Friday, January 25, 2013

My Jesus Backstory

Listening to Emily Rose Massey's testimonial and singing this past Sunday brought tears to my eyes and made me consider my own Jesus backstory, past events which led me to my current state of worship.
As an adult, my mother has told me she urged our reverend, that guy who always wore that black dress, to offer a Sunday school class for 3s, children my age at the time.  He welcomed the idea and asked her if she'd be interested in leading the class.  She agreed, and, thus, my first Sunday school experience was conceived although I have no recollection of it.
I do remember my father leading what I believe was the sixth-grade Sunday school class at the time.  His class was to light the candles during one Christmas Eve service.  A student, attempting to maneuver the small flame on a long golden handle knocked a lit candle from its perch at the end of the pew right onto the head of a balding man.  This is what I remember.
When my parents divorced for the second time when I was 8, my Jesus backstory fell at the hands of others.  I attended Sunday school with a dear childhood friend and her family if I was having a sleepover at her house, even though we feigned sleep when her mother opened her door in the morning hoping we would not have to go.  Occasionally I was a drop-at-the-door Sunday school attendee and looked for my father's car at the church entrance an hour later where he would be waiting for me.
After four elementary schools in three grade-school years, my parents must have come to the consensus that I would attend a parochial school in the city my mother was then living.  Each student had her own Bible, and we read aloud from it daily after recess.  We had daily Bible verses to memorize, and I can still remember my first, "The heavens are telling the glory of God while the firmament proclaims his handiwork"  (Psalm 19:1) which I struggled with the night before it was due.  I learned The Apostle's Creed, The Small Catechism, and The Lord's Prayer.  Daily religious studies were part of the curriculum, and I remember loving every minute of it.  A yearly religious musical was performed, and this is how to this day I know Methuselah lived to be 969 . . .  "960, 960, 969 . . . 969 is a might long time!"  Extracurricular religious opportunities were encouraged, so I tried out for Joyful Noise, the children's choir, and sang to my heart's content off-key once a month on Sunday mornings at the church connected to my school.  My mother whom I was living with at the time once attended a service in which I was singing, but didn't return because she said she didn't understand the service, so I was dropped-at-the-door on following singing Sundays.  When confirmation studies began at my school, I wanted to join our school church along with my classmates.  My mother disagreed, said we weren't Lutheran, and sent me to confirmation classes when I was visiting my father where I was dropped-at-the-door.
For high school, my parents decided I should live with my father and my stepmother.  A few times I attended church with my high school boyfriend; otherwise, church was absent from my life for those years and beyond.  I didn't experience ski trips like my sister had with her youth group, but I did attend a lock-in at my friend's Catholic church, and I remember yearning for more of this type of experience.
Into adulthood, I finally took matters into my own hands.  I attended a Christian church at my friend's urging in my early 30s and enjoyed the way it felt as if the pastor was actually talking with me.  Relocating to another part of the state with my husband, we tried a service here and there, and I would attend the weekly service at the local college when my teaching schedule allowed.  I was hungry for more, though.  When a religious friend would come and visit, I would quiz her repeatedly on belief, faith, church, etc. and always wanted to learn more, more, more from her.
As a mother, though, I knew I wanted a solid foundation of Jesus Christ for my children, and I knew the best way to provide this is with modeling my own faith.  My family and I now have a church we consider home filled with women, men, and children blessings and a pastor who allows me to squeeze on him along with numerous learning, growing, and ministry opportunities.  Although an inconsistent ride along the way, what matters is the here and now, and for me, the Jesus Backstory my girls will be able to share one day.

Courtney Winkler

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