Destiny? *Long post* AtoZ Challenge

Every time I look back, I can see signs that suggested I would end up in extreme religion. I was brought up Catholic and joining a Catholic boarding school when I was six years old ensured I followed the path that led to me receiving various Catholic sacraments. When I was eight years old, I started studying for my second sacrament. I had been baptized the year before. Am not sure why I wasn’t baptized earlier in life as I did witness my younger brothers get this sacrament way before they knew what they were getting into. But I did enjoy the partying that followed the occasion. The second sacrament, Eucharist, was a big deal. After this, I would be allowed to partake in the eating of the Body of Christ. I had watched every day with envy when I saw some of the other kids my age line up for it and I couldn’t wait for the day I too would join them. Dressed up in all white-I looked like an angel, I am told-I went through the process. In truth, I cannot remember a thing about it. All I remember is the fact that at the end of it, I could eat the ‘white round thing’ and drink from the ‘fancy big cup’. I was given a Rosary, a beautiful white one that glowed in the dark. (For a kid who had nightmares every night, this was a big boost) and a necklace with the cross hanging on it. I had moved a step higher in the ladder!

The next year, I started studying for my fourth sacrament. I have no recollection when I got the third sacrament, Reconciliation. Maybe it was fused with the second one? Or maybe I skipped it? Again, I must point out, it was just something we did, an unwritten rule of sorts. Every evening after class, we would go to the Church where one of the leaders would teach us. Again, I cannot remember any of the things I learned. It could be because I was just a really bad student, but I think it was just that time of a child’s life that only basics stick in their mind. I remember the basic Christian rules, the commandments in the Bible. I do not remember any of the Church’s Commandments but I do know we learned them about this time. Confirmation, the fourth sacrament, took a bit of a shorter time to study for. The ‘exam’ wasn’t as hard, and the glamor with the white dress on the day didn’t really stick. All I remember is we ate a special meal that day and were given a new name. Caroline for the girls, and Caroly for the boys. My relationship with the church was growing stronger.

When I was about eleven years old, a group of nuns in my school asked for volunteers of kids who wanted to be nuns when they grew up. Of course, I had my hands up. We were taught all we needed to know to be ‘Sisters of the St. Francis of Assisi’. I do remember the whole story, and it moved me. It strengthened my belief in the fact that this was exactly what I wanted to do when I grew up. As I grew older, I don’t remember attending all the meetings we had with the nuns. And with time, I switched schools to a non-religious school and so I couldn’t really keep that dream inside me burning. As much as the life of the saint led me into wanting to become a nun, the driving factor was the food. Every day we were served with not so great meals at the school, yet you could smell the sweet scents that came from the convent’s kitchen. It seemed like they always ate meat, every day! We only had meat on Wednesday-and that was only if it wasn’t lent-and you would be lucky if you even got 2 pieces of the meat hidden in between the greens. When I grew up, I wanted to be able to eat meat every day for the rest of my life. Not a piece of meat, but pieces of meat. I wanted to be able to smell the sweet aroma coming from the cooking food and knowing that I would be eating it when it was ready. And if being a nun was one of the ways to get this dream to come true, I was more than ready to commit.

The next time I was in a Catholic school I was fifteen years old. I was ‘mature’ to know what I wanted, and when I wanted it. My days of being a nun no longer at the forefront of my mind, I never really bothered with opportunities to join clubs that allowed you to study more about it. At some point, I think I was more interested in being the Priest. I had all his parts memorized, but I knew I would never make it. I was, after all, female. And the meat in this school came in big chunks, and pieces of at least three. My driving factor was gone. When I was seventeen, I had a discussion with one of my classmates. I do not know what triggered it really, but before I knew it, we were seated at the corner of our class as she flipped various pages in the Bible trying to ‘educate’ me. See, she had taken her time to point out all the reasons why the Catholic Church was

