The Scintilla Project is a fabulous fortnight of Story Telling. Today I am weaving together both prompts to tell you about a time I got lost and the longest single item that I have memorized. This is not an easy story to tell, but it is the right one.
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth.
I was twelve, maybe thirteen when I went through Confirmation. A class that had us memorize the Apostles’ Creed while seeking to instill in us the tenets found in it. At the end we would be full-fledged members of the church, no longer children, but confessing and active adults. My path was set, clear to me, and easy to follow.
I didn’t mind standing apart from my peers. I liked being the “good” girl who followed the rules, memorized Bible verses, and believed with the faith and adoration of a child. I was a leader in my youth groups, rallying my friends to stand up against both the world and misguided youth directors. We were a force to be reckoned with as we firmly proclaimed our beliefs and still found a way to have fun.
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, Our Lord: Conceived by the Holy Spirit; Born of the Virgin Mary; Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried, the third day he rose from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
College and graduate school saw me surrounding myself with similarly minded individuals. People who loved Jesus but loved partying too. People who slowly but surely began to damage my child-like faith. How could the boy who argued theology with me on Sundays lie to me the rest of the week? How could the boy who loved God break my heart by cheating on me? Why would God let me get hurt like this?
My questions grew, but I still believed that the answer was found in the church. I clung to that like nothing else as I was tossed in the tempest of life. And then I found a modicum of happiness, only no one wanted to celebrate with me. Instead, they wanted to tear apart what little I had. A girl’s night in turned to tearing down my not-even-in-the-same-state boyfriend. My plans to move to make things work with him were met with statements of only being happy for me once I had a ring on my finger. Because, you know, engagements never get called off and divorces never happen so a simple ring would guarantee my future happiness forever.
For the first time in my life, instead of feeling the warm and loving embrace of the Church, I felt the cold rejection of judgment. I began to lose my way.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.
Moving away from home was hard. I lost many things during that time. A large amount of my identity was wrapped up in my career and my church. Losing those two things meant losing, for awhile, who I was. I lost the career in entirety to the physical act of moving. I lost the church more to the judgment than anything else. The journey to refind myself, outside of those bounds has been an interesting, if twisted one.
I have not been inside a church, except for weddings and funerals, since Christmas of 2011 when we went with B’s parents. I shy away from going to bible study and explaining what I believe to anyone. Not because I don’t believe, but because I have a hard time reconciling the God that I believe in with the church that purports to follow him. I have lost the way of being the church-leading teenager and found in her place an entirely different type of woman.
I have met and cried with friends as they have come out to me. Crying because all they’ve known is rejection, crying because it just isn’t fair that life is still like this in the twenty-first century. I have walked in the quiet of morning with the Islamic call to prayer ringing in the stillness. I have sat in outrage at the funeral of a young man, who wasn’t even twenty-one, as the pastor used hellfire and brimstone to try to scare up an altar call instead of offering comfort to his friends. I have learned that the greatest compliment comes from being told I am a good person, who loves and cares.
But where does this leave me? It leaves me far from the Church that I once loved. Far from the condemnation of sins. It leaves me wrapped in the comfort and love of a forgiving God. There are many who would probably say that I am still lost, but I know where I am and I know where I’m going and that’s enough for me. And what then do I believe now? Simply that love is always the answer. I will do the best I can, forgive as much as I can, and offer love to everyone that I meet.
“He has shown you, oh man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8
“Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength. This is the first and great Commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39