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.