Journeying further still
July 6, 2005

This part three in a six part series. You can find part one here. And part two here.
NEW: Read the whole series on one page (if you're so inclined).
This is a post about . . . well, it touches on religion. It's not about conversion - either mine or anyone else's. It's just a post about experiences and personal conclusions. (Sorry for the disclaimer, but I believe in truth in advertising.) Every year at my church, instead of a sermon one day, a couple of people stand up and talk about their faith journey and how they got to Southside (our church). After listening to the stories this year, I thought I would write a part of my own.

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During this time, somewhere between the ages of 11 and 14, I tried to do a lot of thinking about God and what I really believed. By the time I was eleven and had been to my first family funeral (my sweet great-grandmother), I had developed my own theology that was only loosely based on Catholicism. And, I was starting to realize that I heard a call to the priesthood.

This was obviously problematic. If I couldn't be a Cub Scout (they had the best uniforms -- Brownies' uniforms sucked), there was no way I was going to be able to bull my way into seminary and the priesthood. I tried to reconcile that call to being a nun. I re-read the life of St. Therese.
I wanted to be a priest. I felt called to it. And I wasn't able to shake that feeling of call.

By the time I was thirteen, things were pretty much falling apart for me.

I was quickly coming to grips with the fact that my father was an alcoholic and yet I was running desperately from the fact that he'd been raping me from the time I was four until we moved to Arlington. I was coming to grips with the fact that he would, in all liklihood, never go into recovery. At the same time, I was realizing that mom lived in her own little isolated reality and the church I had wanted to serve was human, fallible and didn't really want me to serve it in the way that I felt called. It felt like rejection all the way around.

How could I reconcile an all powerful, all knowing and all loving God with my life?

I couldn't. I was stuck.

If I wouldn't leave a person in my situation and God was so much better than me, then something was wrong with what I'd been taught. More than just the church was corrupt -- what I believed was corrupt, too. Faced with my life, I didn't see how God could be all powerful AND all loving.

Somehow, all we got as kids was "believe in God, love God and be good and you will be rewarded." Nevermind all those stories I'd read about saints whose only "reward" for their goodness was martyrdom by stoning or even crucifixion. God is all good, all knowing and all powerful. God will save us from bad things because we've been good enough to deserve to be saved from them, good enough to be rewarded.

I spent every night for about three months praying to God -- no, begging -- to a God who seemed to have condemned me no matter how hard I aspired to be the saint I thought he wanted me to be.

At the end of those three months I realized that I didn't, I couldn't believe in a God-being. I'd read most of the Old Testament, a lot of the New Testament, I'd read Edith Hamilton on the Greco-Romano gods, I'd even begun reading about Mayan, Aztec and Incan cultures as well. And in all of them, it seemed to me that most of these gods were just petulant children, personifications of those priests and holy people who wrote or told the stories.

I didn't know what I believed any more. I just knew that there was no hero-God who would rain hellfire down on yuppy, suburban Arlington and rescue me. I wasn't sure that I rejected the idea of God, but I did reject the idea of a being named God (or Yahweh or Jehovah or Adnoi or whatever).

By the time I was supposed to be confirmed at sixteen, I knew I wasn't a Catholic anymore. I looked for away out of getting confirmed, but my mom had already asked my grandma to be my sponsor. I couldn't figure out a way to get out of it.

By the end of my senior year in high school, I'd quit teaching the three year olds Sunday School class. I finagled ways to go to a different Mass than the one my mom went to -- but we lived so close to the church, that I couldn't avoid going to the church completely. I would go, park my car and either sit in the car and read a book, or, if I was feeling particularly paranoid about her checking up on me (and she did check up on me), I would go inside and sit in the bathroom and read.

By this time I'd also read the books of Chaim Potok, a wonderful Jewish writer, and I wondered if the answers I sought were there. But, I couldn't really get over the whole not believing in Jesus as the Messiah thing.

When I went on college visits my senior year, I went to Texas Christian in Fort Worth - oddly enough a Christian Church Disciples of Christ school, just like the church I go to now. They were the only school who had the major that I really wanted - deaf education. We observed the pre-school the program ran and the director spoke to me - I was completely fascinated and determined this was what I wanted to do. Mom and I went to the college's open house and discovered that TCU required all students to take a theology or religion class - but that in true Disciples fashion, they had a wide variety of classes to choose from including one that talked about Christianity, Islam, Buddism and others. As Mom and I walked out of that session she looked at me and said, "You're going to take that comparative religions class, aren't you?" Not reading her very obvious cues correctly, I nodded, excited at the prospect. Her reply: "You're not going here."

I was the oldest and the first in my immediate family to go to college. I didn't know I could take out student loans. I didn't know that I could "emancipate" myself from my parents and get some government help for school. I didn't know that my parents had put literally nothing aside for my college education. I didn't think I could manage to work, support myself and pay for college. If I wanted a future, I was still at their mercy. I wasn't going to TCU -- and I missed out on probably becoming a Disciple way back then.

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Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six
More on how all of this affected my faith journey in the next section.
I just want to take a quick moment to say again that these were my experiences -- I'm in no way condemning all Catholics or even Catholicism in general. I've been to wonderful, faithful Catholic churches and I've been to piss-poor ones where you'd be hard-pressed to find any hint of God at all. I'm not generalizing about any one religion or faith. Just talking about my journeys.

Posted by Red Monkey at July 6, 2005 3:58 PM | Storytelling: She was, of course, supposed to be sleeping. | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |

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