Like far too many of us, my former coworker, Bill, and his wife Annie haven’t been to church for a long while. Knowing that they’re both devout Christians, I got bold enough, just before we lost our jobs, to ask Bill the reason for their lack of a church. He told me that if he had his druthers, he’d visit around, but never join. Annie, though, is no longer interested even in visiting.
Annie’s mother’s people were decent Christian folks of various and sundry denominations. Her dad’s people had originally been Amish, but had become Baptists somewhere along the way. His mom had apparently been raised Catholic, but had converted to Baptist either when she married, or sometime before. Annie’s dad grew up with a father who gambled and chased women, beat his wife and kids, and went to church on Sunday. His mom seemed to believe that anything pleasant was sinful and cause for using the switch, so his childhood was surely no joy. In later years, Annie’s grandparents and several of her aunts and uncles and their families moved in with her folks and mooched off them until Annie’s mom and her kids often went hungry themselves. All the while Annie’s dad was beating his own wife and kids, but taking them to church every Sunday.
Despite such a violent, hypocritical raising, Annie got saved at 13. She credits the Lord with getting her through the next eight years, until she married the first man she ever dated and escaped her home by moving out of state. Her husband loved her and treated her well and a few years later he, too, gave his heart to the Lord. Unfortunately, the church they were attending was run by two families who were always at odds. Somehow, getting some poor working stiff baptized kept getting put off due to more “important” matters. A couple years later, they moved back to West Virginia, but never got around to going to church. Ten years later her husband died, leaving Annie and their son wondering how to cope with life. That was when she started going to church again.
She didn’t know that the neighborhood church had driven one preacher out because his wife was built too much like Dolly Parton to suit some of the church women. Nor did she know they’d cold-shouldered sundry widows and divorcees out of the church over the years because of their jealousy. She was shocked, then, when it got back to her that she was supposed to be putting the moves on one of the single trustees, plus one of the head deacon’s sons. It didn’t help that she was petite and attractive, not to mention rather buxom for her size.
She stuck it out, though, and eventually married a divorced neighbor who sometimes attended church there and was a gossip target for other reasons (Bill). Eventually, a preacher came along who acted like the south end of a north-bound horse and his actions caused them to quit going. They started going to a church a few miles up the road, and Annie was overwhelmed with the smiles and hugs they got there from men and women alike. Before long, they joined the church.
The devil can’t stand a happy ending or a growing church, though. After they moved to a larger building in a different place, there started being some division in the church. That was bad enough, but then things got personal. For a long time, neither her nor Bill realized that one of the grey-headed married men there had the hots for Annie in a bad way. Someone in the church DID notice it, though—the grey-headed married woman that had the hots for that grey-headed married man (and it wasn’t his wife). By the time that Bill and Annie figured out what was going on, the grey-headed old woman had spread the rumor that Annie was trying to put the moves on the old man and, not surprisingly (knowing human nature), nearly everyone chose to believe it. They continued to treat Bill fine; Annie was a different story.
Coming from a home where she felt no love as a child, Annie had treasured her “friends” there at church. That made it all the more hurtful for her to see that, with no evidence what-so-ever, they were willing to write her off as a slut. The stories certainly got back to the grey-haired married man who set the chain of events in motion with his (almost) unnoticed lust. Of course, he wouldn’t come to her defense for fear of exposing his own sins. Through it all, things were just discrete enough that nothing could be said about it without Bill and Annie looking paranoid or quarrelsome. Bill seriously considered giving the old man a chance to practice turning the other cheek, but Annie convinced him not to. Needless to say, they quit going to church there.
Annie and Bill miss church. Annie especially misses taking communion. She says that she’ll probably never go to any church again, though; she’s just too scared of getting hurt. © 2013-