When I was on fire
I mentioned Friday that I devoured Addie Zierman’s book “When We Were on Fire” in two late nights last week.
In some ways her story felt like my own – that crazed, all-consuming, legalist Christian subculture so many of us were involved in our teen years, the culture that so many of us have walked away from, disillusioned and cynical.
At several points I set the book down, closed my eyes and was taken back to the days where I too was on fire. I could even smell the bright red carpet in the sanctuary of the church where I’d kneel for hours during youth group, consecrating my life to radical holiness.
That was a decade ago. I am no longer on fire. I have almost forgotten what it means to live a life of “radical holiness.” For me, it meant a lot of guilt and shame. It meant snubbing a really nice boy who drew me cartoons of cows because he wasn’t in love with Jesus. It meant taking down the Beatles poster from my bedroom that I’d had since I was a child. It meant thinking pastors, missionaries and evangelists were more important than plumbers, painters and pharmacists. It meant getting lectured by a spiritual leader for saying the word “heck”. It meant pressing into God by singing the same worship song over and over for three hours on Sunday morning. It meant turning my art project at community college into a gospel presentation, and when my classmates politely ignored me the rest of the semester, it meant I was just that much holier.
It meant building confining walls and living in the tiny constrains of my own religious prison.
I’ve been wondering how I might start to talk about my faith journey on this blog. I’m scared to, but I think I am ready. After reading Addie’s book, I spent a few hours writing down a few of my church memories. My story is different from her because I come from a Pentecostal background, which comes with an entirely different set of jargon and rules than the garden-variety evangelical.
I know my continual struggle with church and Christian culture doesn’t have a lot to do with motherhood, but I think it some way it all ties together. I’m a mom who is figuring out my own messy faith as I try to figure out how I’ll raise Baby G. It is something I want to work through, because I want so desperately for her to grow up understanding how big and loving her God is. But I want to do this without tying up her spirit with tight, pretty Christian bows.
I’m scared to send her to church – especially youth group. But that’s far off. For now, I’m just trying to just sit through a church service without crying or feeling panicked or ticked off.
I think there are some of you out there who might relate. I’d love to figure all this out with you. It can be a lonely journey.