The Dreamland My Youth Pastors Glorified : Series Part II

I love wearing two rings now on this finger.
I love wearing two rings now on this finger.

I wanted to get married in my 20’s — my early 20’s, — have kids early and be a forever career woman.

Oh, and be a professional singer.

As a girl, I may have watched too much “Gem,” but I never considered my lifelong dreams to be unreachable, or unreasonable. My grandmother told me my dream of singing would change as I got older, and I deeply resented her not taking me seriously. But in a way, she was right.

It never occurred to me that I would have to take life by the horns and shake it until it fit my purposes. I thought it would just happen to me, much like it must have happened to my vocal heroes, Point of Grace, 4Him, Margaret Becker and Michael English. In fact, I thought that I was more likely to fulfill my purpose if I let God do all the work.

A friend commented on the first post in this series, saying perhaps I was depressed following my wedding because our society dupes women into believing that finding a man to marry is the ultimate goal in life. I think he may be on to something there, but I also think the Christian culture has something to do with why we expect to find dreamland when we reach adulthood, but instead we find regular old life.

It’s fairly typical of evangelical Christians to hear that platitude, sitting in cushioned pews during church youth group meetings. They were usually fairly solemn events, at least they were back in the early 90’s. Everything was so serious — the lights were dimmed, we watched “human videos” to Michael Card ballads, lifted our hands in worship so high we nearly lost our balance and spent so much time crying altarside that we’d walk away light-headed and with a headache.

“Let go and let God,” they told us. And so we did, or at least we tried. And we never felt like we tried quite hard enough, because we still wanted summer love, rock music and to shake our booties wearing high heels and big hair. We wanted to fit in, to be like “normal” kids our age. But our church leaders said, “Go against the grain,” coarsely reminding us to “be in the world but not of the world.”

But these same people were products of the 1960’s and 70’s, decades rife with plenty of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. In their hippie days, I wonder if the youth leaders attended every church service a week had to offer. I doubt they hedged their future careers on the bet that God would (or that He should) take up the not-yet-woven threads of our lives whip them into a tapestry. They had jobs — factory workers, dentists, construction workers, lawyers, secretaries, teachers — and they had already built their lives. Surely they had no fear in telling us (with all the best intentions) what to do because they didn’t have it lying ahead of them.

We’d been taught to set ourselves up for the dreamland, to come with great expectations. And so we grew up to be lazy, reactive and much like the drifting waves on the sea we were urged not to be. We heard “Go West young man,” when the colleges, coaches, therapists, counselors, neighbors, friends and family were going East.

And when reality hit (and we were too old to attend youth group anymore) my generation did a total face plant into the sludge of everyday normalcy. Wannabe singers settled for the occasional karaoke night or a joining the church choir. Pastoral hopefuls turned into beer slinging bartenders. And all those cute little girls that all the boys liked ended up pregnant before they could legally drive a rental car.

So, it is possible that the downward slide I felt on my honeymoon was due to societal delusions. But I think it had far more to do with situations like this one:

I was about 20, went to church by myself and was part of several ministries there. I was also in school full-time and working a part-time job nights and weekends. One Sunday I was sick. The next Sunday I was traveling with my family in Arkansas. And the next Sunday, a senior sister in the Lord who I will call Ruby, found me in the lobby after church.

What she did next was unbelievable.

Ruby literally grabbed two handfuls of my collar and pushed me into a dark, unused room by the sanctuary. I tried to leave but she blocked me, demanding to know where I’d been for the past 2 weeks. I told her what she wanted to know and made it very clear that all was well — I hadn’t “gone secular” or anything.

To that, Ruby replied: “Well, I just wanted to make sure you weren’t away with a boyfriend or anything.”

At that, I left the room. The next time I saw Ruby was at the mall a couple months later. She and a friend came into the store where I worked and said hello. I mentioned that I was very tired and a little out of it. When Ruby asked why, I gently and promptly informed her it was because I’d had a few drinks the night before.

Her previous pious posturing had backfired.

I never heard another nasty word from her again (though she did once accost my older sister after service, demanding to know where I was, because I “should be up at the altar”).

It’s people like Ruby who steer young Christians wrong — with their bitterness and legalism. They practically shove you into the dorm room at Bible college and expect you to play Stepford Christian. But somewhere in between the “thee’s” and “thou’s,” you realize that the Rubys in your life have never watched an episode of “Gem.” They never had any real dreams of their own, or they are still desperately clinging to them, wishing they could rip off their old lady wig, trade their flight-attendant-like church garb for cutoff jeans and and a tube top, and reenact the river scene from Dirty Dancing.

Ah, but they don’t, and they are miserable. They tell you to God where God leads, but they’ve never had the courage to step a low-heeled-closed-toed foot outside church.

I am a professional writer. Not because I went to the altar, and not because I went to Bible college. I’m a writer because God made me to be, and He strategically put people in my life to suggest and encourage me in my dream.

This may not be what the Rubys in my life would have liked, but my writing career started out much like that of a Las Vegas showgirl (or so Ruby would have said). After all, I penned my first song at age 8, in my bedroom, and sang it to my parents, who drank champagne and played cards at a round table.

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