As the daughter of a sergeant major, I followed all the rules – at home, in school, at church. I never missed a curfew, never drank or smoked and always cleaned my room. I studied hard, got good grades and joined the Latin Club. I genuflected before I slid into the pew every Saturday evening, memorized the Ten Commandments in CCD and ducked behind the red velour curtain to confess my sins once a month. I was good. I didn’t question authority. I didn’t question the system. I didn’t question God.
For the first 20 years of my life I repeated the motions of belief – church, confirmation classes, confessional. I assumed practicing belief was the same as actual belief – or at least close enough to keep me out of Hell.
The next 15 were the frozen years. I didn’t believe in God, but yet I also didn’t admit that to myself or to anyone else. I simply turned off that part of my consciousness completely. I “didn’t do deep thoughts” I told myself and my future husband – end of story.
The problem was that God and religion (and string theory, for that matter) presented questions I couldn’t answer and possibilities I couldn’t comprehend. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the concept of incarnation or resurrection. I couldn’t fathom eternal life. I couldn’t picture what Heaven might look like. None of these abstractions fit into my structured, black-and-white existence. And because they didn’t fit, I dismissed them altogether.
And then, five years ago, I started to write. I sat at the computer in the basement, placed my fingers on the keyboard and began to record stories of my childhood. The result, of course, was that the questions I’d suppressed for nearly my entire life bubbled to the surface. And no one was more surprised than I to discover that within those questions I felt the first faint possibility of real belief.
“Wanting to know where we are going is often how we fail to go anywhere at all,” writes Julia Cameron in The Sound of Paper. Cameron is referring to the writing process in general, but her observation applies to life and faith as well. It took me more than two decades to realize that I wanted all the answers without ever asking the questions. I wanted to know the outcome before I even dared step on the path.
I suspect writing and faith will always be entwined for me. On the page I found the courage to ask the questions. And in the questions I found the answer I had yearned for all along.
Born and raised in Massachusetts, Michelle DeRusha moved to Nebraska 10 years ago, where she discovered the Great Plains, grasshoppers the size of Cornish hens…and God. She writes about finding and keeping faith in the everyday at her blog Graceful. She’s also written a memoir, Leap Year: A Story of Finding Place…and Grace, and is represented by Rachelle Gardner of WordServe Literary.
Thank you, Michelle, for writing this guest post. I’m honored by your presence here and more than excited to read your memoir. (Bonus: You make me laugh.)
As a result of reading or writing, have you ever had questions bubble to the surface?