Wednesday, October 18, 2006

For Heather

Not to make light of your feelings, but your recent post reminded me of this scene. We humans need to share our fears and perceived failings more often. I think it reminds us of our commonality more than sharing our triumphs.

From my novel, Garden of Weeds.

It wasn’t long, maybe the fourth or fifth Sunday, the congregation was softly singing “Just As I Am”. Pastor Hank was praying in a whisper, his arms outstretched to the heavens. Keith lurched up out of his seat. He stepped square on my foot in his fervor to get up to the front. The Holy Spirit had come over him and Jesus was now in his heart.
The next Sunday, after the morning services, we all trooped out to the deck and the lawn below to watch Keith get dunked in the hot tub. He came up out of the water smiling, his face full of the same joy I saw in the faces of the people around me. I felt nothing.
Over the next few weeks I noticed two things. One, Keith really cut back on the number of AA meetings he was attending. He said that Jesus was all he needed. The second thing I noticed was that people at the church were starting to look at me funny. Well maybe they weren’t really, but I felt like they were. They were waiting for me to get Jesus.
So was I.
I tried, really. I prayed. I studied my Bible lessons and read my Bible. I made myself quiet and listened for that still voice in my heart. I did everything they told me to do. Still I never felt a damned thing. Different people had described it differently. A sudden feeling of complete peace. A sudden feeling of pure joy. A sudden revelation of the truth of God’s word. All I ever felt was like a big fat reject sitting there Sunday after Sunday. Knowing I was the only unsaved person in the church, knowing Pastor Hank was giving the call only for me. And week after week, I couldn’t heed it.
Pastor Hank told me I thought too much about it and I should just “feel”. One of the deacons wanted to have me anointed in oil and have the congregation lay hands on me and pray for whatever demons that were keeping me from Jesus to depart. Then Bubba diagnosed the problem: Keith and I were living in sin.
Now, it had never bothered Keith before, us not being married. Now all of a sudden, it was a huge problem. One of those Catch-22 kind of problems. Our state of sin was the reason I couldn’t get Jesus in my heart, but Keith couldn’t marry me until I was saved. Pastor Hank quoted some scripture about not being unevenly yoked. It was decided that we should live as “brother and sister” until we could get married. Right. Keith went along with that for about three days, then decided he could just pray for forgiveness.
I just wanted to get Jesus so people would stop looking at me like I was the whore of Babylon come to town.
After another couple of weeks, I took to heart a saying I’d heard in AA: fake it ‘til you make it. I couldn’t take it anymore. Every time that call went out to come forward and accept Jesus, my stomach would start to cramp up. I wasn’t praying by that point, I was begging God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, whoever, someone to give me a break here. Still I felt nothing. So I faked it.
I felt like a shit for doing it, because everyone was so happy about it. I didn’t know why God had ignored me, but I guess He could just add to the long list of sins I’d accumulated along the way.

1 comment:

Heather said...

I don't think it makes light of what I was trying to say. I think everyone's spiritual journey is personal and sharing it is hard, at least it is for me.
I was raised Catholic. I was not raised to feel as though I should suddenly be filled with the Holy Spirit. That has been one of the harder parts about joining our current church. There has been no great epiphany, no sudden change. It's been a circuitous path. Often I seem to cover the same ground, tripping over the same obstacles. I'm far from perfect. I sowed my oats and even if I suddenly overcame my fear of public speaking, I'd never run for office. I'd rather not revisit all of my shortcomings. I debated that post with myself. I know at least one of my parents reads my blog. Will they hold it against me? Admitting quite publicly that I carry a lot of baggage from my childhood is weird. However, maybe it's time to peel of that facade.

The past few years have been a period of significant growth and the past few months have been a period of introspection and self-discovery. In that, I've come to the realization that I've been bearing unnecessary burdens and with that, there is a sense of relief and a whisper of peace. (Remind me I said that, the next time my son is driving me up the wall.)

I agree, we share many failings, it is part of our human condition. One of my biggest mistakes has been holding myself to a standard that is unachievable and punishing myself when I do not meet my expectations.

Even though it's painful at times, I am learning. I choose to share through the written word, because I have both a delete and a backspace key; they get used frequently. (Perhaps not often enough.) I have been telling myself that maybe someone else may identify with my experience.

I'm intrigued by your excerpt and want to read more.