I have been reading and enjoying a book called Dating Jesus by Susan Campbell, which is the biography of a woman who grew up in a fundamentalist environment and it tells the story of how it affected her perception of God and her relationship with Him. I am especially enjoying the author’s sense of humor and her ability to recall details from her life experiences, ones many of us can relate to, to show how even the smallest practices or beliefs can have life-long implications for us.
Though I didn’t grow up in a fundamentalist home or church, I related to many of the things she has written and it has brought to mind so many of my own thoughts I had as I grew up and tried to find my way as a young believer. Though I have not come to many of the same conclusions the author of the book has embraced, I know there are things that are just a part of who I am because of those influences in my life, for good or for bad.
Some of them are big impressions that shaped my thinking, like my neighbor who beat his wife, her screams coming in through the windows in my room at night. The woman always had a black eye or bruises on her arms. Several nights a week we would hear the man coming home drunk, the yelling, the swearing. And then one day word came that he had died in a motorcycle accident and I insisted that my father take me to the funeral.
My Baptist background didn’t allow for drinking or swearing, even though I knew a woman or two in my own church often sported similar bruises. So it intrigued my 9 year old mind that this man’s funeral would be in a church. I remember peering inside the casket and wondering how much of his face was really his, since my parents had whispered that they doubted there would even be an open casket, his injuries were so severe. I also remember the man’s mother, wailing and sobbing until she collapsed on the floor holding on to his hand. I had never seen such grief or hopelessness. I remember wondering that day about forgiveness and repentance and if a drunk wife beater could still ask Jesus to forgive his sins in that moment between when he lost control of his motorcycle and when he hit the pavement. It was my first brush with eternity and it shaped my thinking about evangelism and how we treat other people and the sacredness of marriage and compassion toward those who are victims for my whole life. In my bed at night, I would listen to the quiet sounds coming from the neighbor’s house and think about these things and how they related to God and me and our relationship.
Other church impressions that have been made on my life are not nearly so dramatic, like the water fountain with the plaque hanging above it “in memory of Dr. Dimmitt.” To this day, I can’t drink from a water fountain without thinking of this guy I only know of as related to, well, water.
I would love to hear your stories, too, especially as they have influenced your quest for true womanhood. Please share.