When I was seventeen, I had a discussion with one of my classmates. I do not know what triggered it really, but before I knew it, we were seated at the corner of our class as she flipped various pages in the Bible trying to ‘educate’ me. See, she had taken her time to point out all the reasons why the Catholic Church was wrong and going against God. As she read to me from the various books in the Bible, a passage from Isaiah stuck in my head, I realized I did not really want to associate myself with the ‘wrong Church’. I had read a story when I was a kid where the description of hell and heaven had been given like this; in Heaven, you woke up to a breakfast of milk tea, bread with peanut butter, blueband, jam and honey. You got a fruit with your breakfast and you could eat until you were full. In Hell, you woke up to a breakfast of red hot coal and hot lava. And you had no choice but to eat and drink it! In a school where our breakfast had been one cup of black tea with nothing, it did keep us kids in line all the time. We did want to go to heaven- the food was the driving force, again. As a teen, this particular image of me eating red hot coal just because I had associated with the ‘wrong church’ came crashing into the forefront of my mind. I needed to get to the ‘right side’ ASAP! And so I asked my friend to ‘show’ me the ‘right side’. And show me she did! She told me about their church, got me a book and read me passages from it. I cannot remember the name of the Church, but I do remember one of the founders had seen the face of Jesus in the clouds while praying, or something like that. Amazingly, he had managed to take a picture, as right at the end of the book, I had an opportunity to see this face too. It felt like the stamp of approval from the man up high, who was I to refute it?

Even though the school was a Catholic school, not all students were forced to attend the Catholic mass on Sunday. The protestants were allowed to have their own mass in one of the school labs. They would sometimes invite pastors from outside the school to come preach to them, or sometimes some of the students would be the preachers. After my eye-opening experience with my friend, I stopped attending the Catholic Mass immediately. And after going to the Christian Union meetings for two weeks, I decided to ‘get saved’. This time to be accepted, I did not have to do a ton of studying, there was no glorious party that came after I took this big religious step. All I did was repeat a small prayer, and I was in. I am not sure what kind of person people always take me to be, but for some reason, when word got out that I was ‘saved’ that Sunday, people actually started believing in miracles again. If she could do it, why cant I? And so the following Sunday, more people got ‘saved’, a lot more people did the shift from Catholic to the Protestant side, and all seemed right in the world. But it wasn’t.

A few weeks into the bliss that was my new found salvation, I got a sneak preview of the differences between the various protestant churches. One of the students had been preaching while reading from a particular verse in the bible. A few minutes into the preaching, another student raised her hand to protest-that wasnt how her church interpreted that particular verse. This was followed by an argument that lasted the whole hour, as various people explained how that particular verse was interpreted in their churches. All of a sudden, I missed being a Catholic all over again. See, I have always had mad respect for God. I could do the worst that I could get away with at any other time, but Church time, that was time for me and my God. Given, there had been times when Church going was just another rule in the school rules, but I still tried to treat it with as much respect as I could muster. And I did not fancy spending my ‘me and God’ time debating which Church was right or wrong. I realized I prefered the Catholic church once again. At least there I got order. They had a routine I had mastered. And though I did not receive the ‘I have just had a connection with God’ feeling after mass, I did not have chaotic thoughts of which way was right either. And so I was back to the Catholic Church again after that. No longer considered ‘saved’ by many of my other schoolmates. Through all these chaos that involved me leaving and then returning to the Catholic Church, whatever little trust I had in religion vanished. It was about this time that I lost a big chunk of that faith.

After high school, and being in the outside world where no one punished me for not attending church, I did not visit any church, or prayed either. I cant say it was the best time of my life, I wouldnt say it was the worst either. It was just normal. Nothing changed really. My life felt the same as it had felt when I had Church and prayer in my life.

When I was twently years old, I had a very hard time incorporating myself into the world. It could be because of the amount of time spent in boarding school where I had to live my life following someone else’s schedule. I seemed to have trouble with my parents, the new friends I was trying to make because we had just moved into a new city, and most importantly, with boys. Somewhere in all the chaos that surrounded my life, some decisions were made with a boy involved, some things were said, and before I knew it, I was in a fight with my dad and spiralling in silent depression. I visited one of my sisters just to get away from the tension that was at home, and ‘sort stuff out in my head’. My sister had no idea the turmoil I was going through. We would spend the morning together laughing and telling stories, then she would go off to work, and that was when the real me revealed herself. I would sit with my ‘poor me’ thoughts. I would cry. Every thought going through my mind proving me right that I was more than a fool. With every passing minute I hated myself more and more. I seemed to have gotten to the end of my road. And once again, after a very long time, suicidal thoughts came floating back into my mind. Come evening, I would clean myself up, ready for another acting session of happiness and laughter with my sister before I would start the cycle all over again.

