Back to the story. The defining moment of my relationship with my mother was when we went to see the movie "Ghandi." By this time I had learned that my mother was someone I could actually be honest with and I stumbled upon a moment that I will never forget. As we drove home from the local theater together, I wondered aloud how someone who was clearly so good could be going to hell according to my religion. Even though my mother up to this point had allowed me to ask, there was something different in her answer that night. It was the first time I heard her voice questioning as loudly as mine. How could it be? Even though my mom never gave me what many would call an answer, her ability to discuss and question out loud without accusations flying was a novelty in my world and I felt like I had finally broken free. I was now free to think and to question. For the first time, I felt like God gave me a mind to seek truth and that truth might not always be exactly what I was expecting. And that was exciting.
By the fall of 1983, my bags were packed and I was off to college. It was no surprise that I was heading off to Calvin College, a small Christian liberal arts school. I opted out of Wheaton for many reasons. It was too close to home, I knew too many people there and they made the sad mistake of asking me about some of my past "sins." Even at 18, I knew that I didn't need to be judged for things that I had done in the past. I already knew that part of growing up is learning and changing. I didn't want to be dragged down by things that I had done in the past. I'm all for personal accountability, but what's the point if there are no lessons to be learned and only punishments to be dealt out.
So off to Calvin I went. Little did I know, but my faith was about to be rocked to the core, not by the "world" that I had been warned about, but by the Christians I went to class with every day. Those three years taught me the real world meaning of the word hypocrisy. I saw people who in the name of the same god I was claiming, behave in ways that I found shameful and yet, they turned around and called me a heathen because I wasn't a member of their church. Suddenly, all the words I had spoken to others flooded me in a sea of regret. The judgementalism that I had grown up embracing was a little harsh on the receiving end. Suddenly I realized that our beliefs when taken out of the context of our personal culture, became a target for others, who believed their agenda to be as valid as my own.
And so it was at Calvin College, the safest place my parents could have put me, I learned to think for myself for a change. I was fortunate enough, or intuitive enough to find a group of people who helped me to think for myself. They were all Christians, but a kind of Christian I had never met before. For the first time, I met people who put action before words and reserved the judging for God. I had my fill of being judged by people here on earth. My ego had been torn down again and again by people for whom I never seemed good enough. I had been given a chance to really examine what my foundation was made of and if some repairs were in order.
Next time, The Seether Part Quatro, where yours truly thinks she has figured it all out.
Monday, September 07, 2009
Posted by Tenacious S at 12:35 AM
Sunday, September 06, 2009
Where to begin? Ah, the list. The ever growing list of things that keep me up at night, bring me to tears, ruffle my fur beyond my cleaning capabilities, make me feel isolated and leave me drained. Who knew that Inauguration Day, a day which I blogged about the hope and optimism that I felt, was merely the beginning of a period that would proceed to unravel the fabric of my life, to rip the proverbial band-aid off of the almost healed wound. And yet, that is exactly what happened. I have been left standing here wondering if my childhood and the things that I perceived were really there at all. Somehow this dumb healthcare reform issue has managed to tear my life apart in ways I sure did not see coming.
Most people who know me, know that I will openly identify myself as a Christian. They also know that when I say I came from a VERY conservative background, I am not kidding. The only thing that would have made it worse was if they had put me in a private Christian school, which thankfully they didn't partially because we didn't have enough money and partially because when they threatened the action in sixth grade I vowed mutiny. I knew then that I had already had my fair share of indoctrination and that would have sent me over the edge into crazy land.
I wasn't allowed to question my faith as a child. I was forced to go to church multiple times a week. I was forced to hang out with kids from church. Many times my time with my school friends was limited because my parents tried to control every aspect of my life. I had little freedom as a child. I have never doubted that I was loved. I was absolutely loved and otherwise well taken care of. However, when it came to matters of religion and faith, there was no freedom. No freedom to explore. No freedom to question. The few times I rebelled against this, I was firmly put in my place by everyone surrounding me, my parents, my grandmother and everyone I knew at the church. Basically, the world that I was allowed to live in told me that I had better figure it out. So I would settle down again. When you get slapped upside the head enough, you shut up after awhile.
If the people I was forced to be with and be like were awful people, I would now be telling you that they are now in jail or some such thing. But the fact of the matter was that they were all pretty nice people and they all told me they liked me and it was virtually all I knew, so I was kind of OK with it. What could possibly be wrong with a bunch of conservative midwestern people who frequently made casseroles and thought jello was a salad? Well, maybe I should have seen something evil there. So I kind of did what I should do for awhile. It was just easier and it's not like it was awful and I had people that I thought were friends and my family was happy with me. Lots of positive reinforcement came my way when I was the good girl they all expected me to be.
Still, in all of this, I was always the malcontent in the group. I still had times where I would "backslide" and get called out for my less than Christian behavior. See, it was all about the behavior. If you are constantly behaving the way you should, it doesn't matter what you think. And by the way, that thinking stuff is dangerous. Be careful what you learn. My whole life was a study of censorship. Fortunately for me, there was one person in my life, who in the quiet moments let me know that it was OK to think. It was my mom. Even though she belonged to the same group and culture, she was different and everyone knew it. Whatever my mom was, she was honest and giving and one of the smartest people I have ever known. As I grew older, she began to encourage me to think and question. She opened up enough to allow me to see her own struggling and questioning. She was the one that allowed me to embark on the next leg of my journey.
Stay tuned for The Seether Part Drei, where The Seether makes a break for it.
Posted by Tenacious S at 3:38 PM