Sometimes I miss being a Christian. I don’t miss Christianity, but I miss being a part of this whole thing. This whole thing that goes on at this school, where I am way out of the loop.
Tonight I went to All-School Communion for the first time in a long time. We have this once a month (it’s not mandatory), where communion is served in the chapel, and there’s worship music and a speaker. It usually lasts about an hour and a half. I stayed for the whole thing, dodging in between spectator and participant. It was strange. I went initially because I missed worship music, but was a bit dismayed to find that after skivving off chapel so much, many of the songs were new.
At times I got really into the music and the atmosphere of the place, and I actually felt like I was one of them. I felt like I actually was a Christian and like I believed what I was singing. That felt good, to tell the truth. For a few moments, I detached myself and thought: it is not that unlikely that I could become a Christian again tonight. I really felt like a Christian; I could just go through the motions and become a part of this community again and will myself into believing that I actually love God. Nobody would be able to tell that I don’t actually believe in God. I might not even be able to tell the difference… But that would make me delusional. So I snapped out of it.
At other times, especially during the breaking of bread and all the prayers and proclamations that go with that, it felt very foreign and ghastly. Like some bloody ritual of sacrifice on a Mayan temple. The ritual of eating the bread and drinking the grape juice itself didn’t seem odd to me, but the words around it and chaplain digging his fingers into the bread to break the loaf, and the flickering candles and wooden cross, seemed so cult-like and barbaric.
Not long ago, I was one of the students serving communion, holding the bread and grape juice and solemn with the privilege of serving my classmates and serving God. At the time I truly saw that as a privilege. I loved it. It’s a good memory.
I’ve been a Christian for a lot of my life, including the most important years thus far. These songs and prayers and rituals are a big part of what my life has been. I try to remember them for memory’s sake, to remember them as I saw them then. I want to count as good memories those that were good to me at the time, and not edit them, for then they wouldn’t be true memories.
This place is full of memories for me. I remember freshman year and our first worship service during orientation week. It was truly amazing, the place was filled with students singing out to God for hours, and even when it was over we didn’t want to leave, we kept singing, until finally those of us that were left gathered for prayer and left reluctantly. I remember thinking that that night was one of the best of my life, that God must have such amazing things in store for me at Wheaton.
I remember the first all-school communion I went to, and one of the songs we sang which we also sang tonight– it reminded me of that day 3 years ago, and people jumping up and down and dancing in the aisles. That’s Wheaton. Those are my memories of Wheaton. It kind of sucks– I wish I had better memories of college– but that’s what my college experience has been. I have to accept it and take those memories as my own.
I was really in love with God. I think I just remembered tonight, vividly, just how much I was a part of this. I spent most of my college years being hopelessly in love with God and being consumed by it, so that even now there’s nothing else that I can talk about with as much passion. When I think about God now there’s nothing there, and it grieves me a little to see my former self so consumed and devoted to something so unimpressive. But it was real to me then, so when I remember, I try to remember as if it were real.
A small part of me wishes that I could have that much passion for something again. Being an atheist makes me at times exhilarated and happy. But you can’t have passion and devotion for nothing. I’m looking now for something to be passionate about, something to fall in love with. I guess I’m so used to that vacancy being filled by God, I don’t know how to have normal passions. It’s hard for such an entrenched Christian to learn how to be a normal person.