I have always had a conflicted relationship with organized religion. My parents believed themselves to be good Christians simply because they went to Sunday School most Sundays (never Church) and they prayed over our evening meal. Maybe they were good Christians. I certainly am not judging whether they were or not. But the fact remains that God and Jesus were not a part of my daily life other than in a token fashion when I was growing up.
By the time I reached my teenage years my parents had moved from the local middle class Presbyterian church to the downtown society Presbyterian church and had abandoned Sunday School in favor of the actual church services. My parents prided themselves on telling me which person from Lookout Mountain spoke to them each Sunday. To my parents’ way of thinking, they had arrived. They belonged to the society church and the people who mattered actually spoke to them.
It was during these years that I became resistant to attending church. My reluctance to attend services caused huge fights at home. I don’t think my parents particularly cared whether I got anything out of church, they just wanted me to be there. Looking good as a family, I guess. I just didn’t see any point in going. I had not had any true religious upbringing. A relationship with God, Jesus or even the Holy Spirit was never talked about in our house. In fact, the only time God was ever mentioned other than in a supper blessing was when I was told what God would do to me if I had sex before marriage or if I failed to believe the Bible in its complete literalness. And along with what God would do to me if I stepped off the invisible behavior line was what my father would do to me as well. It is no wonder that the image of God/Jesus that I took with me when I left home was of a Being that was waiting to strike me down if I made one misstep.
As I entered my twenties and thirties I kept in my mind a belief in God because it had been drummed into me, not because I had any true experience with Him. I had acquaintances who had vivid and vocal beliefs in Jesus (God seemed a mere bit player to these people) so I thought maybe I was looking at this religion thing the wrong way. But, the rigid exclusivity of “our way or the highway” which was an integral part of their belief system kept me from wanting to know more.
My belief that God was waiting to strike me down in punishment for my mistakes was reinforced when I lost custody of my two children from my first marriage. I had begun praying for God’s help for me and for my children, and on the way to court the day the trial was to begin I held my Bible in my lap and prayed fervently that God would answer my prayer. I really thought He would. But, as you know if you have read Biologically Bankrupt, God did not come through for me. And, of course, my parents told me I had gotten what I “deserved”.
It would be five years after that terrible day before I found the beginning of my spiritual life, and began to answer the question of Who and What God was, or perhaps more accurately, What and Who God was not. Does Jesus save? Probably, for those who so believe. I won’t really know the answer to that question until I pass over. Do I think that only Jesus saves? Absolutely not. When I called on that Power Greater than myself to remove from me the compulsion to drink, I did not call on Jesus. I called on a God who I understood to be Greater than myself. Was it the same God to whom I prayed that day on the way to court? I am not sure. The difference in the prayers, though, was significant. Five years earlier I had expected God to magically “poof” a result in court that ignored reality and my own role in placing myself in a position where losing custody could actually occur. In other words, I wanted God to save me from the consequences of my own behavior. When I prayed to have God remove the compulsion to drink, I had no expectations. I simply surrendered. And He answered.
I do know this, by whatever name we call Him/Her/It, if we seek we shall be found.