tolerate a service now and then. Whatever gets you there.

On this particular Sunday I took Lizzy to a church we'd never been to before. One of my ever persistent and perceptive aunts, Doris, (Christians have been trying to save my lost soul my entire life) recognized my resistance to religion was weakening and took the opportunity to talk me into attending her church (she finds the Lutheran pastor "too preachy" which is perplexing – I mean, isn't that what he's supposed to do??). 

Despite my weakening resolve, she knew she'd still have to pique my curiosity with something novel to get me to her church. She therefore told me there would be an interesting guest preacher that Sunday from a prophetic ministry in Vancouver. Her name was Alice. She was a petite Chinese lady with a colorful life, who had immigrated to Canada 17 years previously. Alice was purported to have visions, as well as the gift of healing. With my curiosity thus piqued, I bribed Lizzy into coming and the two of us met Doris at her church.

As promised, Alice indeed did not disappoint my curiosity and appease my love of absurdity. She referred to God as “Papa” and herself as his “dear one”. She claimed this “Papa” spoke to her in a dream and told her she was needed in our northern community. There was evil here and the population desperately needed a message of hope. She relayed a vision she'd had of white snow turning red from a river of blood – the blood, she said, of the sacrificial Lamb. She interpreted this to mean she was called to spread the good news that God knew about us up here in the demonic rain and cursed muskeg and was sending Alice to help us out.

Things were officially getting weird. I could feel Lizzy's eyes burning into the side of my head.

When we were initially introduced to Alice she seemed to have a sweet, deferential disposition with an exuberant love of the Gospels, but she wasn't overly bizarre about it from the gate, so my skeptic hackles were not immediately on alert. She seemed genuine, almost child-like (although definitely not like a no-nonsense Lizzy child), in her earnestness.

Even though the churches I was most familiar with were the Lutheran and Baptist churches, I knew being Pentecostal, at this relatimight eventually be tongues, spontaneous "hallelujahs!" and some "healings" involving olive oil, full immersion baptisms and maybe even an exorcism or two, but until Alice came along as someone who was raised I hadn’t witnessed anything particularly odd, which was, to be perfectly honest, a little disappointing since I’m an absurdist above all else and anything odd pleases my perversity.

However, with Alice things were about to change. As soon as she and the weirdness really got going, her initial polite deference gave way to an at first alarming, (she could have hurt herself) fierce zealousness that rather than stoke the spirit within, put my inherent skepticism on edge. She raved on for quite some time about dragons, but it wasn’t clear if these dragons were a symbol of glory and power and thus a good thing, or an evil omen of death and destruction and thus a bad thing.

Her rambling, dramatic speech, which rose and fell in volume, in addition to her wild gesticulations made her quite something to behold and a little hard to follow. When she finally left the dragons behind, she went on to a personal tale about drinking milk and eating chocolate chip cookies while sitting on Papa’s lap. 

In any other environment, Alice most definitely would be considered certifiable.

Then there was something about how certain African tribes give babies a string of sometimes up to 10 names based on what’s going on around them, such as war, famine or drought. She suggested this was a terrible burden to have to start life off with – all that negative meaning loaded onto one little babe.

This then segued into her first actual biblical reference, as well as what would later be known as Lizzy’s Great Toilet-Papering incident of 2014. Alice directed us to the story of Lazarus and how it could be likened to that of the name-burdened African babies. But first Alice would need an assistant – a prop – to illustrate her point.

Lizzy was to be that prop.

Lizzy was not happy with this turn of events AT ALL. She didn’t even want to be there in the first place. But Alice insisted Lizzy, who is usually obedient to any authority other than mine, come to the front. So with incredible reluctance, Lizzy did as Alice asked. She awkwardly stood up there with an uncomfortable smirk on her face in between casting looks of hateful scorn in my amused direction.

Alice, oblivious to Lizzy’s discomfort, asked someone to bring her a roll of toilet paper. I don’t know why she wasn’t prepared with the toilet paper. A look of horror flashed across Lizzy’s face at the words “toilet paper”. That horror increased when Alice started wrapping Lizzy in said toilet paper, from her neck all the way down to her ankles.

Then with Lizzy standing there mummified in toilet paper, Alice proceeded to rant at a fever pitch about Lazarus being raised from the dead, freed by Christ from his earthy tomb and unraveled of his burden of sin, much like she was unraveling the toilet paper from Lizzy at that moment.

Once she was done, Lizzy was free to join me in the pew where I sat in suppressed laughter. With gritted teeth, she hissed at me, “There better be cake!”

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