I returned to church when I married my third husband four years after my previous marriage ended. We needed to find a minister to marry us, so we asked the minister at a nearby Methodist church. After we got married, it was my husband, not me, who wanted to go to church. He’d been married to a Catholic before and never felt comfortable in her church and he was anxious to find one he felt at home in. So we decided to give the Methodist church a try.
I was familiar with the Methodist church: that was the denomination my first husband and I had joined and where he became a minister. So in some ways it felt like I was coming home. Even so, I was hesitant about going back to church because I felt guilty for being away for so long.
As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. I felt totally welcome at the new church and within a year my husband and I were very active there. We started an adult Bible study class, organized Easter breakfasts and went to church every Sunday. I even became a lay speaker and preached a few sermons in the church. I felt like I’d come a long way and I was grateful to God for leading me back to Him.
When I preached a sermon on Father’s Day, I was disappointed that my parents hadn’t come to hear me. But my father wasn’t feeling well. That October he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and by Christmas he was gone. I preached my last sermon a week later.
That sounds so cut and dried to sum up what was the most terrible thing that had ever happened to me into a couple of sentences. Because I didn’t handle my father’s death very well. And then eighteen months after my father died, my mother followed. I ended up in a deep depression so debilitating I couldn’t continue to work.
I still believed in God, but I was hurting too much to find comfort anywhere. All I wanted to do was get away from everything and everyone and try to heal. I moved out of our house and started living alone. I stopped going to church—again. I still considered myself to be a Christian, but I was just hanging on to my relationship with God.
Every once in a while I would feel the need to go back to church, but the question was, which one? I couldn’t go back to my old church—a year after I left my husband, we decided to get a divorce and I couldn’t face our old friends there. Besides, I felt like I was meant to start over.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was heading toward Islam.