What I learned in Kindergarten almost got me killed. This is true.
I went to a five-year old’s birthday party and her mom talked about God and church. God and I were good friends, already, but I had no concept of church. I went right home and asked to go to church. Then, in all the wisdom of a 5-year-old, I followed my friend to church.
It has taken me until recently to realize that no amount of ‘churchin’ is going to save me. This is only my experience, but it is mine. I started looking for truth beyond the God of my own understanding when I was in Kindergarten. 50 years later my head had been filled up, tamped down and shook up, filled some more and tamped down some more until I had to quit. I gave up on a church saving my little self or connecting me to God.
Since becoming a closet drunk, and trying to kill myself during a blackout one night, I have had the benefit of facing the dysfunctional life I was living. At the bottom of it, I found that the God I was learning about was not the God that I had experienced as a child. I had a shelf of Biblical resources and Berean tools. I could quote scripture, write convincing self-effacing letters, talk systematic theology with the elders… and turn around and commit sins I preached against. Though I was abysmally slow to admit it, something was amiss.
- The harder I tried, the worse my life got
- There was nothing to look forward to except heaven after death
- I had no one to confide in
- I couldn’t afford a counselor
- I was praying to die
The message I thought I heard in Kindergarten was false. God is not in a church. Actually, I believe once again that God is in me. Church is where people of like minds go to fellowship and worship, but the responsibility for my spiritual growth falls on my own shoulders and is the result of the relationship between the God of my understanding and me. Church or any formal religion may or may not feed me spiritually. That’s beside the point. Before I quit drinking, I successively chose religious situations that didn’t work for me.
At the time I got sober, my faith, my thinking, and my behaviors weren’t congruent. If anyone knew the real me, they’d hate me. I was sure of it. No amount of trying to control myself by the messages I’d heard at church was working. Knowledge of scripture, passionate praying, fasting, confession- nothing was able to fix my dysfunctional thinking.
The message I got in the church was deadly for me, not for everyone else in the pew, but for me, because it kept me thinking and gave me a false sense of control. It kept me in my head and worshiping the knowledge of God. It fed my already disproportionate, monstrous ego. Believing that emotional experiences are not to be trusted, that only truth found in lexicons should be applied to my life, that someone else is the authority on God unless I can prove them wrong by using their tools… all kept me from recognizing the feelings in my heart and listening to the God deep within.
Before that Fall day of the Kindergarten party, I was well acquainted with my God. God and I had played house on remote islands of the Canadian boundary waters; in tents and outhouses; under my bed; and on back porches in the rain. In Kindergarten, I stopped hearing Him and started listening to other people. I didn’t trust the God of my own understanding… not for many years.
Because I was drowning my pain in wine bottles, God was able to use AA to restore my life. At midlife, the 12 Steps program very quickly showed me how to connect once again with my God: a God of my own understanding. I didn’t learn that in Kindergarten.
- Do you have a God of your own understanding?
- Who can you confide in?
- What is working right about your life now?
- What is not working?
- What experience have you had with counseling? Did it give you what you were seeking?
- What do you dream of doing in the future?
- How often do you dream of dying?