A brief history of my brushes with Christianity:
I’ve long been attracted to Christianity, from my time as a child in Sunday School to adulthood, enduring full blown sermons.
As a child, I was obedient. I said my nightly prayer that ended in “If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” (Now there’s prayer to reassure a kid.) I learned the song “Jesus loves me.” And when the Sunday School teacher told us to ask Jesus to enter my heart, I’d sit on a swing in the school yard next to our house and say, “Jesus, enter my heart.”
But the truth is nothing ever happened. Nothing that is until age seven. Coming up from the basement classrooms of the Apostolic Faith Church to the main chapel, I found a lady with her skirt up around her neck, flat on her back, heels drumming the floor, foam coming from her mouth, eyes rolled back in her head, and babbling like a lunatic. I was to learn later she was speaking in tongues. I reckon that’s all right for adults, but as a kid all she did was she scare the hell out of me. I ran all the way home and never returned to that place.
My third brush with Christianity happened at the Reese Creek Community Church. My grandparents took me to hear their son, my Uncle Mendal, preach a sermon as a guest pastor. He was on a roll, preaching up a storm and people were looking like they were ready to be “saved.” One man had actually started down the aisle to the altar. But…I had to pee, and the only way to the outhouse…behind the church in those days…was down the main aisle…and I was in a hurry.
I reckon my fast trot to the front door broke the spell Uncle Mendal had cast on the congregation. If he had not been a religious man, I’d say he was pissed…and I’d say he stayed pissed at me for most of the rest of his life. (He mentioned this sad event one time when I was in my late thirties.) I think he had the notion I spoiled the mood on purpose. I was labeled a bad boy, or at least I felt that to be the case. Sure made me wary of church people, especially preachers.
My fourth brush with religion came when I was fourteen. A pretty young woman in my class rode my bus and decided to sit with me going to school and coming home from school. I can honestly say I enjoyed her attention.
She finally talked me into going to church with her. She prayed, she said, for my immortal soul. So when the preacher invited those who wished to be saved to come to the altar, I obliged. After I was prayed to safety, my pretty young friend beamed and patted my arm and blessed me. And I was in love.
My problems didn’t start for almost a week. I knew I’d been had when she started sitting with another boy about a year older than me and trying her best to talk him into going to church. I guess she figured I was a finished product.
I stuck it out at church for a few Sundays until the ranter preacher started telling me if I had an unclean thought, if I coveted, etc., I had sinned and was headed for everlasting hell fire. “Well, shoot,” I thought. “I’m not supposed to think about girls?” I knew that wasn’t going to happen.
As I studied on it, I knew I was doomed no matter what I did, so I deliberately and loudly said every $*#&! cuss word I knew…and growing up in a logging town I knew quite a few. Took me a while, it did. And so I defiantly and with some sense of freedom quit the church. (I will admit to later finding a profound belief in God and the sanctity of Christ. But not right away. That is a story about angels, and a tale I seldom tell to anyone.)
As for my pretty young friend, she aged right along with the rest of us. In fact, in our late sixties, she was working on an old friend and classmate of mine, working to get him into her church and get him saved before it got too late for his redemption. He was single and interested in her, if not in church.
I laughed when I heard the story. I thought, “Yep…there she is, still vamping for Jesus.”
Good bless her.