Year of Sundays

Year of Sundays

Full-On Faith

It’s been almost a year since the inspiration for this blog began with a trip to the First A.M.E. Zion Church in North Portland. It was a predominantly black church in a predominantly black neighborhood and what I wrote about it ended up being our most controversial post to date. To this day, it’s also the post I am most proud of. The post I go back and read whenever I need to rekindle that inspiration. (In fact, I’d encourage you to go back and read it yourself.)

This week Joel and I thought it fitting to head back to North Portland where we started and visit a Full Gospel Church called Emmanuel Temple. Ironically, when I put on my red dress on Sunday, I went to church in search of all the things I’d found at the Zion church: grit, vulnerability, love, God, and a renewed ability to let go of my fears, but instead, I got everything I THOUGHT I wanted a year ago:


I had my mouth watered for audaciously be-feathered hats, jerry curl, purple pin-striped suits and the kind of fire and brimstone that would make my grandmother weep for my poor, deranged soul. I wanted to feel under-dressed and over-analyzed.

Emmanuel Temple was pretty much the opposite of what I needed this week.

I got escorted to my seat by a twiggy tween usher wearing white satin gloves.

I got assaulted by the shouting/crying/singing/hallelujahing of a woman speaking in tongues. Into a microphone.

I got a five-year old daughter with eyes as big as saucers.

I got two organs, neither of which had any pipes attached to them.

I got an organ player who reminded me of Stevie Wonder because he never once looked down at the keys of his Hammond.


I got asked if there was a witness in the house. (There was. I was sitting right next to her.)

I got asked to clap for the deacon (when I really just wanted to clap for his shoes).

I got a sermon that focused not on fears or love or helping others, but on how important it is to pay God first (and by “God,” the preacher clearly meant the church and all its bills, bills, bills).

I got a preacher with a monogrammed sweat towel.

I got a piercing headache right above my right ear. (Thanks Zoloft!)

I got the feeling the house drummer has the best gig in show business.

I got bored by the two-hour sermon.


But I also got a choir so loud and magnificent that when I closed my eyes, I could feel their voices banging around and echoing off the walls where my heart used to be.

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What I didn’t get was faith.

It’s no secret that I’ve been struggling lately. Of course, since I am now and have always been a non-believer, I’m not talking about my faith in God. Not at all. Like always, I’m talking about Joel and me. I’m talking about how hard it is for me to actually trust him to love me. Forget God, I can’t even have faith in a man who I can see and touch and smell and kiss. A man who tells me he loves me every day in words and kindness and perseverance. And maybe it’s because I’ve always been an atheist that the concept is so damn difficult for me to grok, but things haven’t gotten any easier since I wrote my last post.


In fact, I think it’s been the hardest few days of our relationship yet. I’ve been trying – TRYING – to flip off some invisible switch in me that doubts everything and feels unworthy. So yesterday I woke up and made a decision: today is the day. I’m starting fresh. I’m going to live in a universe where I believe that Joel loves me.

But I couldn’t do it.

We had a truly lovely day together, which I promptly ruined by starting an argument that turned into a sobbing, screaming emotional slugfest that lasted into the wee hours of the morning.

All because I’m terrified. What if I put my trust and faith in Joel and he ends up not returning it? What if he breaks my heart? I’m so fragile right now that losing him feels like it would break me into a million pieces.


It’s been almost exactly a year since I told Joel I loved him for the first time. Back then I didn’t even care if he loved me back. In fact, it took him a week to say it back to me. I was that fearless. I was willing to take the risk. Willing to throw my heart off a cliff. Apparently this year has taken its toll on me because I’m not that fearless girl anymore. I keep accusing Joel of being the one who changed, but it’s been me all along.

I’ve become a coward.

I’m not sure what any of this has to do with going to church, except maybe it’s the place so many people go to find themselves. Emmanuel Temple didn’t do it for me (although if it had been two hours of choir and twenty minutes of sermon instead of the opposite, I’d surely be a believer), but I’m going to keep going to church. I’m going to find some faith, but more importantly, I’m going to find that girl I was when we started this blog a year ago. That bitch has my heart and I want it back.

