When the one place I’d been taught my entire life to feel the most secure, safe, and certain suddenly became uninhabitable for me, I wanted an exit plan that would ensure the love of those I was inevitably leaving behind remained intact. It’s taken years to navigate, but based on the security, safety and certainty on which I stand today, I feel nothing but gratitude.
I was raised inside of a strictly dogmatic theology: right and wrong, black and white, good and evil were as clearly defined for me as the ten words on my weekly second grade spelling test. And just like the learning of my weekly vocabulary words required writing sentences for a grade to be sure I understood every word’s derivation, pronunciation and correct usage, so, too, did my parents and Sunday School teachers require a regular repetition of concepts, scripture stories, and commandments.
I was the poster child for GOOD GIRL. I made every decision only through prayer; I participated in service opportunities at Olympic athlete levels; I turned every frown upside down and changed it to a smile; I quoted scriptures as off-handedly as the ABC song; I was a youth leader, showing my peers through my example exactly how easy it was to live righteously; I taught Sunday School for every single age bracket the packed Sunday service schedule could allow; I served a full-time mission. In Russia. I learned Russian to teach the Russian people in their own language everything I was told I know about God and Jesus Christ and the salvation of your soul. I know all about your soul, where it came from, why it’s here, where it’s heading next, and what you can do about it. I baked my own bread, could sew my daughter dresses, married the “right” man, kept a spotless house, served others without ever once thinking of myself, studied my scriptures, taught the 5 year-olds to be like Jesus, taught the 25 year-olds to believe in things unseen, taught the 55 year-olds to be less judgmental.
The right man I married stopped attending church. No one at church asked why. They all made righteously safe assumptions about his whereabouts — must be at the hospital, obviously making rounds, so studious that one, God bless him.
The right man I married yelled at me when I spoke to him without invitation, when I entered his (our) office unannounced — the computer and his access to porn lived there in the dark, when my (our) daughter cried (“Make her stop, goddammit!”), when his laundry wasn’t folded to his liking, when I wasn’t to his liking, when I weighed only 90 pounds and couldn’t feed myself or my baby or him but he wasn’t going to take care of me.
Do you hear me?