This blog chronicles my life as I try to balance healthy lifestyle habits with my husband's penchant for pizza rolls and my daughter's desire to watch iCarly 8 hours a day. It contains a mostly humorous, kind, and somewhat spiritual look at everyday life and the people who live it.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Church Basement

My sister-in-law and I have recently found a great way to connect though we are 800 miles apart and vastly different in many ways. She is also a blogger and in her blog she sometimes posts pictures under the heading Scary Jesus. The Scary Jesus pictures are images she finds of Jesus, usually on the cross, that are particularly gory, or where the artist gave Jesus a particularly scary body or expression. I always love this segment of her blog, a fact which boggles her mind as she knows I am Catholic.

But I know the real reason I love these images: it is therapeutic for me to have someone identify some of the images of Jesus as scary because I have frequently found some of the statuary, pictures, and even images in textbooks to be quite frightening.

It all began when I was 6 years old. I went to a Catholic school called Queen of Martyrs. We were learning about the parts of the Mass and my teacher had borrowed an old chalice and bowl from the church to use as visual aids. After the lesson was finished my teacher asked if I would return these items to the church basement storage room. I obeyed, of course, and skipped off toward the basement door. I wasn't scared. After all our cafeteria was in the basement. Our first grade classrooms were in the basement. This was my school. There was nothing scary on the other side of that big red door that marked the entrance to the church basement. Right?


I opened that door, probably still humming and skipping and instantly all of the breath was knocked out of my body. On the other side of the door was the storage area for all of the old statues, posters, pictures, and crucifixes that weren't currently being used for one reason or another. The room was dark because the windows were mostly obscured by stacks of boxes and a huge trifold screen upholstered in a garish floral pattern. I couldn't reach the industrial sized light switch to turn on the lights. I could see the table in the center of the room where I was supposed to put the chalice and bowl, but that meant walking into that room, that dark room where the walls were lined with bloody Sacred Heart Jesuses, Agony of Christ crucifixes, a huge looming statue of Jesus with his bloodied hands outstretched and a menacing look on his face and blood dripping from his REAL crown of thorns.

I was terrified.

I knew I couldn't go back to class with the items. I knew I had to put them on that table. I had to walk past that statue. I felt frozen to the spot.

Finally I decided to just do it fast, you know, kind of like how you have to jump into bed when you're 6 and you know there are monsters under that bed so you leap really high and fast so they can't grab your ankles. I ran in the room, slammed the bowl and chalice on the table and ran back out. I was running so fast that I created a draft and the real fabric tunic that draped the outstretched arms of the Resurrected Jesus brushed my arm as I went by. I couldn't stop shaking. My teeth chattered, my skin had goosebumps, and my heart thumped as I slammed that door shut and ran like the hounds of hell were chasing me back to my classroom.

Shall we say that the experience made an impression?

Ever since then I have been a little nervous whenever I walk into a new church because I never know quite how graphic the statuary and crucifix will be. I have deliberately chosen to attend churches that have positive, loving, kind images of Jesus, rather than churches with the bloodier, more menacing versions. I never told my parents or siblings or friends what I had seen and how it had scared me. I thought there was something wrong with me that I didn't find sanctuary in the Image of God. Then my sister-in-law began her Scary Jesus posts and I felt relief, for the first time ever, that maybe I wasn't the only one who found some of these images scary. I realized that perhaps some of the artists were a little zealous in their quest to ensure that we knew how much Jesus had suffered. I was able to see the images for what they are and acknowledge that to a 6 year old, those images were the stuff of which horror movies are made.

Needless to say, I have NEVER gone into a church storage room since. NEVER.


Deb said...

That is a great story- Also- I kinda liked the "Sporty Jesus" post dedicated to you...

Sarcastic Bastard said...

I'm flattered to be a partial topic to one of your posts, dear sister-in-law. This post explains a lot. The whole experience sounded positively horrific to me, but then I got locked in the chapel with bloody stigmata-riddled Jesus at dad's company X-mas party as a kid so I can kind of relate.

I've been reading your blog for awhile now, but I wasn't sure I wanted you to know, because your writing is more forthcoming than you are normally in person.

I like this forthcoming Beth. It reminds me of the chick I used to hang with while Steve was in Germany.

We finally ordered a magazine from my niece. You should get confirmation soon.

Like your blog. You are a good writer.

Much love,