Friday, November 6, 2009

In The Beginning...

It is no small escape of the imagination that I didn't have a lot of Christian influence in my early years in life. I grew up in a small town in New Jersey called Burlington and attended the Tabernacle Baptist Church as far back as I could remember. Unlike churches today, Tabernacle was born in the community and served it and it's members for many years. Much like me, the church has grown and though I have grown away from organized religion, Tabernacle still remains a pillar in the community in Burlington. But, this is not about the church. Well maybe not intently.

I remember as a small child, sleeping in my grandmother's arms as the service drew through it's highs and lows. The sound of the pastor's booming voice would both soothe and awaken me. Not knowing what the words being spoken at the time meant, yet I would feel a sense of peace and strength in them. I would bask in the glow and warmth of environment that the church provided. As a child, I would often stare upon the smoothly plastered walls painted a faded pink or peer through the stained glass windows emblazoned with the names of the founding church members and short bible verses. The original sanctuary has long been demolished and was replaced several year ago by a brand new multipurpose center. Another sign of the church's growth and expansion over the years.

Like the church, the years have expanded it and it has grow. Now taking up most Second Street, it is no longer the a small community church. I have expanded a bit myself but that was a result of my going beyond the community I grew up in. So, why do I reference this humble beginning in my life? Like this once place I called my Christian home, I have grown beyond it's borders and beyond the basic concepts I once learned about from the bible. Let just say like Luke Skywalker discovering the Force, I too have discovered a power even deeper within my being.

Say it be some sort of logic or intuition, I see people now for what they are. At this point in my life, if I call you a friend, it really means something. Up until recent, I had lived a very reclusive life. Very few friends if any. I avoided family or even occasional contact with anyone. Not because I was made to, I was unwary of people's intent in my life. I did not want any close associations because I didn't want to be hurt or hurt anyone. Seriously, I was hurting myself more.

I refused this self imposed hermitage of so many years and started reaching out to people. Some embraced my friendship yet some drew away. I am thankful for both. Family members I either never knew about or only saw on that occasional family reunion trip, I now communicate with them as though I have been with them all my life. I wish I could explain what happened or why but I just asked myself; Self, why are you so lonely? You have hundreds of people who want to be your friend yet you disregard them. You have family who want to know what you are doing. Why don't you just get out there and first be a friend to yourself. So I did.

So, how does this all come together? The church thing, my early childhood, friends and family? I realized that like the walls of the church, they would have been lonely without that stained glass. The names etched into them where the names of friends and family who had been instrumental in the foundation of that church. Without them, they were just as lonely and empty as I had been for a good part of my adult life. The rich tapestry of family members and friends of that church allowed it to grow. I felt a bit of warmth not from the physical but from the love that was the church. Even looking at it now, it still remains the pillar but it is much stronger, wiser, friendlier. Like me. So I say to you my new friends, be that pillar, that strength, that warmth, that friend.