I was a well behaved child. I’m still well behaved. My father was a strict disciplinarian, and I was a scaredy cat. Still am. Corporal punishment was allowed in school too. Being on the receiving end of that punishment wasn’t really great, so I learned fast to behave myself in order to avoid that.
I never went around downtown much with my friends after school. I had to go home so I wouldn’t get into trouble with my father. Somebody who knew him was going to see me and tell him, and then I’d be in for it. I look just like my father, and he knows a bunch of people, and they all know me. No can do. I never took a whiff of that lit, rolled up paper. Somehow, the teacher was going to find out, and I’d be in trouble. For some reason, I never got away with things the way my friends did. Every one of them would line up to do this one thing and be fine, and then the minute I would step up to have my turn, some authority figure would appear out of nowhere and give me what I had coming to me, while my friends ran away and hid. I learned fast from that too. No doing bad stuff with my friends. I would get caught no matter what.
I guess those were my first “values”. I learned from my parents and teachers what the right thing to do was, and realized that not doing the right thing got me into trouble. I didn’t like being in trouble, so I tried not to not do the right thing.
I was a regular enough teenager. I went to school, and went home afterwards. I went to my best friend’s house up the street. Slept over a few times. Spent the summers in the country.
One morning after devotions at school I really thought about God and prayer, and how it felt like I was just talking to the air and not to anyone in particular, and how I wasn’t sure if He could hear me or not. I kept thinking about that, and I wanted to read the Bible again. I had always wanted to read the whole thing, but I always got scared at how mean God was and how He made Adam and Eve die because of one little mistake and how I’ll have to die because of that when I wasn’t even there. Then I would get to Noah’s story and get scared then too at how God killed all those people, even though they were evil. I think that’s how far I had gotten the last time when I hurriedly closed the Bible and tried hard not to cry.
But after that morning I was really thinking about it, so I picked it up again and started all over. I forced myself to read every word, even when I got to Leviticus. I couldn’t do that with Numbers though because it was a repetition of what was in Leviticus and I just couldn’t go through that again. I really didn’t need to know the measurements of the temple and every single thing inside it.
Anyway, I read it. Whatever I didn’t understand I didn’t pay attention to. I just read the words and kept going until I was done. It took some effort. The Bible is no joke. Before I finished it though, I did pick something up. There’s this day that God’s in love with, and He always got furious with the people if they didn’t treat it the way He wanted them to, and I mean He was really mad. It was the Sabbath; the seventh day of the week. He talked about it all the time, and the people paid a lot of attention to it too – that is, when they weren’t worshiping idols.
That stuck with me. I didn’t see anything in there about Sunday, but that was the holy day for us. Everyone went to church on Sunday, and even if you didn’t, you played gospel music. A lot of people didn’t go to work. We couldn’t play cards or marbles, or really anything else. We had to be quiet, and just stay inside. No going to the neighbours’ houses to play with their children, or going to your friends’ houses to socialize.
I talked to my mother about that. About us doing something opposite of what the Bible says. She said we didn’t really know which day it was since it was so long ago. It could be Wednesday for all we know. As long as we do what we can she said. The day wasn’t that important. But I didn’t think so. There were a few people who went to church on Saturday. I used to see them sometimes. I thought they were being showy and wished they wouldn’t do that. That they’d just go on Sunday like everyone else. But now that I’d read the Bible, it looked like they were right, and all the rest of us were wrong, and I just didn’t get it. How could all the rest of us be wrong?
But we were, and I decided to go to church on Saturdays. Luckily my best friend and her mother went to church on Saturdays. I hadn’t known before. That was good for me though. I wouldn’t have to go to some new place by myself. I went to church with them.
And that’s how I found my second code to live by. I was so strict about keeping the Sabbath and not eating unclean meats and not wearing jewellery. I got my house in order too (so to speak). My father had left two years before and it was just me with my mother and younger sister then. I was so firm in my beliefs that I got them to go to church with me, and we even got baptized together, in the same pool, all at once, at the same time. I think I may have been a bully though. My mother is a softie so I could do it with her. My sister got dragged along too.
Three years into it I started getting tired. Tired of all the tiny things that didn’t add up and couldn’t be explained. Tired of how much everyone trusted that prophet liked she was right up there with the ones in the Bible. I was tired of her too. As if the Bible wasn’t enough to make me feel like a worthless soul who couldn’t do anything but sin.
I didn’t like what we were being taught. I didn’t like that after moving to America, I had found that the Christians, who were of the same faith, weren’t as strict as the ones back home. I didn’t like that they weren’t separating themselves from the world as they should have, as I was trying to do. I felt like I was the only one trying to live according to everything in the Bible, and it was exhausting, and lonely. Not one person served as a good role model for me. I had found two people in the congregation to look up to but then they both fell from their respective pedestals, and I was left alone again. I just wanted to stop. I stopped reading my devotional. I had been finding errors in there and that was ticking me off. I wasn’t going to sit and let someone feed me garbage. One day I didn’t read my Bible and now I don’t read it at all. I even forgot to bring it to church with me once and now I just don’t even carry it. It’s the hardest thing to get up out of bed on Saturday mornings and go to church. One reason is that I’m tired from staying up watching drama episodes the night before, but I also just really don’t want to go. When I do, I sleep or find some way to stay outside. I haven’t gone to Sabbath school in months, and I don’t stay at church all day anymore. I have no desire to be a part of it.
Now I indulge myself in my dramas, and I even watch the ones with ghosts and witchcraft, though I’m still very certain that it’s evil and I wish people didn’t believe in that stuff. I’m seeing people differently, and I’m seeing a whole bunch of people too. This is America after all. I’m starting to let go of my rigidness where they are concerned. They are people. They struggle just like me. I don’t know what God is doing and why He absolutely has to let all this happen – and by “all this” I mean letting people go hungry, having people be sick, letting children get hurt – but I want to be on their side. I want to help them.
I’m not necessarily living by any code now I guess. I’m just trying to see people. To look at them, and see them.