Today is the 21st anniversary of my confirmation into the Lutheran church. I was a 13 year old girl. I studied with the pastor of my childhood church for 3 years to prepare, and then on a Palm Sunday in 1989 I was accepted into the Lutheran church. Back in those days you underwent an examination in front of the church to be sure that you knew the catechism, commandments, etc. It was a little nerve-wracking/intimidating for a 13 year old. There were four of us that year - which was a small class - so we found ourselves having to memorize more than classes before or after us. Four girls - now 34/35 year old women. I remember fear as the primary emotion of that day. Fear I would screw up the stuff I was supposed to remember to say. Fear I would trip over the robe/vestments we had to wear. Fear I was somehow not worthy of this event. My confirmation was a big deal for me. I was very into church at 13. It was my stability in the midst of my chaos. I felt drawn there. I wanted so badly to please God - who in my mind was waiting for me to screw it up. A god who didn't have much faith in me at all, but demanded a sacrifical faith of me.
How life changes! These past few months have been about letting go of fear for me. Releasing the notion that God somehow wants my fear or seeks to make me scared of Him/Her. As I struggle to understand now where I go from here, or how I move forward, I wonder why I ever bought into the religion of fear and dominance. What are the roots? How do I pull them up so that I don't give them to my children? When i was 13 I had to choose a Bible verse to be "my verse" for my confirmation day. I chose Psalms 118:14. "The Lord is my strength and my song. He has become my salvation." Today I would likely choose other verses in the same psalm..."O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever...Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me in a broad place. With the Lord at my side I do not fear...I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation."
This is what life is about. The love of God which endures forever. Steadfast means unwavering. In other words there is nothing so bad or so sad that I can do that would ever mean a loss of that love. That God has become my salvation. Not because I did anything spectacular, but because God so wants a relationship that He goes to the ends of the earth to find me. With God, therefore I do not need any fear in my life. Fear only stunts my growth, and makes me react with violence.
Back in 1989 there was an Amy Grant song that I listened to often (I still love me some Amy) called 1974 where she talks about the day she was confirmed.
"We were young. None of us knew quite what to say. But the feeling moved among us in silence anyway. Slowly we had made...quite a change. Somewhere we had crossed a big line. Down upon our knees we had tasted holy wine. No one could sway us in a lifetime."
That faith is my history. But perhaps it is not my future. And that is somewhat painful. That sense of loss. In 1989 faith was easy, comfortable and made simple sense. This new faith is tougher to come to, complicated and at times makes me uneasy. It is the grey, fringe areas - there is no black and white.
I was reading a book by a woman I have really come to love, and she said that when your experience and your religion clash or conflict, you have three choices. You can deny your experience and conform to the religion. You can leave the religion because you cannot deny your experience. Or you can become a theologian. While I see now clearly my call to the third option, the third option is not easy. While it makes room for experience and religion to co-exist, it still seems complicated, messy.
21 years later...and I feel good and holy and loved and that perhaps all I ever really needed was to let go of fear. The steadfast love of God endures forever. I know that much is true.