The One Where I Get Into Grad School, Part I
Most of you already know this, but I have exciting news: I've been accepted into Seminary! I've long been curious about theology, humanity, and how the two things could possibly work together. I'm excited to begin working with a diverse group of faculty and students in this fall.
As part of my application I had to describe my spiritual journey to date, reflect on the Mission Statement of the university, talk about my ministry experience, and throw in some teenage cool kid slang.
Well, that last part was just me, actually. I'm hoping that my inability to keep from making dumb jokes or treating serious topics with levity wears off before I'm graded on anything. Starting with Old Testament should put a damper on things.
So here you go: the first part of my Seminary essay, where I talk about trying to shake off my Christian faith and use the word "boom." They still let me in. SMH.
When I was twenty-three, I broke up with God. It was probably the calmest, most undramatic break up of all time, considering eternal damnation was on the line. I broke up with God on an airplane.
We hadn’t even taken off yet, so I can’t blame it on any of the chaos that happens in my bones when I fly. I was settled into my middle seat near the front of the plane, where I pretended that my nervous claustrophobic tendencies wouldn’t win and I could bolt off as soon as we landed. We were sitting on the tarmac in Portland, Oregon. It was morning on the last day of 2009 and I was headed east to stand up in my friends’ wedding. The break up was a long time coming, but it also came out of nowhere.
I was reading a book of essays on U.S. Presidents who were assassinated. Strange subject matter for an early morning, but I’ll read pretty much anything with a clear voice and a few clever jokes. I looked up from a shockingly delightful treatise on John Wilkes Booth and fired my own very fatal shot. I glanced at the woman in the window seat and the woman in the aisle seat and prayed silently, “God, if you would choose to save me and send both of them to eternal, torturous hell for no reason, you’re awful and I’m out.” Twenty years of being a Good Christian Girl, done, gone, just like that. You’re awful and I’m out.
It was a very matter of fact statement for someone whose soul now apparently sat in a precarious place, but I was so exhausted by years of cognitive dissonance that I didn’t really care. When you are giving up your belief, the faith of your childhood and your family, blasphemy is kind of the whole point.
I’d thought I’d been the Good Christian Girl and done a fairly decent job at it, or at least pretending that role. Because I was constantly playing the only role I thought God offered me as a woman, my faith looked more like shame than grace. I couldn’t do it anymore. It was time to say the truth aloud: “God, if you are who I’ve been told, and if you really act the way I thought you acted, I can obey, sure,” I thought. “But I can never, ever, love you. If you’re different that everything I’ve been taught about you, prove it. If not, I’m done.” It was settled. I flew to Arkansas.
I didn’t even cry.
I pinpoint that moment on that plane as the moment of transition, the twist in my story, the first time I was outright honest with God and myself. As much as I’d pretended my discomfort away, silenced my doubts, and argued myself in circles, that moment was a long time in coming. It was the end of my Christian faith.
But it was also the beginning of it.