Posted by: Marie | January 29, 2012

(625) Attempting to thaw – Part 1 of 5

Post #625
[Private journal entry written on Monday, May 23, 2011]

Today was therapy session day . . .

As is usual, I waited in the downstairs lobby for Edward to come down to meet me and walk with me up the stairs to his office. As I was waiting, I read a few pages of the book written by one of my college boyfriends, Todd.

Editorial note: About a month ago, I came across the book when I was at the home of one of my piano students. Upon closer examination, I realized the author was a guy I dated in college, 25 years ago. My student’s mother was not home at the time, but she was a couple weeks later. When I saw her, I told her that I knew the book’s author. She asked if I had read the book and I responded that I hadn’t. She offered to loan it to me and I accepted. So, I’ve been reading it this week.

The book is a fairly easy read; I’m plowing through it rather quickly. It is about the aftermath of Tim’s four-year-old son’s out-of-body experience that occurred when he “died” a clinical death during emergency surgery. After the surgery, Todd and his wife struggled with knowing if they should believe what their son was telling them about his trip to heaven and his visit with Jesus. They weren’t sure how to responsibly react to his claims.

When Edward appeared in the lobby and greeted me, he inquired about the book I was reading (he always asks about whatever book I’m reading). I began my response with, “Funny story . . .”

As we walked up the stairs, I told him how I had come across the book at my student’s home. At the top of the stairs, he excused himself for his usual bio-break and I headed into his office and settled into the couch. A few minutes later, he reappeared. I continued sharing my thoughts about the book . . .


Me: It is strange to read Todd’s book . . .

We grew up in such a small, tight-knit church – it was small and closely knit even at the national level. I grew up in Colorado and Nebraska and he grew up in Oklahoma. The college associated with our church is located in Oklahoma – more specifically, in his hometown.

Photo by Martin Chen

We started attending the college at the same time. That is where we met and dated for a couple of months when we were both 18 years old. It was not a very serious relationship, really . . . it turned out that I’m not his type.

He now pastors a church in the Colorado-Nebraska district. So, I know many of the people, the towns and the churches he mentions in his book. It is a rather strange experience to read about them, especially since I’ve lost track of most of those people. From his book, I’m learning where they have ended up as adults – including him and his wife. It feels like “old home week”.

Edward: So, what is the basic message of the book?

Me: It’s pretty legalistic . . . it is consistent with the teachings of the church. He explains everything by quoting and interpreting the Bible.

Edward: (Grinning a bit) Oh, I was hoping you were going to say that, through his brush with the supernatural, he had discovered a new and more liberal aspect of spirituality and that you were able to learn something from it to benefit your own journey . . .

Me: No . . . nothing like that . . . it’s what I would expect to hear from someone still deeply engrained in the church.

Edward: So, the church in which you grew up was pretty legalistic?

Me: Very much so. It was started by some Methodists who thought the Methodist church was becoming too liberal. And, a former Quaker was involved in the creation of the church at some point. A bunch of small church denominations joined it . . . many of them were very evangelical and missionary-oriented . . . and they all were very conservative in their dress code . . . no jewelry beyond a wedding ring . . . no drinking, no smoking, no dancing, no gambling . . .

It wasn’t like people could do those things on Saturday and then ask for forgiveness on Sunday. The church teachings said that if you made a habit of doing those things, you would go to hell. And, you’d probably be kicked out of the church, as well.

The church lightened up considerably by the time I went to college – but, even at the college, only a couple of years before I got there, women were not allowed to wear pants. They had to wear skirts except for when they were involved in sporting events and physical education classes.

Edward: How small was the church?

Me: Well, its current structure was established within maybe a year of when I was born, so it is young. When I was a child, if I remember correctly, there were maybe 200-300 churches within the United States and maybe 50 churches in the rest of the world. And, an average church had maybe 50 people in it. So, I guess there were maybe ten thousand people in United States total.

The college I attended had 500 students total . . . there were about 150 students living on campus. Now, the college is a university and has doubled in size . . . I think they finally made it to 1,000 students. Because so many of us had grown up in the church, and because many of our parents and grandparents had grown up in the churches that merged together to make the new church, everybody knew everybody and their parents and grandparents and siblings and kids and cousins . . . and a lot of the students of my grandparents’ generation married each other, and my parents’ generation, and my generation . . . even today, the church remains a pretty tight-knit community.

Edward: What is the foundational belief system of the church?

Me: Well, the church heavily encourages evangelism. While the church teachings recognize that people can’t save other people, it teaches that we have a responsibility to share the gospel with as many people as possible. If we don’t, and someone who was placed in our path so we could lead them to God doesn’t get led to God because we didn’t evangelize strongly enough at the moment they crossed our path, then our reward in heaven will be affected – and, of course, the poor soul who didn’t get saved will end up going to hell – which is good for causing a lifetime of guilt while we are still here on earth.

So, that causes the people of the church to be very aggressive – and to ignore boundaries. They cannot consider the idea they might be wrong . . . they don’t have room in their belief structures to allow for the possibility there might be other forms of “right”.

[Continued in the next post . . . ]


  1. The church I grew up in wasn’t anything like that extreme – but had a similar approach.

    • So, maybe a gentler way to accomplish the same goals?

      • Yes, same narrow ideas about life. The church as an evangelisation machine. And as we said in my youth group, “My dog doesn’t smoke, drink or dance; but it isn’t a christian”.

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