Thursday, June 9, 2011

My Childhood Summer Vacations

My childhood summer vacations were unlike those of most of my friends. Instead of heading to the beach or the mountains, we were giddy with excitement over spending a few days being brainwashed. We packed our dresses and skirts, our biggest Bibles, and little more, and drove to campmeeting. We chatted about who might yell the loudest, run the perimeter of the building, or jump the pews. We were thrilled about getting our preacher-heroes to sign our Bibles. My little mind certainly wasn't aware of the emotional manipulation that occurred every year. That realization came with adulthood.

 
Rules {and the consequences for not obeying them} were the hot topic. I hope God's love was shared with the hundreds of people who packed the building, but I can't remember. Mostly I remember being scared to do anything wrong for fear of being called out and embarrassed. I feared that God, in His anger, would severely punish me for any wrongdoing. In fact, what I took away from all those campmeetings was that my relationship with God was based on my performance. Even though the cross was a hot topic at those meetings, {and the subject sent the most spiritual into loud hallelujahs and amens, and caused them to run and jump until they broke into sweats, pulling out their crisp, white handkerchiefs}, I don't recall being taught that the work completed on the cross leads to freedom.

 
I wonder where all the convictions spewed from the pulpit, blanketing all of the listeners, came from. We weren't encouraged to seek God about personal convictions. Instead, we were all supposed to be under the same convictions:

 
  • women were not to wear pants or shorts
  • men were to keep short, above-the-collar haircuts
  • women were to limit the amount and color of makeup
  • no rock or country music, and certainly not the new, contemporary Christian
  • stay away from the movie theaters
  • only read the King James Version of the Bible {and it needed to be BIG; otherwise, you would be classified as ashamed}

 
Any deviation from the convictions led one to be shamed. All efforts were made to bring the one back into the fold. If the browbeating, guilt-laden efforts didn't work, the one was shunned and talked about. Surely, they'd never really been a Christian if they could so easily disobey the rules.

 
Over the past five years, as I've let go of the manipulation and brainwashing, I've come to understand that God is not who I thought He was, nor is Christianity what I believed it to be. On occasion, I will see families with a hauntingly familiar appearance. I remember feeling being different, wanting to be normal, but believing that if I was like everyone else, I would be condemned. I so desperately want to wrap my arms around young girls who remind me of myself at that age, and tell them that God is not an angry monster. I want to tell them it's okay to be normal. I want to pour grace and freedom into them. Instead, I sit and watch. I watch their oppressive spirits, and I remember what it was like to carry that burden. Sadness overwhelms me with the realization that they may never know grace. Or if they do, the road they will travel to find it will be guilt-ridden, just as mine was.

5 comments:

  1. I had no idea you had been through that horror!! I'm really thankful that you learned a more balanced view of God now, understanding obedience to Him, grace from Him, and the freedom that gives you to be as He created you. How tragic that churches teach traditions and church culture over God's way!! I'll be adding your ministry to people brainwashed into church culture to my prayers for you. Much love!!

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  2. Well, what is so cool about whoever is that God is lovingly in control and He is the Master Teacher, the Master Freedom setter, and He is gentle and good. And they are where oddly enough they need to be on their journey with Him. I am not saying I agree with the manipulation or brainwashing, but simply that we are all manipulated or brainwashed to some degree. Try as I might to be graceful to my children, I know I will fail. I know they will suffer some consequence of me as their parent, but I am wholly submitted to the idea and thought that He really cares about the details of our lives and redeems the mistakes of others that cause us to slip, fall, and question. Our failures really are His strength - opportunities for His glory to shine and be revealed.

    Blessings to you. I wrote my post "just as you are" last night and then clicked over here to see you'd written about learning to love, which I also mentioned in my post. He brings you to my mind often. You are Loved, sweet friend.

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  3. Seth, check your FB messages...I answered you there.

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  4. Rebekah,
    I am interested, too, in how you broke free. My email is brownslr19@gmail.com

    As for your latest post, I am constantly telling my hubby that so much goes on behind closed doors that I believe we would be horrified over. Obviously, most of the situations I think of are not as severe as your neighbor, but isn't it true that so many are "in hiding" in so many areas of life. I imagine we all do, to an extent.

    Love
    Amanda

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