I grew up with religion. My Great-Grandmother who raised me was Southern Baptist just like her family before her, deep in the Hollows of Tennessee. Before that we were something else, something that moved down through the bloodline and made us question everything. Even though we had a strong sense of God, there was also a knowing that there was and is something more.
Somewhere in the late 70’s and early 80’s religion got a little freaky. It was the rise of fanatical Christians, the 700 Club was the trendy club to get into and Jimmy Swaggart and Billy Graham were the superstars of this movement. To say this time held some crazy witch hunts was both truthful and figurative. I was a small girl who was caught between childish curiosity and flat out fear of Angels, Demons, and God.
I have always had a true knowing that there is something more, what it is.. that’s a little shady. But I have never questioned knowing that there is more than birth, life, and death. Maybe that comes from faith or never quite giving up the notion of imaginary friends. Either way, I was a very imaginative child that got older and became a very imaginative adult.
It’s that imagination and spark of creativity that has allowed me to be a writer and get lost in the worlds of my own design.
When I was a small child immersed in the “Holy Roller” movement Jerry Falwell and his fellow preachers would say in their excited raised voices that Christians needed to HEAR the words of God. And that they had heard his messages and were messengers of his holy spirit and that we needed to follow their guides, give money to their missions, don’t stray from their laws, or else God would make us suffer.
Hell was for those who didn’t believe. Hell was for sinners. Hell was for Gays, for Liars, for Thieves, for the Non-believers. Hell was the place of nightmares for children, the place parents warned their children they were going if they didn’t behave. Hell was held over our heads as the ultimate threat. Hell did not feel good.
Back then my family would attend marathon prayer meetings that would last for days. People would come and pray for hours and hours for the sinners in their lives that didn’t believe the way they did, they prayed that Jesus would take pity on the non-believers and save them from the fiery lakes of Hell.
They would cry for the souls of those who did not embrace the blood of Jesus as their savior. There was little joy in those sessions.
As a child there was no fun, no laughter, no feeling good. The voices of imaginary friends couldn’t be anything more than demons that were sent to trick children and drag them to Hell where they would be tortured and imprisoned for an eternity. Creativity was suppressed because it led to questioning.
Once I became an adult I realized that the fear based religions could not own my soul if I did not believe. I lived, I experienced choice and freedom. I realized that not all religion needs to be fearful and there are people of faith that are not damning my soul to a place I no longer believe in.
Life isn’t perfect. Most of us aren’t born into perfect families. There is contrast to happiness in order to bring us into awareness of what happiness actually feels like.
What we make of our life experience defines who we are. It is our choice, our own free-will of how we are going to feel, how we are going to live our lives. We are given free-will and it is our choice of what to do with it.
It took me a long time to get over the nightmares that came in relation to religion. I held a lot of anger inside. I turned to writing as a way to tell my story and as healing for the wounds. For many people writing is therapy and it is healing.
I don’t blame my Gram for her faith, or the path that it took us down. I think she was looking for a community, friends, support, and in those dark days of religion they were looking for someone like her.
Today I can say that I understand the hope that religion was supposed to bring, everyone wants to think there is something out there that will hear their tears fall. But for me, I learned to trust in myself as a higher power and my hell is letting the years pass without chasing down my spark and becoming who I know I was meant to be.