(This is the tip of the iceberg in a long stream of thoughts I am attempting to complie)
Jesus Camp has been staring me in the face ever since Netflix decided I should watch it. You know how it is, one film leads to a suggestion, leads to a never ending subliminal plant that you come across each time you open the site. So there it is Jesus Camp…Jesus Fricking Camp. I’ll be honest I made it about 10 minutes into the documentary before I clicked pause. In my head was a swarm of thoughts pressing to get out. The first: G-d I used to be like those kids. The second: G-d I’m nothing like those kids.
To say my background was a religious one doesn’t do it justice. So… backspace, I grew up in a home plump with religious jargon, made neat by a few conveniently placed scriptures. When bills needed paying, we’d huddle in a circle and pray for G-d to intervene. When my mom got sick, we spent hours petitioning to G-d for help. Anytime the world came crashing in, we prayed for relief, but to my mind, everything pretty much stayed the same. Everything good was G-d, everything bad was the devil, and only if we found favor would things be okay.
Have I found favor with G-d?
I grew up lower middle class. I come from a broken home. I spent most of my time lonely and isolated (even though at times it was caused by myself and my fear of being hurt). In middle school, I was the kid who carried her bible and found herself eating lunch alone for two years. I was the kid who had rocks thrown at her, who was pushed down the stairs, and had two, sometimes three bullies waiting for her outside of class. At church, the one place I felt I should belong, I felt more of an outsider burdened under the weight of clicks and teenage normality. But church was my home and I was heavily involved, from youth ministry to drama team, you could find me there three times a week doing something. And then there was college… I attended a religious school with nothing to my name. I was so broke I had to ask a young lady on my floor to buy me tampons and soap because needed it and I couldn’t afford it. I watched as the President and First Lady Roberts had a yearly money box during chapel where, much like a game show, students would stand inside collecting all the dollars they could. “For once let it be me Lord. I can really stand to purchase some books.” I was never chosen.
I struggled a lot, I prayed a lot and through it all I felt G-d was silent. I was still broke, and outsider, and very much emotionally (and sometimes physically) broken.
“I’ve never seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed begging bread” (Psalm 37:25), a scripture I prayed many a night, agonizing over my situation. Yet I felt forsaken and no matter how much I prayed, the conditions of my life never changed. I was tired of waiting and praying for every little thing. I began to see life, really see life, the good, the bad, and the ugly as just that. I stopped looking for hidden meanings in everything. Honestly, I wanted to live and embrace all of Rhonda, be at my full potential, and learn from everything that happened. “G-d” I said, “I just want to live.”
At that point I began praying two things: the first, if there was a Holy Spirit, that he would draw me in an undeniable way. The second, that it would not be something “tragic” such as losing my legs or going blind or something of the like. “G-d,” I would pray, “let me find you in the everyday moments of my life. This is for sure most important to me.”
It’s hard to say where I stand with G-d, feeling what I feel, and knowing what I know. I will say however that I have a desire for truth. Not a feel good, your life will be better (because this is what I believed those many years ago) but perhaps a deeper connection to Jesus, an understanding of what Christian means and how I can be Rhonda and a Christian without the pangs what happened so long ago. I haven’t found it yet but I’m looking and I imagine that’s what really counts.
An Interview With Rhonda’s “Religious” Side.
Tell us something about you we wouldn’t expect.
Over the course of my life I have been admitted into two seminaries. This decision was the product of a desire to know and understand scripture and to discover a truth independent from what I’d was used to. I’d gotten to a point where I wanted study original text, I was hungry for it. I had a genuine desire to know what it meant to be a Christian and if it was something I could stand behind. Jesus was very specific about what it meant to follow him. There are certain mandates that he gives his people. Throughout the course of my life I began to feel like Christians (including myself) picked the parts they wanted to accept and rejected the ones they didn’t. But really can the bible be a pick and choose your own? The older I got the more frustrated I became, I didn’t want to commit to something I didn’t 100% believe in and I realized that I didn’t 100% believe.
Give us some insight into your relationship with your parents and how that’s shaped your religious views.
That’s a hard one. I love and respect my parents but as an adult, there are some things I find hard to stand behind. Growing up I felt like G-d was used as a crutch. Good decisions weren’t made, period. A lot of our instability could have been cured by more problem solving and less reading of the scriptures, especially financial troubles. But who knows, perhaps it’s the combination that provides success. On average I felt as though more time was spent waiting for G-d to move, than doing something that was within our hands to change.
I have a very distinct memory of our family circled around a bunch of overdue bills paying for G-d’s help. In my adult life I would never do this. The last time I prayed for G-d’s help my finances, I was in college and broke as hell. Thanks to all that answered prayer I owe quite a bit in loans. Looking back common sense, research and hard work would have prevented this but I grew up believing that G-d had to bless me to reach such heights, like going to school for free. I only prayed and took no personal action.
There was a time when I prayed about everything out of habit. I couldn’t make a step without first asking: G-d should I be doing this? I seriously had anxiety over every little thing. My first distinct memory of doing something without praying was moving to South Korea. I remember my dad (or mom, I can’t remember) asking if I’d prayed to see if it was G-d’s will. No I hadn’t but I wanted to go and I did. It was at that time I began to appreciate being an adult, living my own life, and making smart choices.
Are you angry at G-d?
(smiles) I don’t blame G-d for what happened in my life, but perhaps at one point I did. Now I realize that G-d and man are two different entities and we cannot judge Him by the actions of others. I feel as though my life is a never-ending conversation with my Creator and where that will lead, only time will tell. For now I’m enjoying the journey and am seeking to live truthfully in the moment, no matter what that looks like.