Wednesday, February 24, 2010

From Confessions to Closets

I have a confession to make: I don’t always pay attention during church.

You can basically boil down the tenets of my faith to two things: God is love and the old do unto others as you would like done unto you plea. But for some reason, some of our preachers feel that twenty minutes on the intricacies of the Gospel are necessary for the flock to hear, despite the fact that there is more than one lolling head in the crowd. As a family, we began sitting up front so that we could sit in rapt attention and avoid distraction. This “front of the church” position resulted in my husband’s continuing embarrassment over one of the nastiest bouts of “church giggles” that had ever befallen me. By the time I excused myself from the pew, tears were rolling down my face and I almost had to be escorted out of the building by one of the ushers, who thought I was overcome with grief over something to do with my then-illness. I didn’t have the heart to tell him—or the courage to reveal—that I was really laughing because the woman behind me was singing off-key and an entirely different song from the one the rest of the congregation was singing. After that, we moved to a side pew, where it was less likely that my giggling and my son’s chattering would be overheard or remarked upon by anyone. Because anyone sitting in a side pew is there for probably the same reason as we are and isn’t there to judge. Jim has found that separating me and our son from the general congregation has its benefits as well as its disadvantages. For me and our son, it just gives us a more private area for our deep discussions. One week, he and I had a discussion on what would happen to his teeth if he continued not brushing on a regular basis, a non-habit that I feared would result in the loss of all of his teeth. He told me that he had two options: 1) he would wear wooden teeth like George Washington or 2) he would wear plastic Vampire teeth for the rest of his life. (He was completely serious, by the way.) Another week, we had a spirited discussion about his science project and the lack of data and/or progress, all the while clapping our hands in time to “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” if not exactly singing all of the words.

So as you can see, I am a worship multi-tasker.

Last week’s homily had put me into a semi-stupor and my mind naturally went to the problem of the lack of closet space in the house. It started out with something like “the space Jesus inhabits in your heart” which took me to “space” and then to “lack of closet space” and then the thought of all of my clothes jammed into a small, under-the-stairs closet that I share with child #1 and her smelly field hockey uniform, cleats, and equipment. It’s closet hell, really, if we’re going to stay with the religious theme.

All of a sudden it hit me. There’s a little alcove in son’s room and it would be the perfect size for my wardrobe and fifty pairs of shoes. I even thought about the little pocketbook/scarf/belt rack that I would hand along one wall to hold my impressive collection of such items. I looked around the church, hoping I could share this revelation (and there’s another one!) with someone and saw my contractor sitting in the back row. Eureka! Using my powers of telepathy, I tried to relate to him that I would be needing an estimate on a new closet as soon as possible, but unfortunately, he had fallen into a deep sleep. With his eyes open. His slack jaw and gently bobbing head were a dead giveaway, though. His wife nudged him awake but he didn’t seem to understand that I was trying to tell him something very important.

I tried to return my attention to the sermon but it was for naught. Thrilled at the thought of my new closet, I kept imagining what it would be like to be able not only to see all of my clothes but to take them out, unwrinkled and not smelling like field hockey sweat.

I caught the tail end of the sermon and it was something to do with love thy neighbor, which I felt I had already accomplished because the love I was showing my contractor by giving him another job was just another notch in my belt of holiness, right?

A Jewish friend, who is also a brilliant architect who we affectionately call “Mike Brady, the architect” as an homage to the Brady Bunch dad, came over yesterday and I took him to show him where I might put the new closet. He was impressed. “Great idea. When did you come up with that?”

I confessed that it was during the homily at church.

He burst out laughing. Although he wouldn’t cop to dreaming up travel itineraries, or reconfiguring the kitchen to be more user-friendly, or even thinking about what his wife was cooking for the break fast during Yom Kippur services, his glee over my worship multi-tasking led me to believe that daydreaming during services is an endeavor not relegated to Christians.

I’ve already made my peace with going to hell, but I’d love some company. What are you thinking about when you’re supposed to be praying about your immortal soul, Stiletto faithful?

Maggie Barbieri


  1. I do remember one incident that happened, not in church, but at the dinner table. It had been a particularly busy day at work and I came home exhausted. We gathered in the dining room and sat down to say a prayer, but what came out of my mouth instead was "Good afternoon, you've reached, Zita. How may I help you?"

  2. Zita: Too funny! Work stress causes you to do funny things. I remember when my daughter was small, I once threw her socks (intended for the hamper) into the garbage. My husband came home and opened the trash can, only to find a tiny pair of pink socks, which he held up to ask, "Did you mean to throw these out?" Ok, I'm going to blame my daydreaming at church on work stress. :-) Maggie

  3. I don't believe in God and I'm not an organized religion kind of gal, though I was taken to church as a child, which many would tell me means "hell" for sure.

    That's okay. To Maggie's question, it seems to me to mean the reverse situation in my life: I often think of things spiritual and soulful while I'm supposed to be cleaning out a closet or am waiting out a red light in town. And, I'll bet I'm not alone. Women: we're always multi-tasking, in all directions.

  4. Vick: Well said (as usual). I've learned more about spirituality in the past 5 years than ever before, both by how people behave and how I think about things. And you're can think about something deep while in the midst of something completely inconsequential. It's weird that way. Maggie

  5. Funny post. I wouldn't dare fall asleep in church--my son-in-law is the pastor.

    My mom, God bless her, was the most pious, God loving woman, but once she got the giggles in church and it was catching, the whole pew began giggling. She was mortified.

    I fight to keep my mind from wandering. It does that often enough everywhere else.

    Vicki, just an aside, I couldn't manage life if I didn't believe in God.


  6. Oh, Marilyn, I know many, many people like you who use their faith to help them do a myriad of good, generous and positive things in life. And, it's because it's their true faith, not just a routine or set of rituals to them, and it's really a part of who they are and strive to be.

    For me, I can't manage life if I'm lying about what I do or don't have faith in. Lying in general ruins lots of things. This would be hard for me in part because of all the people of faith I know and love, and really by lying I feel that I'd be disrespecting them and what they feel. I'd be pretending about and there-by trivializing something they carry in their hearts and heads. I just can't do it. We all believe different things, but we are all very good people. That's a truth I love knowing.

    On the plus side for me, life goes just fine over here in the land of the atheists! Go figure.

  7. I confess that as a tween/teen, you could often find me sitting in the pew reading a novel during church. On my family's really bad days, we would sneak out during the service under the pretense we were going to use the restroom. My mom would have the three of us (my mom, brother and I) leave one at a time so as not to make it so obvious.

    I actually was quite spiritual during those years, but preferred to convene with God in my own way. We'd often have long conversations (I did all the talking, of course) while I sat in the dark at the window in my bedroom late into the night. And I did quite a bit of volunteer work.

    It has been awhile since I last went to church. My beliefs and ideas about faith and spirituality are ever changing. I imagine my mind would wander and I'd be multi-tasking just the way yours have during the service. I sometimes find that happening during meetings at work.

  8. Ah, reminds me of my youth. My sister and I even circled "naughty" words in the publication we studied during the service. But now I'm Catholic and I love how Mass is so focused on Christ and the homily is so short - lol!

  9. Kathy: I don't know what Catholic church you go to, but at ours, 25 minutes is the norm for some homilies. But it's Lent, so I'm going to try turn over a new leaf. Maggie

  10. Maggie, can we get a photo of that closet once it's done? I must see how heavenly it turns out considering the divine inspiration! ;-)


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  12. Loved your post Maggie. It rings a lot of "bells".