Growing up in my family meant being involved in church. Actually, that’s an understatement. Our lives revolved around the church. My paternal Grandfather was a Presbyterian Minister and both my paternal Grandmother, who passed away in her mid-50s, and my “GrandMary” whom he married when I was about 10, were devoted to whatever parish he happened to be ministering to at the time. On the flip side of that, my mother’s side of the family were all (emphasis on “all”) born-again, evangelical, fundamentalist Christians. My own parents “defected,” as it were, to Quakerism when I was still a toddler. My father taught at Quaker colleges, my mother was not only the music director for our meeting for worship, but ended up becoming an ordained minister at the age of 60.
I, myself, never fit in. I went to church every Sunday. Even then I was a loner. There were cliques at church as well as at school and I was a rebel and an outsider. Summer vacations would find me attending Bible School with my cousin in Pittsburgh. She was only six months older than me and I looked up to her as someone who had a sense of belonging. Both sides of my family were so tight. Their respective families were unified and the siblings were all very close. In the meantime, I took out my aggression on my only sister and my parents felt distant…removed. I wanted that close bond but I came to resent the harsh, judgmental attitude that rained down on me from those that felt they had the ultimate knowledge of a higher power.
As time went on and I got older, it became clear that I was not only the black sheep, but an absolute pariah. My path in life veered in a completely opposite direction. While my cousins went off to Christian colleges, I set off for art school. I lived a rather Bohemian lifestyle. I lived in the moment. Impetuous. Unrestricted. Loud. My cousins got married and had babies. I left my fiancé and entered into the lesbian community with abandon and acceptance. My cousins went off to faraway lands to convert the unholy to Christianity and I moved around to NYC and Boston, a liberal set free in my own territory.
Through the years, though, I always felt something missing. I felt a hole in my heart that was left when I walked away from the centering that had come so naturally to me during the golden silences of my Quaker meetings for worship. I wanted my God. Not someone’s idea of God, but my own personal relationship. I would never be able to attend a church where someone else told me what to think, what to feel. I often felt lost, but didn’t know how to connect to my God.
In 1997, my partner and I decided it was time to bring a child into our lives. I wanted so very much to have a biological child and we embarked on a three year process to get pregnant through alternative insemination. I finally conceived and happily settled into my growing belly, our plans for the nursery, and our hopes for our child to be. Sometime during the summer months when my stomach was ripe and round and my heart skipped a beat with every kick, I received a note in the mail from my eldest cousin on my mother’s side. It said a lot, but the words that stuck with me were “Since you have chosen to abandon the familial path set forth in the Bible, you are no longer under the protection of God’s umbrella.” I was dumbstruck. Here was the proof that I was not worthy of God’s love. Because of the way I had lived my life and the choice I’d made to have a child in a lesbian household, I was being told that great misfortune would be my lot. Perhaps not immediately, but at some point, I would pay.
From then on I blamed myself every time something went wrong. My pregnancy became an endless series of complications. No protection from God. My son was born two months prematurely. No protection from God. My relationship fell into unrecoverable disrepair. No protection from God. I lost my job and wound up seeking welfare. No protection from God.
My mother finally convinced me that my cousin’s words could no longer hold any power over me. She asked me to build a fire and burn the note. Cleanse my soul of the hole she had worn in it with her words. Her words had become a self-fulfilling prophecy and I had to admit to myself that God didn’t make these things happen. My God wouldn’t punish me. My God loved me anyway. My God brought me through it all, was there all along, and I came out stronger for it on the other side.
Over the years, I have begun to rebuild my relationship with my Lord. I still live an unconventional life. Others may shun my ways and call me heathen, but I know that Jesus lives in my heart because I talk with him on a daily basis. A constant basis. I have found my own call to ministry through music. I may not have the voice of an angel, but when I sing in praise to the Lord, my heart soars beyond that which I ever dreamed possible. I’m never going to be part of the right-wing moral majority. I am left of left and my minority is a tightly knit community of love and caring for each other. It is a family of friends who love unconditionally and that, to me, wraps up God’s love in a nutshell.
I am not your average Christian. I’m a Christian who just happens to be average. But then again, maybe I’m a phenomenal person who happened to finally realize that I am so worthy. So very worthy.