1. Get born and raised in a smallish town in Northern California, where you attend a church with fewer than 250 members, every Sunday. This will ideally be one at which your grandfather is assistant minister, so that everyone knows you and everything about you. Have the pastor of said church officiate at your christening, baptism, and wedding, as he has done for everyone in the congregation for years on end.
2. Move with your spouse to a large, far away city for fun, adventure, and opportunities! Have some fun and some adventure, but experience a deep sense of guilt about not attending church on Sunday, as you were dutifully trained to do.
3. Visit various churches in the big city with your spouse, bemoaning the fact that all of them have, at minimum, 5000 members and are thus impersonal and lacking in that good ole hometown feeling that you grew up with. Dismiss the fact that going to that good ole hometown church was the bane of your childhood existence and that you were constantly praying for some calamity that would prevent you from having to go.
4. Set out, instead, to find a church like the one you grew up going to, one that has the same personal, intimate, everyone’s in everyone’s business vibe of the one you grew up detesting. Put that prayer out there. Ask…
5. … And receive: grab a smoothie at a juice bar and get complimented on some old shoes you just threw on by a woman whose presence seems odd, like she’s stalking the place. Dismiss your initial impressions of said woman and instead take delight in the compliment. Chat with her for a while, ultimately agreeing to visit the amazing small church she attends.
6. Convince your skeptical spouse to attend said church, dismissing the fact that its services are being held in an abandoned banquet hall on the outskirts of the city.
7. At the service, dismiss the fact that other congregants are eyeing you greedily, while a serious-looking couple squeezes their way into your row to flank you and your spouse. Get invited to lunch by the couple, who rave over some unknown restaurant that has great curly fries. Dismiss the overall weirdness and agree to the lunch because wow, this is so personalized! Just like home!
8. Upon leaving the restaurant, get invited to a BBQ at the couple’s home. Completely forget all that you learned in college as a psychology major about love-bombing and other mind control techniques. Choose, for some inexplicable reason, not to so much as Google this church.
9. Attend the BBQ which has a very unhappy, non-festive tone and dismiss the fact that all of the attention is placed on you. Be gifted a new Bible along with encouragement to throw away any other Bibles you may possess. Choose not to take umbrage with this or find it strange.
10. Get invited to a movie and attend said movie with the couple, who seem to neither enjoy the film nor each other. Dismiss this—one of them must’ve had a bad day. As the movie ends, get invited to a Bible study for singles, even though it has been clear from day one that you’re already blissfully married. Start to wonder just a little bit about these people, but not too much, because, hey, everything’s so personal!
11. Return home from work the next day to several voicemails from the couple, wanting to come to your job and pray with you. Receive a written message that has been left with the doorman at your building, meaning that these people actually located and came to your home.
12. Finally wake up, heart beating wildly, to what you’ve gotten drawn into. Aggressively toss the new Bible down the garbage chute. Laugh about the whole episode with friends later that week, while a lump sits in your throat as you wonder how a smart girl like you got so easily duped. Seize the chance to write a cathartic and somewhat scary, yet hopefully funny piece about the whole affair. Achieve much-needed closure.