Those of you who know me understand how I operate intellectually. You may also be familiar with the way I operate spiritually. Growing up in a home where all I ever knew was God, the Bible, Sunday School, and church songs (both traditional and nontraditional), I have come through a journey of battling with extremes. I know I have verbally shared this with some of you, but I think, because of something that happened to me a week ago, it’s time to write it down.
Just like any good traveler, I needed to pack. But I was a packrat. And by that, I mean I packed EVERYTHING. Of course, I’m speaking in the metaphorical sense, because these things that I “packed” were pieces and tid-bits and clusters of Christianity as I saw it. Let me explain.
My hard-working, Christian mother home-schooled me in elementary school. Before this, I attended a private Christian school for pre-school and kindergarten where she was a teacher. As a part of my home-school education, I was required to read my King James Version Bible and memorize scripture and psalms as my mother directed. I was also required to take sermon notes. I ended up “taking sermon notes” for a large portion of my adolescent life.
These sermon notes consisted of spiritual experiences, spiritual quotes, Sunday School lessons, prayer practices, anything and everything I ever heard a pastor or someone spiritual say. After being home-schooled for 5 years, my parents sent me to a special public school that required all students to be in band (I played the trumpet). I attended 10th Street Middle School in the 6th & 7th grade. At this point, I was adding a rather eclectic collection of Christian music to my sermon notes. My spiritual suitcase was PACKED. But I didn’t even understand it all. Quite honestly, my emotional journal entries that I began writing at age 8 were more real to me than anything in my growing repertoire of Christianity.
Fortunately, I was spared in a couple areas. Thanks to my cynical father and high-class education, I was taught to reject anything with a pentecostal flare, no matter how extreme. My high-class education kept me away from wasting my time reading evangelical literature that simply attempted to re-write the message of the Bible in less lofty terms (with the exception of Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins’s Left Behind Series, of course – for better or for worse). So I grew up rejecting all things pentecostal and reading classic literature that increased my vocabulary.
And this brings me to the end of part one, as a Christian packrat, with everything BUT speaking in tongues and cheesy Christian literature in my suitcase. Everything else was definitely in there, though, everything from raising my hands in worship to every single word of every sermon I had ever heard. And if you’re a packrat, you know that one of our most resilient characteristics is that we don’t know what the heck it is that we’ve packed.