Thursday, February 10, 2011

Big Truth

--Adrienne Miller

I remember the first time I was informed I would be going to hell. I was about eight years old. My sister and I were riding in the back of my grandmother’s van. She was up front, tsking and clucking over the terrible fact that neither of us had been baptized.
“Such a shame that they’ll be going to hell,” my grandmother’s friend said. Her tone was so matter of fact she could have been talking about eggs going bad. Well, if you leave them out on the counter, of course they’re going to be rotten.
But she wasn’t talking about eggs, she was talking about my soul.
I waited for my grandmother to contradict her, to say something, anything, about how that wasn’t true. We were good kids. Polite kids. Nice kids. But my grandmother just sighed and nodded.
My eyes went wide as I looked to my sister. My lovely sister, Lisa, a few years older and far more firmly grounded in reality than I ever have been, just rolled her eyes and shook her head. Neither one of us would be going to hell, she assured me. 
Lucky for me, I believed my sister, but the whole incident never left me. Not because I worried about burning forever in a pit of fire, but about why a woman who knew me, and who I knew loved me--deep down, really loved me--could believe such a thing. 
My grandmother would always take us to church when we spent the weekend with her, and I loved to look at the stained glass windows that lined that nave. I was fascinated by  the symbols they contained, swords and trumpets, demons and angels. They were beautiful, filled with more symbolism than I could comprehend. I knew there was something big there, something more than the simple linear story they told, something just beyond my understanding. 
Even at eight I knew I wasn’t seeing what my grandmother was in that illuminated glass.  She saw answers there. She saw a way to live a life. She saw a pathway to redemption.  But even when I tried my hardest I couldn’t see what she found there. Reason always battled with belief.
As I grew, my fascination with mythology grew, but I still could never find the kind of absolute truth that my family and friends found in their various religions. As an adult I was able to cobble together an unorthodox patchwork system of spirituality that I hold close to my heart.
But time doesn’t heal some hurts. I know that my grandmother went to her grave believing in her heart that she and I would be separated for all of eternity, but I’d like to believe that the Truth is bigger than our worldly struggles for understanding and sense. I’d like to believe that the Truth is big enough for all of us...and yes, I mean all


Sophie Littlefield said...

oh, Truth is big enough darlin' ....i know it. For everyone.

Sorry about that early exposure to one of the darkest sides of organized religion. But it makes for *excellent* story fodder...even when you aren't writing about it directly.

Rachael Herron said...

OMG - that's AWFUL. I'm honestly shocked. Poor you! That would have destroyed me, seriously. Hell STILL scares me.

Unknown said...

I think I'm speechless. Sorry your grandma believed it tho. :(

One of the boy's friends asked him to go to a kids church thing in 2nd grade, (so he was eight--just like you), and he came home with a worksheet on SIN specifically directed toward elementary school kids and all I could think was REALLY?? Needless to say, he never went back to that church.

L.G.C. Smith said...

Lucky thing your sister was wise beyond her years and saved you actually believing your grandmother's line. I could tell some stories about stuff I heard in those pentecostal churches my parents inflicted on us when I was in junior high. For some reason, while I listened to it and was upset by a lot of it, I didn't take it to heart.

My poor sister, though. Oh, dear. She heard some fire-and-brimstone sermon on "the unforgivable sin" which was blaspheming the Holy Spirit if I remember right. Naturally, being ten years old, that mysterious sin preyed on her mind relentlessly as she tried to sort out what it might mean. Then she got in a fight with my mother, probably about going to another church thing none of us kids wanted to go to, and blurted out "F... the Holy Spirit!" Then she ran screaming to her bedroom and sobbed for what seemed like days.

Fully convinced she'd committed the unforgivable sin and was on the fast track to hell, she agonized over this for years. YEARS. She only told us about it as an adult.

Like Sophie said -- good story fodder. And it helps keep therapists in business. Oh. Did I mention my sister is a therapist? Hmmm.

Juliet Blackwell said...

Wow, Adrienne. So sorry! Amazing what we're willing to do to our kids (and grand-kids). Glad your sister was there for you!

Tom Neely said...

On the other hand, if we are going to hell, it'll be a great party filled with un-baptised creative types like us and all our shellfish eating gay friends.

Unknown said...

In nutshell, fast cash loans can be a great option for you, if you have the capability to fulfil all their requirements. These finances are quick and manage your all obstacles within a nick of time without going here and there. To find other my services please visit us.