I am a devoutly religious person. Just ask any of my friends, family, or anyone in the courthouse. I believe passionately that I am a special creation made in the image of the Almighty. Consequently, I also consider the Bible to have been written, or at least dictated, by God Himself, and I interpret every word of it literally (and by literally, I mean figuratively). So you can bet that I will follow the rules and do whatever it takes to secure my passage on the ‘ol Rapture Express and get a room at Hotel Hereafter.
But if you’re anything like me, you also have a little problem with that whole “no sinning” thing. There are just so damn many of them, and it’s hard not to slip up every so often. I’m not talking about the big ones; I can avoid those well enough. You know, like Thou Shalt Not Murder on Sundays, Thou Shalt Not Worship False American Idols, or Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Ass. (Well actually, that last one can be a problem depending upon which neighbor we’re talking about).
But it’s the little ones that are so much harder to avoid. I just don’t think God foresaw how easy it would be to get past my company’s internet pornography filter, or just how often my golf partner Jimmy would leave his beautiful, young wife Sherri home alone on business trips. After all, the Bible was written what? Like hundreds and hundreds of years ago?
I used to find myself constantly praying catch-up, trying to atone for all these slight missteps after they happened. But I felt like I could never keep up – like I was always one step behind. And the last thing I ever want to do is to die before I’m square with the Heavenly Father. I could wind up standing before the Pearly Gates without enough prayer in the bank to cover the admittance fee.
So I’ve finally come up with a plan: I just pray for forgiveness in advance.
No longer do I lie awake in bed worrying, staring at Sherri’s ceiling, thinking about how I need to get to church as soon as possible to pray myself back into righteousness. Now, I’m never in the red on the penance balance sheet. I just make sure to keep enough good will banked to cover whatever might happen. And even better, I can do it on my schedule.
Whenever I have a few free hours (which is usually on Tuesday nights – nothing ever happens on Tuesday nights except book clubs, and Jimmy is usually home then anyway), I just pop on over to the church and get in some serious praying. I used to do the whole confessional thing, but I don’t really trust those priests (you don’t even know who you’re talking to; I prefer my small booths with peepholes, thank you). So I found a different church that doesn’t do that at all. It’s a little farther away, down in the sketchy fishmongerpacking district, but I like it so much better. I just walk in, plop down in the wooden benches, put my palms together and start crediting my spiritual account.
I must confess, sometimes it does get a little awkward asking to be forgiven for things that I haven’t done yet. But I figure God appreciates planning ahead. (He gave Noah advance warning, didn’t he?) Typically, I ask for forgiveness in general, but just to be safe I also try to be specific and describe the sorts of sins that I might happen to find myself doing, or that I am planning. If I don’t actually get around to doing them all, then it’s just no harm, no foul. I figure it’s better to be on the safe side, given that the stakes are eternity and all.
And let me tell you – when I leave that joint, I feel like I’m on top of the world! (I also make sure to pray an extra few minutes, so I can celebrate a little at The Stripteasery, which is just down the street. Did I mention I love my new church?)
So the next time you find yourself sitting in church, struggling to catch up, consider staying an extra hour and doing what I do: pray in advance. You’ll thank me for it later, I swear.