Hi Paul, Little Monk (https://wordpress.com/read/blog/id/24725720/), perhaps Church Mouse and anyone-else who is interested I am continuing with my stories. I am not sure what I will write and what I will leave out. I trust God will guide me.
My faith as a child was uncomplicated and confident. I trusted and I believed. I still have my earliest prayer-book in which I wrote my special prayers such as:
Dear loving father God, Thank you for the love and care you care for us. I am sorry for all I have done to make you sad. Please care for all the hungry people.
That about covers it I think. Praise; repentance and intercessions. I jest and tease my earnest self age eight. I had favourite bible stories both from the Old and New Testaments: Naaman and the little maid (Kings 5) (This was brought alive by a child friendly ladybird book); David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17); Joseph and his brothers (Genesis 37-47); the parables of Jesus-especially the ones about the one lost sheep; the lost coin; the lost son (Luke 15) (I was often losing things) and the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) . My favourite psalm was the 23rd psalm. I prayed the Lord’s prayer looking at pictures in the Ladybird children’s book which illustrated each phrase.
I liked Sunday school as a child. However I found Church boring. Our family were Methodists and we went to Church as a family, my Mum and Dad and us four children. I am the youngest. In Methodism you have a hymn sandwich. Hymn and a prayer; and hymn and Lesson; etc. The hymns seemed old-fashioned and difficult to my young ears and I found myself yawning my way through them. Sometimes the sermons were interesting if they weren’t too long-winded. I remember one sermon when the preacher mentioned all the thoughts that would be distracting the congregation. “Have I put the oven on? What do I need to do to the Sunday dinner when I get home? Did I lock up when we left the house? Oh no, it’s started to rain.” I remembered it because I had similar distracting thoughts taking my mind off the sermon.
One of the best times of the year was Christmas and the anticipation to Christmas. I loved the mystery and magic of the Christmas story; entertaining carol singers; decorating the house; making gifts for people; helping or hindering Mum as we prepared brandy snaps, meringue or jelly; the excitement of Christmas Eve and putting up stockings; and during the holiday, visits from cousins in which I shared a bedroom with my two female cousins of a similar age and giggled into the night; and the visit from our paternal grandparents, Aunt and cousin when we played party games children and adults together. I loved the Christmas story as much as the parties. Twice I had the honour of playing Mary in the Nativity plays.
I mentioned in a previous post (Facing death) about my first experience of death. My maternal grandmother died when I was seven. My mum cared for her at our house for the last six weeks of life, after she had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. When she died, my Mum took me to see her at the Chapel of Rest. How beautiful she looked, how peaceful. She is now in Heaven I was told. I trusted and I knew it was true. Our gentle, gracious, beloved grandmother was in Heaven. I had drawn a picture of Heaven at school. I drew a place with blue skies and sunshine, lambs frolicking in green meadows dotted with yellow buttercups and fresh white daisies. It was Spring time, my favourite season.
Church mouse (https://wordpress.com/read/blog/id/6993992/) as a child I possessed the components of Faith as described by you in your post. I had growing knowledge of Him through my favourite Bible stories, enthusiastic assent and acknowledgement of divine revelation in my own child like heart, trust a-plenty and assurance in His promise of life everlasting. My Faith was a gift from God.
He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
As a grew older. I read books by Patricia St John such as Treasure in the Snow . In the book there was a part where the hero or heroine found themselves needing to ask God into their lives and saying a special prayer. The author encouraged the reader to do that too. And I did. On several occasions I said that prayer. Afterwards though, I was not sure anything had changed. Perhaps it was because He was already with me. Yet at the time, because I did not share this with anyone, was this the beginning of doubts?
I enjoyed being in Church plays. As a young girl and growing teenager, I lived in my imagination. English language was my favourite subject at school as I loved writing stories. Also I loved to pretend to be somebody else because I thought I was boring.
My Mum directed one particular play in which I desperately wanted to play the lead. I was considered to be a good actor and it would have been reasonable to have cast me in the role. Mum decided it might show favouritism and she cast my friend as the heroine instead. It was a disappointment. I was given the supporting role. Fortunately, my love of acting took over. I was so enthused by being in the play I knew the words off by heart for both parts. The day of the play my friend was taken ill. Here was my chance. I could take the lead. I knew all the words. It was then that I realised I didn’t want it. I had made the supporting part my own. I wanted my friend to take her rightful place. I was content to be second. It was such a relief when she walked through the door, having recovered from her illness. I had learnt to be a good loser. I learnt how to lose a few times over in my teenage years.
