Thursday, July 19, 2007

Faith Story Part I

I didn't grow up in the church. We were a secular family, for the most part. Occasionally my mother would take us to the Christian Science church, where we were taught that Jesus was a "moral exemplar" but not divine, not God.

I remember in sixth grade, I had a bad case of bronchial pneumonia. Thinking I understood Christian Science, (pffft!) I have a strong memory of lying in bed one night trying to deny the reality of the illness. Let me just say that I almost didn't make it out of sixth grade because of high absences.

In Christian Science, at least back then (this was when I was in fourth grade), the children attended Sunday School at 11:00 while the adults attended the reading in the sanctuary at the same time. The children sat around a table, according to our ages, and a teacher taught us. What we were taught, I have no clue. The teacher, however, I clearly remember. Mrs. Taylor. Oh, how I loved her. I loved her so much that I asked my mom if we could take Mrs. Taylor out to lunch with us after church one day. She agreed. My memory is that we seemed to have to wait on Mrs. Taylor to show up...the feeling attached to this vague memory is my mother feeling uncomfortable and blaming me.

The deeper feeling is so much vulnerability, so much at risk, wanting Mrs. Taylor to love me.

When I was 17 I left Christian Science behind. While on a high school choir trip at Port Aransas, I "got saved" and joined my local Baptist church. I was baptized my immersion several weeks later. (No one from my family came to that service, but I didn't mind that. I had a friend from work who was there, and my paternal grandmother wanted to know all about it. She and I had many long conversations about religion until she died in 1993.)

There followed several years of Bill Gaither concerts, Bill Gothard institute stuff, James Robison revivals, and Campus Crusade for Christ, including one Solution Bowl in which I felt terribly guilty for not ending the conference by going out with everyone else to witness to people coming out of the bars downtown on Saturday night. I read my Bible zealously every day during those years. I journaled and prayed and journaled and prayed some more. I listened to Christian radio, especially a program early in the morning as I prepared for work that included music interspersed with Christian self-help.

These were my years as an evangelical Christian, my years as a Southern Baptist, which all began on that high school choir trip. The girl that led me to Christ on that fateful trip was Donna King. She was a very very good person. And popular in school. She had the lead role in several huge school musicals. Oh, what a pretty voice she had. She was voted Most Popular by all the teachers and students, I think, in her senior year. I really liked her. And on this choir trip in our cabin filled with girls, she was paying attention to me, Katherine E., who was decidedly not popular, who practiced hiding out rather than trying out for high school musicals. But here was Donna, turning all her fabulous attention on me, wanting to know what I thought and felt about God, a topic about which I'd thought deeply and a subject I loved.

I remember crying. I remember feeling so vulnerable, feeling that so much was at risk, wanting Donna to like me.


Jan said...

Katherine, thank you for sharing so deeply and honestly. I hadn't realized what a long history you had with Christian Science. My grandmother was a Christian Scientist (supposedly miraculously healed in Scotland of a heart ailment), and so my mother was brought up with that influence. I hadn't realized before how they felt about Jesus; maybe my confusion about Jesus stems from my mother's concept from her Christian Scientist mother.

I can so identify with wanting to be loved, and especially liked by certain people. It is such a vulnerable feeling. When you wrote, " I remember feeling so vulnerable, feeling that so much was at risk, wanting Donna to like me," memories came back to me of times when I felt this way. You'll think this is silly, but I sometimes felt this way about you at the Academy! (That's probably when I acted like I didn't care, my defense mechanism.)

I can see how God was drawing you closer to him as you grew up. Knowing where you are now, I see how he kept wooing you until you responded.

Thank you.

Katherine E. said...

Hi Jan. I have the same defense mechanism, and I'm sure it was active at the Academy with you, too. Not silly at all. I'm so glad we've both gotten passed that by blogging, aren't you? :-) That really makes me smile.

Yes, you've basically written my Part 2 for me, Jan. -- God wooing me with the love that really counts, the love that can heal the deepest wounds...That's what happened when I encountered Zen and went to Brite and all that. Thanks! ha!

Gannet Girl said...

This is a wonderful read. It is completely fascinating how God makes use of our life stories.

RevDrKate said...

Katherine, Thank you for this. As Jan said, the vulnerabilty comes through co clearly. It is so incredible how fragile yet resilient we are at those oung ages, how the need for love both puts us in grave danger of being wounded by humans and taken in by God, all at the same time.

Katherine E. said...

Indeed. I have to smile this morning, Kate. This General Assembly going on in my city means that we'll be overflowing at my church--quadruple the number of people that we usually have. I'll be giving the stewardship meditation and the communion meditation and words of institution, along with doing some other things in the service (we have a guest preacher who'll attract a very large crowd). That tension between being in "grave danger of being wounded by humans" because I want to be liked and make a reasonably good impression this morning vs. being "taken in by God" because I love and trust the God who loves me no matter what is playing out once again, here at age 51. The vulnerability goes on, although I guess i helps to be aware of it now. Yes, it helps tremendously, and reading your comment this morning has warmed my heart. Many thanks.