8. One last try

Here’s what happened to me during the year I was twelve: I started junior high. The other kids hated me. I hit puberty. We moved to a completely different part of the country. My family stayed with some friends of my parents for a couple of months. I went to another junior high with exceptionally low academic standards. The other kids hated me. I was subjected to another family’s "house rules" and suddenly, instead of being allowed to stay up until 9 or 10 and then read until I fell asleep, I was expected to be lying in bed, lights out, at 8:30 pm. Then we moved again. My mother’s father was diagnosed with cancer. I started another junior high. The other kids hated me. My dog ran away. We started going to Lake Sawyer church.

So, I knew the people at Lake Sawyer were kind of nuts, but I had strong emotional reasons to try to suppress that feeling and make friends with them. Also, my mother and I were starting to fight a lot, and one of the things that she had gotten into her head was that church and church-related activities were very important and I must go. Must! Do you hear me! So, if I actually liked church, that was one less thing we had to fight about.

I tried to reconcile their crazy views with my views. I think for a while I was able to see the crazy as an exception. The Lake Sawyer people were Christians, and they also believed these other crazy things, which was too bad. I tried to see them as not being defined by the crazy things they believed.

I went to youth group. I went to summer camp. I helped out at something called "The Bible Bowl" which was exciting largely because it took place in the Seattle Opera House and they had cool sets for The Ring up and we got to go backstage and look at them. I went on a visit to a Christian college with fairly low academic standards, where, I was informed, it was an excellent place for young women to find future ministers to wed.

I did make one friend in church. He wasn’t too bright academically but I thought he was really cute. He was a few years older, maybe 16 or 17? He kind of semi-flirted with me when we met, which got my hopes up. But he was already engaged to someone else, someone his own age. He had epilepsy and died just a few months after I met him. His girlfriend got pregnant by someone else right after that. It was a big scandal. I had a picture of him in my locker for a while, I wonder if I still have it?

The kids at Lake Sawyer were, in general, not too bright academically. They were nice enough, but we had nothing in common. Nothing. My attempt to be happy at Lake Sawyer — to find a social community there — was not paying off. The people there were not my people. There was no connection, not even the nominal connection of shared faith, since my faith was still with the Jesus freak North Orange version of Christianity, and not with these weird snake-handling Chickians.

I continued going through the same "faith" motions — most of them were at the insistence of my mother, after all — but I was starting to mentally give up on the church.

I assumed I was still a Christian, at first, since I hadn’t formally rejected any of the things I believed in when I was baptized. But I was losing something. Attachment, maybe? I was starting to see my faith, such as it still was, as being entirely separate from the church.