And this is when I found God, again. It felt like I was finding him for the first time, like all the other times I may have had copies but this time I was getting the real thing. There was no religion involved this time, and I guess that’s what made it special. I felt like it really was a ‘personal’ thing. One of the students my sister was teaching brought me a book- Forgive me Natasha by Sergei Kourdakov,and reading it made me feel like I wanted that kind of faith. The faith I would really be willing to die for, faith that would get me persecuted, and I emerge victorious. For some reason, I felt like Christianity was not supposed to be a smooth road, and the fact that I had it so easy meant I wasnt a true Christian. The early Christians were persecuted, Jesus was killed, why would we, the current professing Christians, seem to have it so easy? Frankly, to this day, when I see someone really into religion, my first question is always-what is his problem? What is he trying to hide, or run away from? Because from personal experience, I did not ‘find God’ to help me cope with my problems, I just managed to push my problems as far away as possible to deal with something altogether new. My problems would continuer coming to light, little bit at a time, as years went by. They would keep haunting me even seven years later. I found God so that I could stop dealing with all that was depressing me. I got something else to focus my attention on, and all of a sudden, everything was alright.

Frankly, to this day, when I see someone get really into religion, my first question is always; what is his/her problem? What is he trying to hide, or run away from? Because from personal experience, I did not ‘find God’ to help me cope with my problems, I just managed to push my problems as far away as possible to deal with something altogether new. My problems would continue coming to light, a little bit at a time, as years went by. They would keep haunting me even 10 years later. I found God so that I could stop dealing with all that was depressing me. I got something else to focus my attention on, and all of a sudden, everything was alright.

Less than two months after ‘finding God’, I started a journey into being the kind of Christian I was yearning to be. I met a group of Christians who devoted their lives, 24/7 to doing ‘God’s work. I was still considering whether I should take a year off my schooling to join them and do the Lord’s work when my dad found out about it. I had been spending time with these people, listening to their teachings and their beliefs. They seemed like the perfect example of what Christianity was meant to be like. They didnt just speak to me, they spoke to that part of me that had been moved while I was sitting in my sisters house a few weeks earlier. They were the perfect fit for me, a lady who had just discovered God. When with them, every trouble I had seemed to literally melt away. The tension in the house with my dad, the sub-tensions with my brothers and sisters, all those seemed to take place in another world. With them, I found friends who cared about me, a person interested in learning more about how to connect with my new found faith. And they were giving me a way to put my faith into practice. My dad could not believe I was ging to throw away a bright future to go ‘volunteer with no pay for a whole year’. His anger got the best of him, and he opted to make me change my mind the only way he knew how, by beating me up real good. In the other times that a beating had come my way, it had worked. I would see that I am wrong, and try to change my ways. This time, it was different. With every beating I got, I felt an even stronger conviction that I was on the right path. After all, I had wanted a Christian life where I was to be persecuted for my faith, and my dad did just that. So the beating didnt change my mind, it made it stronger. And so, just like Francis of Assisi had left his family to go do God’s work, I left my family too. Though I didn’t strip naked like he did, I only had the cloths on my body as I left to begin my new journey with God. I was welcomed by the group with open arms. I would not be a member just yet, I was on a trial period of sorts. Partly, I was with them for asylum reasons-running away from my dad who I believe would only beat me up again if he discovered the first beating did not work. But I was also there to learn a bit more about them, and they about me, and if we were to be a perfect fit as I felt in my heart we would be, I would be allowed to be a member of the community.

And so, just like Francis of Assisi had left his family to go do God’s work, I left my family too. Though I didn’t strip naked like he did, I only had the clothes on my body as I left to begin my new journey with God. I was welcomed by the group with open arms. I would not be a member just yet, I was on a trial period of sorts. Partly, I was with them for asylum reasons-running away from my dad who I believe would only beat me up again if he discovered the first beating did not work. But I was also there to learn a bit more about them, and they about me, and if we were to be a perfect fit as I felt in my heart we would be, I would be allowed to be a member of the community.

Three years of my life were spent being ‘a Christian the right way,’ as we thought as members of this community.

10 years ago I walked away from the community and opened a whole different chapter that will one day lead to another long post.

x

Deb