Raise Your Hand

Goes into an unbeliever's mind when he steps foot in church after a long time of not going.

Written by Ronald Huereca
August 2003

I couldn’t believe I had been talked into going to church that morning. I had been walking home from the store a few days earlier when a bunch of people approached me and handed me flyers for their church. I kinda blew them off at first, but something hit me. I was like, okay, I’ll go. Now I had to wake up all early and ruin my sleeping in to go to church. They said it’ll only be a few hours, but that’s what all the church people say. Two hours turns into two and a half, three sometimes. I just wanted to get it over with.

Rising out of bed was torture. I was still hung over from the night before. I kept lying in bed trying to come up with an excuse not to go. I kept thinking and thinking about if I had some schoolwork I had to do, or some old lady I had to visit. The excuses I kept coming up with were fruitless. Besides, I had made an obligation to a young couple who was coming to pick me up. That was another excuse I made up about not having any transportation. Usually that works.

I eventually rose out of bed and headed for the shower. I kept thinking about all the sleep I was missing. I kept thinking about why I was even going to church. Who was I trying to please here? I sure wasn’t going for my benefit. I was just going because some people said I needed Jesus. Sure, but I felt like I needed sleep more.

I started brushing my teeth and fixing my hair, but at the same time my bed was calling. I wanted to go back to sleep so bad. I never woke up this early on a Sunday. I didn’t understand why Christians say that Sunday is the day of rest when they wake up all early in the morning to go to church. Besides, I didn’t really wanna be a Christian. Christians were boring to me. All they do is listen to boring Christian music, go to church like five days a week, and live completely boring lives. At least I went out every weekend and had fun. While I’m out partying, they’re up reading their bibles or playing some stupid board game.

I kept thinking why I had even been talked into this. It was still about twenty minutes before I was supposed to be picked up. I figured I could squeeze in breakfast and maybe down a couple of glasses of water to kinda re-hydrate myself to get rid of this hangover. I ate breakfast and went into the living room to wait for the young couple to pick me up. I sat down on the couch and closed my eyes, hoping to catch a few minutes more of sleep. Back in my head I was thinking that hopefully they’ve forgotten me and aren’t coming to pick me up. Then I could just go back to sleep.

Unfortunately things didn’t always work in my favor. The young couple arrived right on schedule. I looked through the peephole before answering the door. The couple was probably in their early twenties. They were recently married and looked pretty anxious standing at the door. After another knock, I opened the door.

“Hi Josh. Are you ready?” The man asked.

“Yeah.” I said unenthusiastically.

I walked to their car without saying anything else. The couple got in the front seats and I got in the back on the driver side. In the background I could hear some Christian music playing. This stuff’s gonna put me to sleep, I thought.

“Is this your first time going to church Josh?” The woman asked.

I kept wishing they would just shut up and leave me alone on the way to church. I reluctantly answered.

“My mom took me when we were little. But I haven’t been in a while.”

“Well I’m sure you’ll enjoy yourself. We have a fun church.”

Yeah right, I thought. Church and fun are like oxymorons.

“Yeah, we’ve been going to this church for about seven years now. It’s where I met my wife.” The man said.

I kept thinking that I’m gonna go to church and find some boring girl who does nothing but sit on her thumbs all day and wear boring dresses. I just didn’t like the idea of going to church. I was like the epitome of evil and everyone there was probably gonna try to stare the devil out of me.

“Well, we’re here.” The man said.

The woman handed me a bible. “We brought an extra one just for you.”

I took the bible but kept wondering, who has an extra bible?

I kept seeing people walking into the church building with their slacks and dress shirts. I was in my blue jeans and a t-shirt. I knew I stood out. As I walked into the church, I felt like everyone just gasped and started whispering to themselves, “Here comes the evil one. Quick, give me my cross!”

I sat down next to the couple and they begin to talk to their neighbors. They introduced me to a couple of people. I didn’t like being introduced to other people. I wanted to be as unnoticed as possible. I just couldn’t wait for this to be over with.

The church band began playing and everyone started to stand and clap. I wanted to stay seated. My legs hurt because of the partying I had done the night before. I reluctantly rose to my feet, but there was no way I was gonna start clapping. These guys looked like idiots to me clapping along to the songs. I did think that the music that the band was playing was a lot better than the music I heard in the car. I didn’t know any of the songs and I kept staring at the white screen looking at the words. I hated how they would sing a song like two or three times in a row. It just seemed so redundant.

The band eventually finished and the pastor went to the alter and began preaching. He took the offering, and began spreading his message. He was talking about some ladies and their lamp oil. He said that a bunch of ladies with lamp oil were trying to meet some people for a wedding or something like that. Well some of the ladies had extra oil with them, and the rest didn’t have enough. Well those ladies without extra oil had to turn back to get more. When they came back, they weren’t allowed in. The pastor said that was the way the rapture would happen. Those that aren’t ready wouldn’t be allowed into the Kingdom of God. I thought that was kind of a false analogy, but I couldn’t help thinking about it. I figured I was already going to hell, but this guy was telling me I didn’t have to.

At the end of the service, the pastor had everyone bow in prayer. He told everyone to not move around and to have every eye closed. He said if there was anybody who didn’t know Jesus, to raise their hand and be saved. I kept thinking, I’m not saved. But I didn’t want to be Mr. Christian. I didn’t need God. However, I felt this weight on my chest. I felt like God was calling out to me. The burden grew tighter. I felt like I was in the center of the room, where everyone was watching me, and everybody knew I was the guilty party. The conviction was overwhelming, but I wasn’t going to raise my hand and let everyone in the building know that I’m unclean. I figured I could do it later. I could ask the young couple to help me out privately, so I wouldn’t become the laughing stock of the church. So I told God I would wait to meet him.

But when I opened my eyes from prayer, everyone was gone. All the seats were empty, everything was quiet. I looked around and realized what had happened. I was like those ladies who didn’t have enough oil. They had to turn back and weren’t allowed in. I was too late. God let me have my chance. If only I had raised my hand.

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