Childhood, Confusing, Fear, Shame, United Pentecostal Church

Listening To That Inner Voice

During the process of writing about my childhood I’m finding more questions than answers. Opening the door to my past has caused me to remember things I have not thought about for a long time. Many of these events seemed weird at the time and now through my adult eyes they seem inappropriate. As these memories bubble up into the now I have asked people if they remember and if it all seems odd to them as well. In a recent conversation a friend and I discussed how we remember two things from our childhood growing up in the church, fear and sex.

For the lips of a strange woman drop as a honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil. Proverbs 5:3

I started attending Calvary Christian Academy when I was 11 years old and in the 6th grade. We started attending the church when I was about 8. I was excited about starting a new school and finally being a part of the in-group. The principal at that point was Brother Rutherford. He seemed nice enough but had some strange quirks about him. Every morning we would read a passage together as a group. The goal was to memorize the verses and be able to repeat them back by the end of the month. If you wanted any extra freedoms or honor roll you had to have those verses memorized and signed off on. The thing is the verses we studied seem really strange when I look back on them now. The Bible is a long book and full of topics to focus on so why these verses were chosen is beyond me.

Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well.

Let thy fountains be dispersed abroad, and rivers of waters in the streets.

Let them be only thine own, and not strangers’ with thee.

Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Proverbs 5:15-18

Every morning we would stand and say the pledge and then read our verses. We read them as a mixed group out loud. I can remember being pretty embarrassed to read these things in front of the boys. It did not help that the older boys would tell bawdy jokes about them and snicker and laugh at my discomfort.

Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love.

And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and embrace the bosom of a stranger? Proverbs 5:19-20

I have to ask if the men working in the school got some kind of perverse pleasure from watching teen girls recite these verses both as a group and then one on one. When we reached the end of the month either our supervisor Roy Grant or Brother Rutherford would come to our little office and listen to us recite the verses back to them. I can remember being really uncomfortable. I was very good at memorization so that wasn’t the issue, it was all of those breasts and lips.

O that thou wert as my brother, that sucked the breasts of my mother! when I should find thee without, I would kiss thee; yea, I should not be despised.

I would lead thee, and bring thee into my mother’s house, who would instruct me: I would cause thee to drink of spiced wine of the juice of my pomegranate. Song of Solomon 8:1-2

We would have a sort of chapel time and Brother Rutherford or Roy Grant would preach a mini sermon or teach a lesson. Often the subject matter would have something to do with the verses we were working on. So it isn’t that the verses were not explained, they were but I still have to ask, why was this something I needed to read/know at age 11? Why so much focus on cheating spouses and sexual love? Wouldn’t it be more beneficial for us to be studying the fruits of the spirit or maybe the sermon on the mount?

We have a little sister, and she hath no breasts: what shall we do for our sister in the day when she shall be spoken for?

If she be a wall, we will build upon her a palace of silver: and if she be a door, we will inclose her with boards of cedar.

I am a wall, and my breasts like towers: then was I in his eyes as one that found favour. Song of Solomon 8: 8-10

I have turned this over in my head time and again and I just don’t get it. Why all the verses about breasts? Of all of the topics available why this kind of thing over and over? If there is one thing I have learned in my life it is that where there is smoke there is fire. If it makes you feel uncomfortable there is a reason for that and you should listen to that inner voice. I do not know who picked those verses. It could have been Brother Rutherford or Pastor Grant but either way I think it was inappropriate. I could understand if we were older like 17 or so or if it was a class for people about to be married.

A side note, we always read from the KJV and we were taught that the Proverbs verses were about staying faithful to ones wife, and the Song of Solomon verses were about marital love. Imagine my surprise when I found that some view the Song of Solomon verses to be about Christ. That is not how it was taught to us.

Brother Rutherford and his family eventually left and I think they moved back to Texas. I do not remember why but I do remember that it seemed kind of sudden and fast. After that we had a new principal and the verses changed to more normal content.

You might ask why I am writing this entry, it is because as I try to figure out the past these things come to mind and then I can’t get them out of my mind. I comb over them over and over again trying to make sense of it all. Why did they focus so much on sexual topics? Why the pervy undertones? They had to have known that a young girl would feel uncomfortable reading those verses out loud, especially given how sheltered we were. If anyone remembers the Rutherfords and knows why they left I would love to know.