It was also in my teenage years that I began to feel guilt. Guilt about being”rich” in the eyes of my peers. In the 6th form, the lads in one of my subject groups, teased me in a good-natured manner, saying that me and my family would be shot “when they had the revolution”. I also felt guilty for sexual feelings and thoughts that began to appear in my day dreams. I don’t think Church helped. It could prolong the feeling of guilt for all the above.
I was a hopeless romantic. I loved those black and white Hollywood romantic comedies with a hero and a heroine who start out hating each other and ended up falling in love. I wanted to have one true love in my life. I developed a crush on a lad in my class in the first year of the grammar school. I watched him with girlfriend after girlfriend and one day hoped he might spot me. I had this romantic ideal that I would be his one true love. I would be that awkward ugly duckling who would turn into a swan.
I had a crush on the extrovert in the class. I liked the opposite of me. Yet I couldn’t even speak to him I was too shy. Also my voice was wrong. Once in the dinner queue, I had a clumsy moment and bumped into him . Electricity coursed through my veins. I may have mumbled ‘Sorry’ without even looking up as I was too shy to meet his gaze. I probably blushed. I kept my feelings to myself not even divulging them to my best friend.
I began to get more and more bogged down with school work and when it mattered I began to fail at school. I gained the O levels I took, but the grades weren’t great. At least I got A in English language. It was even worse with A Levels. I would take all evening to do very little. I spent as much time day dreaming in my bedroom as getting on with the work.
As a teenager I was no longer invited to parties. They alarmed me somewhat any way. I had the impression that getting drunk and sex were the only games on the agenda and I was not ready for either.
I still attended school discos and parties which were usually agony watching “him” with a new girl friend and not being invited to dance. When I was 17 we had a Christmas party outside school in the Ukrainian club. bar. When I and a new best friend walked in we were horrified. All our colleagues were around the edges of the room kissing and canoodling and then swapping partners. This was not my romantic vision of how it would be with my true love. There were two elderly members propping up the bar. One of the elderly gentlemen graciously asked my friend to dance. The other chap took pity on me. I don’t know if we left early we certainly weren’t keen to stay.
One of the last straws for me was when one of my contemporaries was talking loudly at lunch time about his sex life and that of every one else in the room. He spotted me hiding in the corner.
“You can fit the number of virgins in this town into a telephone box. You would be there wouldn’t you Julia” he sneered.
It might have been teenage bragging and bravado. Who knows? I began to worry that I was abnormal at age 18. I was different, unacceptable, a reject among my peers.
There were not many people of my age who attended Church. Four of us I think for a time. My brother stopped going and eventually I went only occasionally. I preferred to listen to Noel Edmunds on a Sunday morning on Radio One. He made me laugh and I liked the music.
In my 18th year I considered confirmation and becoming a member of the Methodist Church. The Methodist Minister and Deaconess were patient with me in answering my many questions. I was impressed both by their faith and their humanity. Equally I learnt about and felt respect for the faith of the other people in the group. However it seemed removed to the actual practice on Sundays where it was remote and old-fashioned, in my view anyway. Also I only knew people on a superficial level in Church hardly knowing them at all. I couldn’t say that I loved them as fellow Christians.. It seemed hypocritical. I was very much a puritan and an idealist at the time.
Where is this leading. I guess it led to me straying away from the ‘corporate church’ as mentioned in Paul’s posts. (https://wordpress.com/read/blog/id/40277979/) I did not lose my belief in God, though it became harder to follow the way over the next few years. God did not let me go, as you will find out in the next post. However it was in my teenage years when I began to think I was different, an outsider, unacceptable, not one of ‘us’
And so, Paul, I began to notice that when you write about “us and them” I become confused. I resonate more with “them” than with “us’. I have never been an “us”. I am comfortable on the edge of groups, dipping in and out, not quite belonging, not becoming a clique. This includes Church groups too. Don’t get me wrong-I have friends, individual friends, in lots of different groups, and have fully partaken in groups too for a time. And yet, I distrust “group think”; I want to have friends outside the group; I might slip away quietly if the group becomes too overwhelming. Once all I wanted to do was to fit in. Now I like to associate with the outsiders. Perhaps that’s not a bad thing.
While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.