I found myself homeless when I was nineteen years old, and I figured that being homeless was a better alternative than driving back to the city my parents lived in like a prodigal daughter that wasn’t actually a prodigal but whom some of the cult perceived as prodigal. While it is no excuse for my bad behavior, desperate people act in desperate ways, and I was no exception.

On Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night, and any other time the church doors were open, I was dressed modestly with a long skirt and a shirt that was less than three fingers below my collarbone, singing hymns. But on Monday mornings you could catch me outside the pub with a miniskirt, fishnet tights, with my hair and makeup done totally different than it was the day before. Not that I ever had the guts to walk into the pubs, because I knew God would fry me for eternity, and I knew I was living dangerously as far as the cult was concerned.

I wished that I had the “guts” that my other homeless friends had in that they had no problem selling their bodies for money, and it was damn good money. I happened to be unemployed, again because of my own stupidity, which is often how I have found myself unemployed. I certainly was not the prettiest out of the group, but I often wished that I could do what they did, that if God would not throw me in hell or punish me by bringing me even lower than I was already, I would give it a try. I suppose that in this case I am grateful that fear kept me from prostitution.

I’m also grateful that fear of going to that pit of fire forever kept me from doing drugs when everyone around me was doing them. They called me a prude because I would not have casual sex and I would not do drugs, but I was happy to be around both. I’ve never been a casual sex person it wasn’t entirely my fear of hell but also the fact that sex was very emotional for me and I had trust issues surrounding it. I suppose that happens when one is raped, sexually harassed, and sexually abused as a child. I was dirty and ashamed, and I did not want to make myself even more dirty. I would be unable to present myself as a pure virgin on my wedding day and that was one of the biggest sins a fundamentalist could commit. There are bigger ones, and I committed those too.

There was this disconnect where I thought that the only two options available to me were to remain fundamentalist even though some of it seemed like bullshit, or I could totally ruin my life with drugs, pre-marital sex, and bad friends. It is quite possible that I thought this because those truly may have been the only two options I had at the time. Fundamentalists who “got saved” once they became adults had these elaborate stories about how they had supposedly lived a life of sin before accepting Jesus as their personal savior. It seemed that the minute they did that, they suddenly reformed themselves and thanks to Jesus they were now new people and no longer struggled with their previous sins.

This of course fed my shame, because those stories were only good if you had not been saved before doing that stuff, and I had been saved hundreds of times by this time. Here was I, someone who grew up in a “good Christian family,” struggling with grievous sin. Since I am talking frankly and honestly, the things I was doing were wrong, they were sin, and they were lots of times illegal. While I was doing these things, I also wanted the people I was doing them with to get saved so that they could be saved from hell. It was a very confusing time.

So yes, I was baptized again. This time it was in a private swimming pool owned by one of the more popular families in the church. The pastor went on with the same drivel about how baptism does not make you a Christian, that it is a symbol of the new life in you, of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. This whole idea of baptism and communion being pictures and symbols rather than sacramental never made sense to me, but this is what the church taught, and it was what I believed even though it didn’t make sense.

Not surprisingly, in looking back on it, that baptism didn’t take either and I was still doubtful of whether I was saved or not. This would be an ongoing issue until I learned that baptism was a sacrament that immediately initiated a person into the family of God. But I mostly stopped my nervous habit of praying the sinner’s prayer over and over because I figured that if I was not saved by now then perhaps there was no hope for me. I was going to hell no matter what I did or said or how earnest I was.

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