So to start at the beginning of the beginning of the beginning… one year for Christmas when I was about 10, I got an am/fm radio that was shaped like she-ra’s castle.
It was not something that I’d particularly wanted… but I had a room to myself at the time, and so I’d mess around with it while falling alseep, and eventually I found a station that read aloud books by Jeannette Oaks for an hour right around the time I was falling alseep. (These are a series of a ton of books that are basically little house on the prarie meets romance… but they are by a Christian author and so were clean enough to be allowed in our Jr High library… so since they were there, I’d read the 10 or so the school had…)
So, I would listen to this as I fell asleep at night for a while… even though the station had boring music during the day.
I don’t remember why I stopped… but fast forward a couple of years, and its Christmas break of my 7th grade year… I’m bored… and I decide to tune my clock radio over to listen to the books.
Well, the station wasn’t the same format anymore… it had turned into Christian rock, but I left it on anyway basically for background noise.
And because there wasn’t really any other station I was into, I ended up leaving the radio set there.
And I started turning it on just for random background noise in the evenings.
And after about two months… there was an annoucement of a free concert for teenagers. I decided to ask to go, just because I’d never been to a concert, and my dad had no problem with driving a 7th grader all the way across town and dropping them off for an event that the kid knew nothing about.
So.. I became a Christian that night… basically under the logic of “what the heck, might as well try it”..
Having absolutely no idea what I was doing, and absolutely no church background. I remember tagging along with my grandmother to church a single time as a child.
We got handed a little booklet… advised to join a church… and that was about it.
So I was still pretty much completely clueless… when a couple of weeks later I decided to ride along to church with a neighbor girl that was picked up by a van, basically just because it was the only idea I had of how to get to one.
And so I ended up at this small town politics run baptist church…. wearing sweatpants with a hole in the knee… and not even knowing the preschool level basics. This was a church where there was a grand total of one person who hadn’t been raised in a Christian family… and where putting on the right impressions to impress the right people was much more of a goal than any sort of teaching or learning.
You can imagine just how welcomed I was.
But, I had no other ideas… didn’t know that this wasn’t the way that all churches were… and so much to their disappointment I kept coming.
Fortunately, the one guy who had become a Christian as an adult sort of became a mentor and took me under his wing… going out of his way to help me in ways that I didn’t fully realize until years later… even though it was at the cost of conflict for him as a deacon.
And I started calling the Christian radio station in the evenings, and became friends with the DJ, and he was bored enough to be willing to basically walk me through all sorts of random questions way outside of his job description. (I remember one particular multi-hour discussion of what in the heck a messiah was.. that sort of thing..)
So, I got ahold of a storybook style bible to at least fill in the basic stuff… but with the only version being used being the king james, I didn’t know there were more easily read versions… and so for those two years, basically the only thing I was going off of was prayer.
But, well, I’d basically just been told in the booklet something to the effect that “prayer is just talking to God like he’s a friend”.
Needless to say, that meant that mine didn’t start with the proper acceptable “Oh most gracious heavenly father” that every prayer in that baptist church was supposed to start with. “Hey God” was very much not approved and of course was completely considered disrespectful.
But the more interesting part, is that I didn’t realize that as a baptist, I wasn’t supposed to be getting answers.
Most of the time it’s just sort of a nudge… something that I wrote off during the agnostic spell as having been human intuition or points where the subconscious mind was leading me without my knowing that I knew things.
But sometimes the nudges told me things I had no way of otherwise knowing. And every one in a while… its something clear as day… a phrase, sometimes even a mental picture of something.
I do not recommend ever mentioning anything like that in a baptist church.
In any case, that’s how things went for about two years.
I still felt pretty much clueless as to what I was supposed to be doing, but at least was getting up to speed on faking it… even though it felt like I was completely wrong, it just got blamed on my cluelessness.
I honestly thought that as soon as I learned what I was supposed to be doing, everything would be roses.
With this church, at the start of 9th grade is when the kids moved from sunday school to youth group, and officially became members of the church… meaning they were allowed to vote in church matters (not that they actually had a say in things, essentially they became pawns for their parent’s politics)
So, suddenly… I went from being a tolerated pain to being a threat.
By this point, I’d caught up enough on the basics… which was all that the other kids had ever really learned because they were all forced to…. and where it was all new to me, I’d been asking questions and seeking answers enough that I knew more of the concepts behind things.
So when the whole discussion weeks with the pastor during sunday school came… preparing for membership… he wasn’t happy that the only kid who actually was awake and into things was the kid who still needed tabs on her bible to find the books in a reasonable timeframe, and worse, wasn’t just taking his word as being gospel truth but was asking where that answer was coming from.
So at some point in this spell, it became noticed that I’d never been baptized, and thus didn’t meet the qualifications for membership. Sadly enough, at a baptist church, this hadn’t ever been mentioned to me in the 2 years, nor had there actually been any baptisms in that time.
So, I’m like, ok, that’s fine, how do I do that?
At which point, the pastor was annoyed enough by me to start making new rules… namely, that “for liability’s sake”, minors needed to be the children of members of the church to be baptized there.
My parents were not about to do that. My mom had attended like twice (Easter), my dad felt like the pastor had offended him by offering charity help around christmas one year (because, well, we were very much the poorest family that had a member going to this church full of well-to-do political peoples).
I did not find out until years later… from a deacon’s daughter I’d somewhat been friends with… that the other deacon who had become a mentor to me had actually stood up in the meeting and offered to pay for a lawyer to have a contract made allowing him to put his business of the line and assume full liability in the church’s place should anything happen.
Which should have taken care of their supposed reason for concern… but was voted down with not a single person voting to let him.
It didn’t really matter all that much in the week to week flow of things… but it was a definite crush to me on feeling like a reject that would never be able to get it together and now wasn’t even qualified to do so if she tried… which got mixed with the realization that there wasn’t really a happier world by getting it together.
Instead of making me feel better than I wasn’t missing anything, it made me feel worse… basically like I was a hopeless case.
I stuck it out at the church anyway until the end of the school year, when we moved.
My mentor resigned as deacon (and van driver, and leading the youth group worship, and about 10 other things he did) and left the church the next week.
I didn’t realize the timing was related until years later.