“What do you believe in?”
When I was 8 years old, my younger sisters and I found ourselves in the backseat of my parent’s car at about 5pm on a Sunday night. We had no idea where we were headed, except that my Dad had found a new church in Oak Creek WI, and was intent on visiting it with his family. This car ride, by the way, is the first memory I have of driving on a freeway.. so many semis! Random. Anyway..
Parkway Apostolic Church loomed in the distance. I had been to church a couple times when I was very small, but I had NEVER seen anything like this church. There was loud worship music, people singing on stage, and throwing their arms toward the sky. When the preacher stood up, he yelled and pointed at the congregation, and sweat rolled down his forehead. A woman started shouting in a language I had never heard before. After an hour or so, people started to rush to the front of the church, and then fell to their knees. In my mind, the mind of an 8 year old girl, it was all craziness.
Until it wasn’t anymore. I do not claim to remember much about being 8, but I can imagine that it is a very vulnerable and easily swayed age. I loved my parents more than anything, and I believed anything they told me. What I DO remember, however, is how quickly this church became a vital part of my life. We would attend every Sunday morning and evening, and would have adults over to our home on Wednesday nights for Bible study. I remember my Mom would make my sisters and I clean the house especially well, as to impress those who would be visiting. All in an instant, we were “church people”. My Mom’s hair grew to her lower back, and she threw away all her makeup and pants, in exchange for hair ties and long skirts. Our pants were thrown away as well, and replaced with jean skirt jumpers and floral dresses. We were no longer allowed to watch TV or movies, and were sheltered with extreme care. I watched my hair grow longer and longer… and never once questioned it. After all, Rachel, the Bible says women are not to cut their hair. Why would I doubt that?! I remember being told that my grandparents were going to hell…. as they were not baptized in Jesus’ name and filled with the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in tongues.
When I was 10, I remember watching my parents go through the most awful relationship I have ever witnessed. I can’t count how many times the police were called to our house, or how many nights my grandparents had to drive out to pick my sisters and I up. Yet, like clockwork, we were the perfect family come church on Sunday. My parents would vent to other “saints”, and I can remember their pitying eyes, their concern, and how I truly believed all was fine. It wasn’t until each of my parents had gone through extreme bouts of depression and negligence that my Dad put his foot down and enrolled us in Parkway Christian Academy when I was 12, the school from which I would ultimately graduate high school. In elementary school, naive as we were, I remember lifting my hands up to God in chapel service, as that was what my peers were doing, and forcing the tears to come down. We had to repent, of course! I remember the shame I felt at even the thought of cutting my hair, or wearing pants, or doubting a single truth that was told to me day in and day out.
High school was different. I felt trapped. How badly I wanted to believe what I felt convicted to believe, rather than what I was being told, and my brain thrashed around in my head, wrestling with what I was being told and what I FELT in my heart. I remember how we all followed along like little sheep, blind to every evil in the world, and all that it has to offer. How unprepared I was for when I was actually released into the real world…
Years went by. The last time I was at Parkway Church was for one of my best friend’s weddings. I stood up in this wedding, and once my feet hit the platform, I felt a wave of emotions, but mostly one of reflection. I reflected on how far I have come as a person once I set my mind free. How much more willing I am to open my mind to things that may or may not be possible. I am amazed at how much more faith I have in myself, in God, and in the world around me now that “the church” is not shoving religious “truths” down my throat.
So, here is what I believe:
- I believe that God loves all of his children, regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, faults, crimes, or accomplishments. On that same line, there is not one person on this earth that is “better” in His eyes than the next: whether that be the passionate, screaming preacherman on the stage, or the whore on the street corner looking for her next customer. We have ALL made mistakes and we ALL deserve a second chance.
- I believe in God. I believe there is a Heaven. I believe there is more than one way an individual may enter Heaven. Interpret how you will, judgmental Pentecostals.
- I believe that if you treat everyone you meet with respect and kindness, it is one of the best things you can do. “The greatest of these is love”.
- I believe that God is more concerned with the matters of our hearts than whether or not we are wearing a skirt to the floor and hair that covers our neck. If I can wake up every day with a thankful and positive attitude, respect myself and others, raise my son to be a kind person, and live the way I am convicted to live, then I believe all is well. To me, our bodies are a gift, and if we take care of them and feel healthy and beautiful in them, then the creator of them is pleased.
- I believe that everyone was given a passion, and it is our jobs not to waste our talents.
- I believe in having fun, getting loud, eating well, drinking good wine, staying physically fit and well, spending time in quiet thought, and making family time the most important time of the day.
- I believe that everyone standing in that church will be judged for every time they judged another.
- I believe that when all is said and done, religion will not mean shit.
- I believe that if I have faith, the good things intended for me will happen.
- I believe that God wants us to enjoy our lives!! He created the beauty in this world after all!