My journey into Christianity was surprisingly similar to being initiated into Rosicrucianism. It was being led by people who made it clear they knew more then me and provided me with the mantra to do as they do and all will be well. I don’t think there is any avoiding of this process. Parents do it, managers do it, and religious leaders do it. How else is wisdom and the accompanying chorus of truth, morality, and righteousness instilled upon others without this modeling approach to enlightenment?
But when I remember my journey from transcendental meditation to the occult I remember that journey being mine. I didn’t follow anyone. I didn’t ‘do as someone else did’. And therein lies the problem some would say for after all I ended up at the occult. Perhaps, but then the argument lends itself to a room full of people arguing with each other on which way is the right way and the rest of it. Religion doesn’t seem to bring out the best in people after all, regardless of where they point their compass.
Case in point was my baptism. A few months after I became a Christian, right around my birthday, the church was going to have a baptism service. I felt compelled to do this. I was originally wanting to wait until my 19th birthday for the symbolism of it all – although all these years later I forget what that symbolism was. However, I decided to go ahead and participate with this upcoming service. The youth pastor let me know that it would be myself and one other youth that was being baptized that Sunday. This was comforting to me as I have never been a fan of the spotlight.
Enjoying the joy of such an occasion I decided to invite my parents to this service. They obliged, which astounded me, and they brought my grandmother as well who was in town for a visit.
Part of the baptism ceremony involved me sharing my story of how I went from ‘there’ to ‘here’ – a journey from darkness to light. From sin to forgiveness. That sort of thing. I was led through a process on how to structure my ‘testimony’ and went away to prepare. Although there were many significant points that I felt were important enough to share, the main point that I drew out, was the fact that apart from a few months ago, prior to me becoming a Christian, I had not read any Bible stories, nor even understood who this Jesus fellow was in the first place.
The day of the service came and I was waiting backstage with the other girl from youth. We didn’t exchange a lot of words but in a wonderful foreshadowing sort of way we would talk about this brief meeting as part of our life story years later.
I went out first and I did my thing. I got dunked under the water after sharing my testimony and then quickly exited stage right to dry off, change my clothes, and join the congregants for the rest of the service. What I was met with, however, was the coldness and distinct disdain from my grandmother. Apparently I had deeply offended her, my ignorance of all things church and Jesus did not follow her understanding of my life, and in my own ignorance I had now somehow embarrassed her and her family in front of all these… strangers.
This is the part I don’t understand. The behavioral expectations that we place on each other in different situations. Growing up it was first seen but not heard and then not seen and not heard. Sitting in class it was don’t use my left hand. Living in my best friend’s house it was the little nuances that I either did or did not do that contributed to the bottle-infused lashing that his mother and he received on my behalf. Every micro community we become a part of, whether a classroom, a workplace, or a church, there seems to always be this entrance exam to acceptance.
To be baptized I needed to write a testimony and go through the behavioral expectations that came along with it. I wanted to be baptized as a public affirmation of my decision to become a Christian but the hand-holding through the process seemed interesting. Even when each of my children went through this process in their own journeys I cringed at all of the behavioral expectations they needed to go through in order to have their ‘experience’ just right. It doesn’t make sense to me.
And so, when my grandmother put up a fuss, it no longer became about celebrating a life moment with me – it became about her and her behavioral expectations. I didn’t meet them so I was dismissed. I was discredited in my experience because it didn’t line up with hers. I hardly saw the woman, it probably having been at least a couple of years since the last time I saw her and now here she was, telling me how it is. Bullshit.
These types of interactions, albeit small in of themselves, always seem to end up being a stone in my shoe that I need to deal with. They serve as a reminder to me that I need to take ownership of my own experiences and my own decisions and to truly make them mine. This is probably why I would spend countless hours alone on the mountains surrounding that valley, with only my Bible in hand and the large expanse of sky above in which to have my conversations. It was here on those mountain tops that I began to unfold for me what it all meant – this Christian-stuff, and to make it mine. To make it real in my life.
Yes, I started with transcendental meditation and ended up at the occult – the beginning of that journey starting with my mom and then I took over for the rest of the ride. Now, I started with church, through my roommate and the youth who were gathered in my living room. It was important for me to take over for the rest of the ride and so I did.