Can I get an amen?

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posted January 29, 2012 at 12:40 pm

I had a great comment and lost it. rats.

Anyway, what Heidi said there works just fine.

Love isn’t some frozen never-changing state that is just there and never alters. Like everything else, it moves and changes – you can’t just freeze things at some hypothetical perfect moment. You have to live, like everybody else, in a state of constant variability – you do understand, surely, that this is your own issue, and not Joel’s? You have to address YOUR ‘issue’ with love before you can engage the issue between yourself and some other person. ‘If you don’t love yourself’ (or forgive yourself for being human, whatever)’how can you love another?’ eh?

Hugs again ((((Amanda))) because you need them.

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posted January 28, 2012 at 1:02 am

Sounds like you need to take a trip to the Bridge.

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posted January 27, 2012 at 11:50 am

Amen! I think your feelings about your relationship with Joel mirror a lot of feelings people have in terms of a relationship with God.

“All because I’m terrified. What if I put my trust and faith in Joel and he ends up not returning it? What if he breaks my heart? I’m so fragile right now that losing him feels like it would break me into a million pieces.”

Substitute “God” for Joel and you have it. What if He/he does? You deal with it at the time. The danger comes from letting our fears about “what if” compromise our Now… maybe it’s back to the Buddhists for a touch-up.

And know, dear girl, that you are loved. As previous posters have mentioned, you can best tap into this power by loving yourself.

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Amanda P. Westmont

posted January 27, 2012 at 1:04 am

You’ve basically just repeated back to me exactly what Joel keeps saying: just act with the belief that he loves me.

After last night, this is what I’m doing.

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posted January 26, 2012 at 11:19 pm

The risk you take by not trusting in Joel and just BELIEVING him when he says he loves you is that it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy if you don’t. You don’t know for sure that he won’t leave you if you choose to trust him. He might. Anything is possible.

But if you don’t tackle your fear and your insecurity head-on and accept the PROOF of his love, which it sounds like he’s trying to offer you in both words and actions, you WILL lose him. Think about it… If the shoe were on the other foot and you were the steady, loving, unshakable one and he responded to you with such rabid doubt, you would eventually have to withdrawal out of self-preservation.

The real question is not, “What if this love ends? What if I lose him?” it’s “How good could can I let this get between us? How happy can I dare to let myself be?” Take gentle care. Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end. When you’re going through Hell, KEEP GOING.

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posted January 26, 2012 at 10:59 pm

Sweetie, you’re breaking your own heart now, at least as much as Joel could ever break it whatever he did. Love is a risk. The purest form of love isn’t shaken if love is not returned.

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posted January 26, 2012 at 10:09 pm

I know how hard it is to avoid the evil temptation of gravitating towards a self-fulfilled prophesy….sometimes it’s a good idea to simply “fake it’–this is totally different than a generalized pattern of avoiding your feelings. We like to think that our feelings determine our behaviors, but it is often the reverse–our behaviors can determine our feelings. Act with the belief that Joel loves you. What if Joel couldn’t trust you –if there was nothing you could do to prove that you loved him? It is exhausting to prove love.
You frequently say that you don’t believe in God. But it sounds like you very much want to. And you definitely want to trust that Joel will love you. Can you think of things to do that would affirm belief. Can you pray?–I know you doubt/don’t believe, but can you step out in faith and just do it. Can you do/say things that affirm to Joel that you will trust the things he says and the pattern of behavior that he has shown you. Fight the fear that nothing is out there for you. Don’t yield to the terror that you will lose your greatest hopes. Choose to act in faith.

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Amanda Mae

posted January 26, 2012 at 7:57 pm

I think you’re awesome!
And I have total faith that you’ll get there. Regardless of your faith in yourself.

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posted January 26, 2012 at 7:42 pm

Geez, I swear there are times when you reach into my head and write what you find. Let me know what else you find in there.

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posted January 26, 2012 at 7:32 pm

Amen! ‘If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?’

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