I am sitting in my parents’ front room; on the other side of the wall is the room in which my father had once died and where my mother, completely ignorant of CPR, resuscitated my father using the song “I will glorify the king of kings;/I will glorify the Lamb” as the rhythm to push down on my father’s chest and massage his loving heart.
Both of my parents are at church right now. I would have gone with them but my kids were dead asleep and I wasn’t going to wake them. That and, as much as I love my parents, I really don’t care for their church. Lots of reasons. No reason to go into them. It’s my opinion and has no basis for discussion in today’s blog.
I was raised to believe in Christ and His resurrection without question. Now, before you think I’m about to start ranting about my parents, just sit back, chill-ax, and read. I’m not fusion or fuming. I’m building context.
But I was raised to believe without question. “Everything happens for a reason” was not the daily mantra shoved down my throat. I was just expected to believe and not think twice about the happenings of the world. And I happily followed through on my parents’ expectations because I had no reason to doubt or question.
Starting in middle school, I developed the traditional teenager depression. Mine was probably a bit worse than most of the kids in my school. Maybe not as I think back on it. It’s hard for me to gauge what was real because so many of my memories are colored with strong emotions which might have been chemically induced (no, not drugs….they’re called hormones) and then exacerbated by being the odd one out with two feet of hair hanging off my head. Oh boy…life was skippy.
High school did nothing to soothe the savage beast. At that point, I was thrust knee deep into a huge youth group that looked right past me. Okay..now I sound whiney and it’s going to make me vomit. Step back…collect emotions…oh hell. I was ignored. At the same time, I was the wallflower. Remember…shy…introverted. I HATE crowds. I hate big groups where I have to be social. Guess what…the youth group was all about huge groups and being social. At times, I felt like it was an early Christian dating service. One time, we played “musical men” which was a version of “musical chairs.” Great. Take the shy girl who is introverted and terrified of crowds and make her walk around a circle of young boys her age who are literally down on one knee and when the music stops she has to sit on his leg. Oh, by the way, let’s toss into this hell the fact that she’s chubby and very weight conscious. Yeah…that was hell. I deliberately got myself “out” immediately and stood happily against the wall.
Really? “Musical Men?” In the name of Jesus?
No wonder I hated youth group.
In college, I went to IVCF and loved it. But, two years in, a lot of the people I knew graduated and I took a class that met the same night as IVCF so when I came back, I came back to a room full of strangers. This created the same anxiety complex as youth group. Good-bye IVCF.
That was my own un-doing, by the way. I should have given it another chance….but the shyness kicked me in the teeth and it was easier to invent excuses as opposed to standing in a room where I felt profoundly uncomfortable.
But I still believed but now I was also starting to question. I had grown up in Germany where I walked through Dachau and saw the architectural remains that stood as a gravestone to people who must have felt like God looked the other way.
My parents had been discriminated against because they were Americans living in Germany and the Germans wanted the Americans to leave.
My adolescent depression still loved to spike badly and I didn’t understand what was happening and, at the time, depression was a bad word that no one discussed because depression meant crazy and crazy was bad. So I felt very lonely.
I wanted a boyfriend. I had a lot of loneliness while everyone else was hooking up.
Wah! Wah! Wah! Context being made. I’m trying to show you that I did a lot of questioning.
By the way…Waco, Texas happened and a lot of children were killed. The Bosnian-Herzgovian war happened. Lots of innocent people died. The Rwandan genocide happened. Lots of people died.
After a while, it’s not like I stopped believing. I did. I prayed every night. But I stopped caring. It’s not that I thought God didn’t care about me. It was more like I wondered if I even needed a relationship with God.
But God wasn’t done with me.
I knew God existed. A couple of times, He had really evidenced Himself to me. But those memories slipped and the impressions they left on me were eroded by time and distance and apathy. I met Pat. I got my masters’ degree. I started working full time. We moved. I got another job. We got married. I got pregnant with the Boy.
And, somewhere in there, something happened to me. I can’t really put a time or a day to it. I started going to church again. I started reading the Bible again. My prayer life became earnest again.
I know that when I found out I was pregnant, I decided to be baptized. Yeah. I was 28 and hadn’t been baptized. I’m glad. Because when I decided to re-commit myself (geez…sounds like a mental institution, doesn’t it. No sarcastic commentary allowed, thank you very much!), I was able to do this by my own decision and under my own volition. This wasn’t because I was pressured by any external forces or authority figures. It was me and myself alone.
When I was actually baptized, I was six months pregnant with the Boy and when I entered the baptismal font, I remember feeling the Boy lift within me. I always felt like it was a “two for one” deal that day. I also remember a month before when I thought the Boy had died within me and I lay prostrate on the floor outside my bathroom, begging God not to take my baby from me.
About eighteen months later, when the Boy was fifteen months old, my brother, Peter, sponsored me on a Walk to Emmaus. One of the most amazing experiences of my life. Through this experience, I found a prayer/accountability group who were my lifesavers during the Terrible Time with Pat. I started going to the church where I now worship. I found a spinal column that fit my weak back and started the process of building and developing my own vertebrae.
I believe now not because of expectations. I believe now because I have seen God in my own way. I don’t have all the answers. I still have my doubts and questions. I can’t explain why God allowed 9/11 to happen or why He chose me to have an easier life in comparison to others. I can’t give reasons to why the Bible suggests that homosexuality is a sin and that women are inferior. I can try and think about those issues in terms of cultural context, but that doesn’t mean I’m right.
But when I walk out into the ocean that is less than a mile from my parents’ home and find the nesting ground of the sand dollars, I feel the surge of life that surrounds me. When my father and I pull fish out of the water and wiggle the hooks out of the fishes’ mouths before bringing them ashore and offering them to the osprey, I feel God’s presence. When I look at the pictures of the little church that was beside the World Trade Center on 9/11…the little church which should have been demolished but was, instead, undisturbed…I feel God’s presence.
I don’t have the answers.
But I have His peace.
And, for now, that is enough.