H’s Journey Through Religion, Part II (Middle School)
Up until this point, I’d spent most of my reading time in the Old Testament. However, at school, the Gideons distributed pocket New Testaments. Before this, I hadn’t thought about the concept that the Bible would be separated into two parts – the “Old” and the “New,” and I wondered why they were giving out only the last part. Yet, it was small enough to carry around with me, so I plunged into it, devouring it just as hungrily.
I’d already grown to love the God of the Old Testament and I had recognized Him easily in this last portion of the book about Him. It was exciting to read again about His time actually walking around as a human, and my love for Him deepened.
After this, I decided to try church again. It seemed like maybe I’d find God’s family there. I kept picking the same church because it was the only one I’d ever been invited to. I had the idea that a person must be invited to a church before you could attend there, like for a special club. Plus, Dad had grown up in this denomination. He hadn’t been able to explain the “no instruments, no dancing, and no Heaven until baptism” part any better than Kevin had, but I asked Dad if he’d take me. He did, and even Mom went along this first time. I remember hoping her attendance would miraculously change her.
Once there, I realized that the same ideas were being practiced. Logic told me now that the :no dancing or instruments thing” probably wasn’t a matter of their having “not read this part yet.” They were talking about Jesus, so they’d read what I had.
And, the communion plates were to go by me because I hadn’t yet been baptized. Quietly holding back tears, I reluctantly passed the plates myself without taking part. Even more so now, I understood communion as a time to remember and be thankful for Christ’s sacrifice and to worship God as His family (fellowship). I wanted to be a part of His family. I needed the brothers and sisters I’d read about having in the Church. I wanted my family to be part of His family.
In preparation for coming and arguing against their beliefs on water baptism being a requirement for salvation, I’d read a lot about what the Bible says on it. As a result, I saw it as an expression and symbol to God and fellow believers that you love God and want to do everything possible to please Him, to basically give every aspect of yourself toward His service.
When I went to the pastor about it and asked him to explain, it didn’t help. I respect him for his patient efforts, and we are friends to this day. I pointed to the thief on the cross next to Jesus. Neither of us could say that he had been baptized; yet, look at what Jesus said to him.
Once again, not having been invited to other churches, I stopped going. But, there’s a praise in this; these couple of visits caused me to learn two hymns that have stayed with me and become favorites: (He Could Have Called) Ten Thousand Angels and Morning Has Broken. In the Garden was already my top favorite, since it was on a couple of my parents’ albums. Music was a huge part of our lives. My sister and I spent portions of our allowances on our own music, and our parents had cabinets and boxes filled with albums we all enjoyed.
My thoughts, upon looking back now:
- I find it interesting that I somehow escaped the struggle that some do, at least judging by comments from adults I’ve listened to since then. Some wrestle with the thought that the Old Testament God is, at best, a cranky, strict Person compared to the sweet, all-loving New Testament God. At worst, that ancient guy is a violent, wrathful dictator who demands blood in order to be somewhat pacified. To me, God didn’t change, and Who He was and is? Well…He is awesome and always has been!
- I also note that the restrictions about dancing and musical instruments bothered me when I was younger, but that wasn’t my focus when I got older. Then, it was the water baptism belief I struggled with most.
- Another thing that strikes me, looking back, is that the New Testaments were passed out at our public school. I’m thankful for that, but it is wild to see how much times have changed.
- I still ponder the amazing thing that my mother went with us to church. It makes me wonder how much that day’s attendance played out in her future. I hope to be able to ask her someday.