As I grew up, I became more and more hopeful that I could go somewhere else to church. Friends would invite me to their youth meetings occasionally. I begged Mom to let me go more often, or to change churches completely, but I wasn’t allowed. I started riding my bike in the evenings, straight to various churches within riding distance. I’d ride around and around their parking lots if there were cars, hoping someone would invite me in. If I was invited, I reasoned, I could call home and Mom would surely say it was OK to stay. I would have been invited, after all. But no one ever invited me.
When I started driving I said with relief “Now I’ll be able to drive to a different church!” Mom responded with clenched teeth that we were committed to going where we were, and we would keep going, as a family. And so I did all I could: I started watching Christian TV and listening to Christian music and imagining that I would fit better with the people who liked those things, imagining a place of belonging for myself. The shows and the music tended to be more Charismatic, and since I’d never been taught how to study the Bible, I swallowed all of it in starving gulps.
And so I looked forward to college, when I’d finally be able to go to a church with people my age, where people actually wanted to go to church, where maybe I’d learn something beyond the Bible stories. Since my parents insisted on a limited selection of colleges for me to seriously consider I ended up in a small town with only a Catholic, Methodist, Disciples, Baptist, and Pentecostal church. I wasn’t interested in Catholic or Methodist, the Disciples church was much like my parents’, and I didn’t know much about Baptist. I ran straight to the Pentecostal church and within a month had embraced it all wholeheartedly.