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Amber Paulen

Sunday Church

Every Sunday for my formative years I would be woken by some parent for church. I would dress in the excruciatingly uncomfortable clothes by which I swore, Never! Never would I wear something painful with the price of looking good. The restriction of those tights and shoes and pretty dresses after loose outdoor clothes was perhaps exaggerated by a general loading into the car to sit crammed between two argumentative brothers, whose every movement—and they moved the entire drive—chafed against the efforts my mom had made to make me pretty. Perhaps exaggerated by my status as eldest, as I was determined to uphold what Sunday meant: something to do with finery and the abdications of God. I carried solemnity in my breast; the rituals embossing church, Sunday, were so distant from the average that my imagination flared with the mysteries, the stand-up-sit-down-now-turn-to-hymn-58-let-us-pray, that every adult seemed to be living proof of. What drove us out of bed so early on a non-school day to sit on hard benches wearing uncomfortable clothes listening to a man speak for over an hour? Adults knew; I didn’t. Now let us stand up and let us turn to Hymn 58 and let us sing: Hallelujah! The wings of Michael carried me over the green roof of Pine Grove Christian Reformed Church and over the thick oak so alone and unsaved in the parking lot; angels are fearlessly beautiful creatures whose souls radiate from their insides in a golden shower of pure good. As the preacher droned on, his lips flapping like a tattered flag aloft a ship in storm, I read The Bible. My favorite book was Ruth because of my middle name.

And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me. —Ruth 1:16-17


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