One Sunday my family drove to Baltimore for a dedication service for our sister church – which was finally trading their old storefront space for a custom-built megachurch.
The service was an all-day affair with hours of choral performances – fire-and-brimstone sermons and spontaneous bursts of prophecies – worship songs and altar calls.
The Spirit was running thick.
My right temple began to throb and the sanctuary started to feel less like a temple and more like a cage.
A refrain echoed and buzzed in my head: None of this is true.
I looked around and saw all those beaten-down mechanics and plumbers and carpenters – their wives shushing their babies – everyone trying to live like their lot was enough.
They didn’t seem particularly blessed by God but still they tucked envelopes stuffed with cash into the offering plate and passed out quarters to their children so no one would be empty-handed when the deacons passed the offering plate.
Everyone came to church hoping for a lift only to slump hours later when that charged feeling faded.
I stood up and slipped past the worshippers – slowly making my way to the ladies’ room – where I sat on the toilet fully clothed and held my face in my hands.
It had been in a bathroom just like this that I had first felt the Spirit coming to me.
When I received my prayer language it felt like proof the Holy Spirit had X-rayed my life from up in heaven and called it good.
It was my key to the kingdom – my guarantee that when the seventh trumpet sounded and Jesus returned in a cloud of glory I’d be summoned up to meet the faithful.
But now four years later I was ready to turn that key in.
It had become too heavy.
If I kept carrying it around then I couldn’t pick up anything else.
So I sat there in the bathroom at that church in Baltimore and whispered to God that I was bowing out.
To soften the blow and make it less terrifying I told God I was taking a sabbatical from believing.
I’d probably be back but for now I needed to go off on my own.
I dug a ballpoint pen out of my white patent leather purse and scribbled a note on a torn scrap of paper.