“Be a good little girl or you’ll go to Hell”
It started with the infant baptism “just in case,” then the Baptist preschool to teach me how to be “moral” person. My parents weren’t religious. Well, to be fair, my dad was an ex-Mormon who still believed in God and my mom was a cultural Christian (church on Easter and Christmas but Jesus certainly wasn’t God and there was no such thing as “miracles”). I never figured out the whys and hows of my dad’s exist from the LDS church but he must have done something really bad (like marry a non-Mormon, perhaps?) to be kicked out. Regarding the preschool, my mom took me out of the school after she saw that I was being taught that I would go to Hell if I wasn’t a good little girl. She would tell me later, “I thought it was a bit much for a preschooler to take.” Ya think?
Religious Friends expose me to church
I don’t remember any exposure to Christianity between the ages of 5 and 10. Around 10 years old I started developing close friendships. Between the ages of 10 and 14 it seemed as if nearly all my friends were Catholic, with some Jewish friends mixed in their as well. I got invited to religious services a lot. I went to mass. I went to temple. Once I went to a Protestant church. My parents weren’t too fond of my going to church and that was okay with me because I hated it. It seemed…fake. Except, that my friends kept hinting that something was really wrong about my parents not taking me to religious services. One girl told me I needed to let Jesus into my heart and that freaked me out, thinking she was crazy. So, it just felt… uncomfortable.
I annoy my parents with philosophical questions
It got my asking questions, though. I annoyed my parents with questions such as, What is the meaning of life? Does God exist? Who made God? My mother was dismissive. My father seemed to not want to talk about it, although he handed me a Book of Mormon. My mother, seeing my dad’s Book of Mormon in my room said, “No, don’t read that. Here, have this” (the King James Version Bible her grandmother gave her). I talked with my friends and they all told me the Book of Mormon was weird and that I should read the Bible, so I did.
Reading the Bible
Well, actually, I didn’t read it because my friends told me to. These were the same friends who were insisting I go to the religious ceremonies that made me so uncomfortable. I decided to open up my KJV Bible after I saw the movie Ben Hur, which very much moved me. So, at the age of 13 and 14 I read the complete Pentateuch, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes (which was my favorite), and Revelation, KJV style. I’m still impressed that I did that, considering I had no idea what the hell I was reading or any of the context. I think I just…liked the way the language flowed, maybe?
It got to me asking more questions such as, What is ‘circumcision’? (hee hee) And What is an ‘idol’? And Why does God keep killing people? My parents did not answer these questions to my satisfaction so I kept reading. I asked my mom, If you can’t answer my questions can you buy me that teen Bible I saw in the store? She asked, Wouldn’t you like this poster of Leonardo DiCaprio instead? I said No. I was obsessed with finding The Truth. Leo could wait. 😉
Persistent friend got me back into church
Being a military brat I moved around a lot and moved across the country to a Southern state between 9th and 10th grade. As I didn’t know anyone I was felt relieved when a girl I kept seeing at the bus stop starting talk to me and invited me to church. Scratch that, she invited me to her Nazarene church 4 or 5x and each time I had told her No (I really had a bad impression of churches) but I decided a few weeks after not making any friends that she was the best shot I had so I finally caved.
Didn’t fit in at church
We quickly became best friends and it was clear to me she only went to church because she had to (her parents made her) and wanted a friend to keep her company. For a couple years I went to church just once a month (just enough to keep people from constantly harrassing me to go), but I hated it. Mostly because I asked intelligent, critical questions in Sunday School but got laughed at for not knowing the “correct” answers, and also because I didn’t know any of the songs or the correct terminology.
Wanted the Truth and to fit in
Between 10th and 11th grade I attended the one-week overnight church camp because both my friends were going. I found the pastors to be goofy and out of touch with my interests (yes, I was a bit of a snob about the world revolving around me as a teen -shocker!) During that one week many hours were spent pumping into our brains that Jesus, this perfect man was tortured because of our sins. I kept asking myself what I did wrong that deserved that. My heart and mind was begging to understand. The songs about Jesus’ sacrifice poured on and each day there was an altar call. I never went to the front but with tears streaming down my face I told Jesus, “I accept you as my Savior.” I wanted the Truth and I wanted to fit in.
After that I felt changed, like I finally “got” what this Christian thing was about. However, I was a little odd in that my peers wanted to check out the guys while I just wanted to stay in my room and listen to DC Talk, Point of Grace, and read the Book of John. I had never read the New Testament before and I just ate it up. I was in an ecstatic frenzy. I could barely sleep! For the next few months I devoured most of the New Testament and all the Christian books and cds I could get my hands on.
I continue in my next post about my conversion story, which is where I’ll write about becoming “born again” and my religious experiences as a Christian…