 

Childhood, Confusing, Leadership, Uncategorized, United Pentecostal Church

So Much Confusion

Childhood can be a very confusing time no matter where or how you grow up. I was a pretty logical kid and so when things did not make sense I would comb over and over them to try to make it all fit. We had a youth pastor at our church and I really liked him. He was fun and not too serious about the rules. It was a relief to be around him because I felt like I could breathe. He worked in our Christian school and so we saw a lot of him. On the one hand it was a relief to be around him but then, on the other hand, it was confusing. He would let us come over and watch television in his basement, and often that would include a chance to make out with whatever boy you liked at the time. He walked in on me once. I was making out with a boy on a bed. The boy was much older than me. The youth pastor said nothing, he just closed the door and walked away. He was permissive. He was also the pastor’s son. I think he was probably in the midst of his own rebellion and I have no idea why they had him in that position. We would sit in church and hear about sin and burning in hell and then the youth pastor would not only condone sin but invite us over to watch television which was considered a sin. He is now the pastor of Calvary Gospel Church.

I’m not saying any of this to throw Roy Grant under the bus. When I was a kid I liked him a lot and looked up to him. I’m sure he was not thinking about how his actions would cause confusion. He always seemed like a big kid himself, I never saw him as pastor material. I do wish he would have stepped in when he saw things like kids being sexual. I was about 14 when he walked in on me with that boy. First of all the boy was too old for me and secondly, it was just inappropriate. It was happening in his home and he was supposed to be supervising me. I would have listened to anything he said, he had influence over me, but he said nothing and just let it happen. He could be a very nice guy. He gave many of us rides to school and I have warm memories of him doing donuts with us kids in the truck with him. I have some weird memories too. On one occasion he had me and one other young teen female over to his house for the weekend. His wife was there but we rarely interacted with her. It was just the three of us hanging out. That’s just odd. From the outside, it probably looked like he and his wife were being kind to two girls in the youth group, but his wife was not around. The strangest part of the whole sleepover was bedtime. He tucked both of us in and gave us both a kiss on the forehead goodnight. That might seem innocent to some but to me, it just seems off. An adult man kissing two teens goodnight and tucking them into bed within a culture where you are not supposed to touch the opposite sex is confusing. I remember the two of us looking at each other after he tucked us in, both of us kind of in shock and without words. I have since heard other stories of unusual behavior coming from Roy, but those stories are not mine to tell. I can’t help but wonder if he is more careful now that he is the pastor?

About halfway through my teens years, the church switched things up. Roy was not as prominent and we had a new youth leader and school principal John Seidl. John was a very different person. He was harsh, judgemental, and by the book. It was like whiplash, suddenly everything became very serious and there was no wiggle room. I suspect they were trying to correct the direction of the youth group and make it more godly. John was stern, unbending, and kind of cold. To be honest I was a little afraid of him. I did not feel like he understood me or would be capable of extending compassion. My worst run-ins with him happened in school. He was my teacher for pretty much everything and he wasn’t very good at it. When I struggled in school he would give me demerits for not finishing my work and then detention. It did not matter to him that I did not understand my work or that I had cried all night trying to figure it out. All that mattered is that I came back to school with unfinished algebra. He did nothing to figure out how to help me and continued to punish me knowing I was stuck and after watching me cry at my desk because I couldn’t understand the problems. Other than that I tried as hard as I could to stay off of his radar. I think he was more focused and harder on the boys. I feel he looked for infractions and I think he was a scorekeeper, not a forgiver.

One thing I learned as a kid was how to adapt. Within the church and my family, you had to figure out what each adult expected from you and then be that person. I could never be myself or let my guard down. The adults around me were not into helping or being compassionate towards young people, they were into being judgemental and gossiping. My mother followed some of the church rules but not all of them so, at home, I could relax a little, but then when I stepped foot into the church or school everything was different.

I knew that they believed the wages of sin were death, but I also knew that Jesus taught plenty about loving your neighbor as yourself. It was confusing because our church seemed stuck on the punitive part of the Bible. They were focused on what you shouldn’t do but not so much on what you should do. The “shoulds” consisted of their rules. No pants for women, no short hair, etc…Not much was being done to feed the poor, love your enemies, or show compassion. Because I knew the Bible so well over time I was able to see them more clearly. It’s all about who you know and who you are related to. They are mostly hypocrites. If your parents are the right people you won’t get heat for doing the wrong things, if you’re not in that crowd look out because they are looking at you. Sadly being judgemental has become part of the lifestyle. When I was a young person I could not understand how the elder’s kid could get away with so much but it felt like they were just waiting for me to make a mistake so they could pounce.

D