A Trip To Heaven

Copyright: dade72

Last month I bumped into an acquaintance while grocery shopping, and we had a nice chat while standing in the produce section. Matt (I changed his first name slightly) was someone whom I used to see all the time at my old gym, and though we seldom spoke to each other, he always seemed pleasant. During the conversation, Matt mentioned that he was going out of town later that week for a 9 day trip in which he was planning to meet up with his parents and siblings in Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta, and Detroit. He also mentioned that he was very excited about an event which he and his family were planning to attend in Atlanta, and then he aske me if I had heard of Joel Osteen. I realized that he was going to the Harvest Crusade, and that he was a deeply Christian man. Since I am not a religious person, and I let expletives fly out of my mouth on a regular basis, I thought, uh oh, I need to keep things clean around this guy.

Even before Matt revealed that he was a religious man, I was a bit uncomfortable while talking with him, because he mentioned several times how pretty he thought I was. Nevertheless, I gave him my phone number without hesitation when he asked for it. I figured that because I had known Matt for 18 years, I felt comfortable with giving him my contact information. He texted me later that day, asking if I wanted to come over to his place and possibly have dinner with him, to which I agreed.

When I arrived at his place, I stepped into the foyer and noticed that every single item of furniture and all the wall art was completely white. I had walked into a white on white, tone on tone domicile which was trippy to say the least. I turned slightly to the right and saw a white bannister leading up to the second floor and wrapping around a platform, upon which sat a two foot tall, completely white statue of Jesus in flowing robes. When I saw the Jesus statue, Matt started telling me about how much he had coveted a Jesus statue, and that he was fortunate to have driven by a street vendor who was selling the one he ended up buying. He then mentioned to me that he asked the man if he had any other white, religious items for sale, whereupon the man handed a catalog to Matt, and Matt ordered about a dozen other pieces. The other pieces which he purchased consisted of numerous bas relief cherubs, several crosses, a bas relief Last Supper, and a bas relief (the only secular piece) ballerina and male ballet dancer in an embrace.

Matt then showed me the kitchen, which had all white cabinets and counters, as well as white appliances. Next was the second floor, which consisted of a white bathroom, an all white master bedroom, and a white home office. When I stepped into the office, I saw a framed diploma from a theological seminary, and when I was close enough to read it, I saw Matt’s name: MATTHEW LAWRENCE HEAVEN. I turned to him and said, “Your last name is Heaven?” Matt grinned and verified that his last name was indeed Heaven.

We went back downstairs, and Matt asked if I wanted to get something to eat, or if I just wanted to sit on the sofa and make out. I told him that I wasn’t making out with him, and suggested that we go to dinner. We stepped into his garage, and once again, everything except the light gray garage floor, was white. We ended up having a nice dinner, and our conversation definitely was interesting, but I simply couldn’t get over the fact that his place was so oddly, obsessively, WHITE.

Ditching Chapel

Many of you don’t know that I attended an Episcopalian school for nine years, from fourth through twelfth grade, and that part of my daily school experience included attending chapel. During chapel, we would sing hymns, recite the Lord’s Prayer (just hearing “Our Father, who art in heaven…” triggers the rest of the prayer in my well programmed brain) and listen to a daily sermon from our dean. Every year during the school’s Homecoming, we would visit St. John’s Cathedral, and though I enjoyed the beauty and majesty of the church, it was all sort of lost on me because at my core, I wasn’t an Episcopalian. Every year we observed Lent, and I agreed to give up something during that period that could be considered a vice for a child.

By the time I reached high school, I was fed up with being force fed a religion I did not practice outside of school, so I gradually began to rebel. When we were in chapel, I would refuse to sing the hymns or recite the Lord’s Prayer. By the time I was a junior, I had fallen into the occasional habit of completely ditching chapel and taking that 45 minute period to hang out in a quiet spot on campus with my best friend Diane or with my friend Shari. Though there were a couple of occasions in which we nearly got caught and spent a few tense minutes standing on toilet seats in the bathroom stalls and stifling nervous giggles, we never got caught. Diane was my best friend, soul sister, bad influence (according to her mom and mine), partner in crime and fellow bad Christian, whereas Shari was a defiant Jewish girl forced to attend a strongly Christian school. Between these two girls, I had rationalized the chapel-skipping behavior quite convincingly.

Looking back at the nine years of chapel which helped to shape me, I am actually grateful for the experience. I may not be a religious person, and I may not attend chapel or go to church, but I truly believe that the Christian environment I was exposed to gave me structure and discipline and helped me to find my way spiritually. Even when I dodged chapel, I learned a great deal about friendship. Teenagers need to challenge constraints every once in a while to help them find their own way.