I read it in three days; it was that good. I was captivated. I was reading my own experiences: the good, bad, and the ugly. I can't rave enough about Jesus Girls: True Tales of Growing Up Female and Evangelical.
My mind has been composing my own chapter that would fit nicely amongst the female voices of this anthology. Here is my rough draft, my brainstorm.
There is so much I could write about:
-High school Sunday school...we girls froze in our skirts sitting on outdated furniture. We'd argue. We'd debate. Our church insisted we KNOW what we believed....the trouble was they definitely had one things we were supposed to believe on about ten very important doctrinal stances, and I found myself disagreeing with most of them. (I proved to be the black sheep of the group when I chose to attend George Fox University, which also disagreed with many of my church's beliefs. My church would not give any money toward the Universities Church Matching Fund even though the money was really going to come from my parents via the offering plate. This was actually expected and encouraged by my admission counselor, so not shady or lacking integrity. Luckily this angered my parents, and I felt completely supported in my spiritual rebellion.) Still, I loved that group, that church, of high schoolers and our teacher. I have only good memories of him and his heart toward us. Plus, we ate a lot of white powdered donuts from the grocery store across the street.
-Christmas Pageants! Oh my. We loved them. We were superstars. Yep, they were cheesy, but we were the right age to be singing, "Arch the Angel...what a guy!" Now, the trouble came when we weren't the right age, but they needed us. (The kids a few years younger did not have the drama skills that we had. I guess that was the message they were sending us.) Playing the part of Baaabara in Baa, Baa, Bethlehem and doing really bad Christian rap is not even remotely OK when you are in junior high.
-Jesus Northwest! This was the proof that you were in, for any NW Christian who ever attended youth group. (Of course, I couldn't help but wonder how many youth kids "lost" their virginity at these type of events. Was I the only one who had these thoughts?) Ah well, I still remember standing next to Scott and being in total idol worship as we sang loudly with Michael W. Smith. I'm pretty sure I was worshiping Michael and not Jesus.) In that moment I think I felt cool...plus the moshing done earlier during the Newsboys didn't hurt my Christian coolness factor...even if it was only in my mind and in that moment.
-Campfires and Altar Calls! On top of going to church my entire life I went to a Christian school, so I'm very comfortable with emotional spiritual highs. Actually, I'm very cynical toward them, and that is one reason I was so attracted to Quakerism and its emphasis on the quiet/silence with Christ. I remember one track retreat campfire where one of the male athletes dropped to his knees sobbing after he asked God to reveal what was in his heart. I decided right then and there I'd never ask God to show me what was really in my heart because if his was bad, mine must be horrible.
At my Christian school we had an annual Spiritual Emphasis Week where an "amazing" speaker was brought in to start a revival and spiritual awakening in our student body...mostly in the men. This was the era of Promise Keepers, and I truly believe most thought World Peace could be achieved if only women would submit and men would start leading out in verbal prayer....a sign of being the spiritual leader of your household. No one really pointed out that none of us were married and not really men or women yet.
During one of these weeks we had an altar call at the end of each chapel...which for that week was...everyday. After each one, the only student left sitting on the cold, folding chairs was the exchange student from Spain. I noticed this, and decided I was done with altar calls. I haven't gone forward or raised my hand since.
-Piercing the Darkness. That was a bad era. Now everyone was an expert on spiritual warfare and everyone, except me, had seen a demon. I was scared. That was about all that accomplished. Why were they all so eager to see such things? Why was there a bit of spiritual pride in seeing the dark side? Why weren't people sharing more testimony in seeing the Light of Christ? Where was the emphasis on social justice and being Christ to others? Do you remember that song "The Champion?" I hated it. In 6th grade, students begged our teacher to play it during lunch. We ate lunch in the classroom. In it were the voices of demons. Of course, Jesus rises from the dead and conquers all, but I wore my own garlic necklace to survive that torturous lunchtime experience; I repeated the name of Jesus over and over under my breath. I survived.
-Some of my favorite church memories took place during summer evening church services. (Later I used to beg my parents to not attend these and instead watch 60 Minutes. I still love this news show. I think my parents would have given in, but my sister usually insisted with great emotion and tears that we attend. Maybe she'd like to blog about that at another time.) But back when I was in the 3rd grade I went happily. Sure, I had to endure really long and boring doctrinal debates that seemed to last forever, but it was all worth it. Because afterward while the parents chatted, we kids ran free. We played tag, Midnight, Mr. Fox....nothing is better than twilight and a summer breeze---the screams of happy, giddy children. It was on one of these nights that my best friend and I declared our mutual love for a 3rd grade boy that shall remain nameless. We shouted high up into the sky, and I know Jesus was smiling.
The thing was, Jesus was real for me. At a very young age I began my spiritual conversation with him. Even when a male church leader laughed at me and told me I was making things up, I knew Christ was speaking to me. I ignored the mockery and proceeded in my intimacy with Christ.
Even though much of this has made my cynical toward church, I still believe.
My faith even survived a church split, actually I grew from that. You see, there is no perfect church and there isn't supposed to be. I have yet to meet a perfect person and since church is people....well, you get it.
I need community. I need church. I crave and desire it. I hope to do it better and better as I age. I hope to not pass on the same misconceptions and hurts and fears that I received from my church journey to my kids, but I might, and they'll make it because God is bigger than us. It is his still small voice that remains true and pure. It is that Being who is passionately pursing a mutual relationship with my children....with all his children.