My Faith Journey: Blank
I grew up in a home with no spiritual base at all. It was the same way when I went to my grandparents house in rural Arkansas. They didn’t go to church either and did not express any faith affiliation or belief in anything. When John Lennon says, “Imagine no religion” I can do that quite well. That was my childhood.
I went to a Baptist school when I was in kindergarten and first grade. I do remember that. It wasn’t until later in life that this really struck me as odd. When I asked my mother about it she told me they sent me there because there was a high concentration of Hispanic children at the public school in town and they feared for the quality of my education.
I only remember a few things that I learned there, and really the only evidence I have that I was there at all is in the form of a few pictures and names that are still in my head like Christopher, Miss Judy and Johanna Neisham. As a child though, it was just school. It was not until years later that I made the connection that it was actually a faith institution.
I also remember learning a few Bible stories while I was there. I distinctly remember a class with an older man who explained to us that Cain killed Abel with a watermelon (I was shocked to find out this wasn’t in the Bible years later (in college)).
Other than that, where there would normally be spiritual ideas being propagated, there was nothing. That whole part of my development and world-view was blank.
I saw movies like Ten Commandments, which my dad loved to watch, but I didn’t connect that to a deeper or more profound reality. They were just good movies.
Asking my parents questions about God was pretty unremarkable too. I would ask where animals came from and I would usually get the answer, “From their mom and dad.” When pressing back through time with generation upon generation of “and that one? And that one?” They would continue with “from their mom and dad,” never copping out with the typical, “God made it” that so many kids might have gotten.
I never experienced a death as a child of a person or pet, so there wasn’t a chance to ask, “Where did the dog go?” Where I might have received the answer, “Heaven.”
There was just…nothing.
I would find out later that my parents were fiercely devoted to letting us make up our own minds about such things. They have their traditions and experiences that they both come from. My father spent a lot of time in Eastern religions and my mother grew up in an oppresive church. Both felt that the best way for me any my siblings to come to faith was on our own.
This is how they did many things in our lives like hobbies, sports, interests, schools, careers. They were blanketly supportive of all that we did and all that we wanted to learn. They were helpful with the things that they could be helpful with, but largely left these pursuits up to us.
So it was with religious ideas and faith possibilities. They were encouraging but not pushy. Religion was treated like a hobby for us to seek and learn on our own and only if we wished. In this way it was like playing high school football or taking up photography. We could dive in or quit as we wished. They were supportive no matter what we decided.
I struggle with whether or not that was a good way to do it. Obviously it worked out well for me. I am a student of History and Theology. I decided to dive in and I dove in hard. Knowing myself, had it been forced on me I would have rejected it and had nothing to do with it. I am sure of that. But guidance would have been nice.
It is the luxury of the child to look back and say, “my parents should have done this.” And that is not what I am trying to do. Raising kids is hard. I can tell just by watching. And it seems that even if you just nail it and get it perfect then the next child will come along and destroy all of your seemingly wise parenting ideas. The prodigal son and his older brother had the same parents. One son was good and loyal and grew up doing what he should. The other took his share of the fortune and blew it on beer and women (figuratively speaking).
God works through all situations.
In Christian college, around your Junior year, you end up with a lot of people having a crisis of faith. They commonly have a vacant look on their faces and look very lost. When you ask them what is wrong they will often tell you, “I just don’t know what to belive. I am struggling to create an authentic faith. I have just spent so much of my life as a repackaged version of my parents faith.”
This is a crisis that I feel safe to say I have avoided. I never had the crisis of just holding on to the faith of my parents. I have seen just how stressful and worrisome that is for some people. I know I will never face that fear because I was allowed to create my own faith, my own walk, my own way which is still being shaped and formed on a daily basis.
That is because of the freedom that I was given to dive in myself instead of being shoved in by my parents. I am thankful for that.
Though I was a blank slate, it was my slate to draw on. It would have been nice to have a drawing class first, but in the end I think I learned quickly from experience.
So, for this step in my faith journey I really am thankful to my parents who let me find my own way.