Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Story of Libby Exline, Installment 3 - Beware of All Sins, Even Imaginary Ones

In Installment 2, Libby told us how she moved from public school to church school and how the rules were rigidly applied with severe consequences if broken.  She spoke of how she was "ripe for the picking" at her young and impressionable age.  Let's listen in as she tells about how life continued to head downhill.

*****

While at school, I had the rules in my face, now, at church things were heating up, too.  The new pastor was old and cranky and loved the rules.  Until this time, we'd been having Sunday School picnics regularly.  It was a fun time, and was intended to strengthen relationships in the church, as well as reach out to the unsaved that came to church for Sunday School, then left before the preaching.  This group had more young people than the church did.  In fact, we three kids and another girl my age were the young people of the church.The picnics were in part to try to convince the Sunday School crowd that normalcy (fun even), was achievable in the church.  The new pastor stopped these short.  Young people didn't need fun, they needed Jesus.  This was indicative of the way he was to rule the church.

As a young child, I'd prayed for salvation twice that I can remember.  Once as a very young girl (shortly after Luju's friend "bought the farm" (Installment 2), as a matter of fact), and then when I was in the 3rd grade.  The first time, I remember only praying with mom and dad, but don't remember my life changing much.  The 2nd time, I do remember how free and joyful I felt after, but happiness was too transitory in my life too last long.

The church held several revival services during the year, and evangelists would come to school to preach during the day.  I'm sure there were sermons on god's love, and things more positive, but what I, and my sibs, remember most were the hellfire and brimstone sermons.The preacher would sometimes stand up there and yell at us, and spit and froth at the mouth.  

One of the traditions of revival and camp services was The Story told on the last service.  This was a story about, well, Libby.  (it was intended to scare the hell -literally!- out of people, so it was very personal to me).  Libby, the story always went, was raised in The Church.  She had been given The Truth since her childhood.  She resisted god's calling on her life all her life.  Someday, she'd say. Someday, I'll get saved. (I hate that term!  It makes my skin crawl).  Right now, though, I want to live my life.  I don't like the restrictions I have to live under if I give myself to Christ.  So, some day, Just not today.  Then one day, Libby was in a revival (camp, church... whichever the current setting was). meeting, and god moved on Libby's heart. She was miserable under conviction, but she fought against the holy spirit.  "I'm not ready to live under all the rules.  I'm having too much fun living my life.  Later, I'll get saved."  So Libby left church that night, and on the way home, she was in an accident, and died and went to hell.  I laugh at this now, but at the time, it scared me every single time I heard it.  In black and white, it is kind of humorous, but there was more theater and emotion involved when the story was told on the last day of services.

So, shortly after starting church school, I got serious (favorite church phrase) about my salvation and sanctification.   Because I felt so dirty and unlovable due to my home life, I knew I'd have to try extra hard to get god to love me.  This is why I loved the rules, and invented some of my own. The preachers reinforced this by saying we were worms, no good, etc, etc, etc.  In fact, we weren't allowed to exclaim "My goodness!" because we had no goodness.

So I sat through services at both church and school in which I was told I was a terrible sinner. 

My descent into spiritual madness was gradual.  I was stuck for awhile on obeying my parents.   During the summer months, my grandparents lived with us, and they were to be obeyed, also.  I remember my grandma telling me to be sure to rinse my hair thoroughly to get all the soap out.  I had long thick, curly hair, and it tangled frequently.  Dad didn't spring for conditioner, and at the time we didn't have a shower.  I wasn't allowed to wash it in the sink, so rinsing became a problem.  I asked my grandma several times to check to see if it was rinsed right, and it never was.  I ended up in the tub for half an hour trying to get it right.

We lived in the country, and had apple trees.  One Sunday, I was out walking in the orchard praying, and picked an apple.  Dad saw me, and yelled at me for working on the sabbath.  Then he consulted with the pastor, and the pastor agreed that that was work, which broke the "Remember the Sabbath Day" commandment.  The sabbath became a prison for me.  The rules regarding it were so restrictive!  There was a busy intersection near my home.  We'd cut through the shopping center there to avoid the light.  Except on Sunday, because what if someone saw us coming out and thought we had been shopping on The Lord's Day?  Eventually, I wasn't allowed to walk around our yard.  We went to church, ate, then took naps till evening service.  Came home, ate again, then went to bed.

Focusing so stringently on the outward was hard for me, but I could have dealt with that.  It was when thoughts and feeling, and temptations became sins that my personal hell began.  Anger was the big "feeling" sin.  I don't remember being very angry yet, but the pastor and his wife were convinced I was. I would become in time!  One of the pastor's wives favorite sayings was "Only dogs and donkeys get mad."  That makes no sense at all.  Even at the time, it didn't make sense to me, but I bought it.  I got mad, that was a sin, I was a dog.  So the race was on for me to obtain the second work of grace, sanctification.  Then, all would be well.  I'd be perfect, holy, and happy to be miserable.  What more could a girl who only wanted god to love her want?

*****

Installment 4 will find Libby trying her hardest to "remain saved".

4 comments:

  1. Sounds like the first two churches I attended. After 20 years of that, I had to question if God even existed. Best wishes to Libby as she heals.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I relate some. I'm so sorry....

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks, Shadowspring. I needed that!

    Pamela, yeah, me too. I don't know really what I believe. Nor do I much care, right now. If there is a god, he's gonna hve to carry on w/o me! I'm probably goin to hell for that.... ;>

    ReplyDelete