Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Lonely Calling

The darkness in my childhood room seemed absolute. I never lay on my stomach to sleep, because then the vampires and ghosts could sneak up on me. Instead I lay on my back, two furry Snoopy dolls framing my face, sheets and blankets pulled up to my chin.

Insomnia haunted me before I was even 9 years old, laying in my dark room, eyes wide open. I complained to my mother, who suggested I read Leviticus, assuring me it would put me right to sleep – that was how she treated her own insomnia, after all.

I must have been a pretty weird kid, because I found Leviticus totally fascinating. All those sacrifices described in such detail – anatomy I didn’t understand, descriptions of who ate what. Next came the laws about cleanliness. There was an entire chapter devoted to mildew alone! The color and size of the patch determined whether the priest was involved; if it returned determined if your tent could be salvaged: all these things I see now were of vital importance in a nomadic community. But at the time, I was simply astonished at God’s fascination with mildew.

By fourth grade, insomnia was part of my bedtime routine. I would read my story books and then the Bible. I had permission to read as late as I wanted, but eventually I would turn out my light and create my personal tent of stuffed animals, sheets and blankets. As I stared into the shades of nighttime, I would pray.

I was a good girl: attended Sunday School, memorized Scripture verses, read my Bible, prayed every night. I wasn’t baptized. I knew about baptism; my brother had just been baptized the year before. I knew the outline of the “sinner’s prayer,” but never felt a need for it. God and I were on good terms. But one night, I met God in the darkness.

I was crying with lonesomeness. My father was gone four days a week, every week, on business travel. My brother was at school an hour longer than me each day and worked on homework in his room when he was home. My mother was extremely involved in her job. I lay in my spring green bedroom that night with tears dripping down my cheeks into my ears. My voice was tiny in the thick silence of our house.

“God, I’m so sad! Please, God, Abba, please make me feel better? Aren’t you supposed to make me feel better? I’m all alone. Please God, please.”

There was no audible voice; no mystical light; no burning incense. There was just the Holy Spirit mothering me, giving me the answer to the question I couldn’t articulate. She told me I needed to give myself to God – it was time to commit. My Sunday School training kicked in. Of course! I needed to “invite Jesus into my heart.” I prayed, tentative and unsure, using the words I had been programmed to say.

“Jesus, I believe – I know – that you died on the cross for my sins. Thank you for paying my debt. Um, and I invite you to live in my heart, Jesus. Today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

When God touches us it is Spirit to spirit. Then we add layers to that communion. The layer of conscious thought - encoding the moment into words and action. The layer of theology - a proper response to God's call. The layer of narrative, when I chose to come forward for public baptism.

After I prayed that prayer, I was comforted. It was as if God gathered me into a great wide soft mommy lap. As my nuclear family drifted away from me, God pulled me in. I searched for human replacements for years before I finally understood that God was truly all I needed. Despite my mistakes, my rebellions, my sorrows, and my sins, I never lost my commitment to God. God called and I said yes.

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