Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Story of Libby Exline, Installment 4 - Unreachable Sanctification

In Installment 3, we left off finding Libby trying as hard as she could to be perfect. Perfection was very necessary.  Without it, there was no chance of sanctification.  Without sanctification, you went to hell.  Let's continue this train wreck.
*****

Before I could be sanctified, I had to Remain Saved.  So I had to examine myself for sins, known and unknown.  Sometimes I want to reach back through time and snatch my younger self out of there.  Sometimes I want to slap my younger self up side the head for being so....mindless.  Unknown sins?  Um, okay.  Sure I got 'em, so I'll go before the lord to see what they are.  And that I did.  In spades.  And wouldn't ya know it?  I had SINS!!  Yes, mine were capitalized.  One known sin that I really focused on was lying.  I'd heard a sermon about it.  The Bible was pretty specific.  Liars shall have their place in the lake of fire, where the worm (me) dieth not, and the fire was not quenched.  So, above all, Do Not Lie.  It had become less about going to heaven than not going to hell.

There were two kind of sins, I was taught.  The sins of commission and the sins of omission.  So, the sinning could be the actual lie, or it could happen if I just let people assume things that weren't true.  That people were responsible for their own assumptions wasn't a concept that was embraced by the church, or me.  So for at least a year, I got tied up trying to not lie.  I could not hold conversations without doubling back to make sure the person I was talking to totally understood what I was saying. 

The ride to school was a long one.  We had a station wagon, so we became the school bus for the people near us who also went.  Those rides became excruciating for me.  I wanted to talk.  I was a social butterfly.  I loved talking!  But I couldn't.  I might inadvertently lie.  As far as that went, if I looked out the window for an extended period of time, I might be leading people to believe I was watching something when I was just gazing.  Another lie!  In fact, one time at home, I was hanging laundry outside, and was just gazing into the distance.  when I came back in, I made sure to tell everyone, whether they had seen me or not, that I was looking at nothing.  At the worst of this, and shortly before I just gave up, I became cruel in my truth telling.  We had gone to McDonald's, and I had fries. Mom hadn't ordered fries, and wanted some of mine.  I grudgingly gave them, and I was afraid that if I didn't say something, she'd think I was happy to give them to her.  That would be leading her to believe a lie, wouldn't it?  So I told her the truth; I don't want to give you these, but here you go.  I really wasn't trying to be mean.  I was trying to tell the truth! 

I talked to church people about this, too.  About my inability to not lie.  I even went into specifics.  I was told to pray harder, to deny myself.  It just didn't work for me.  Eventually, I did talk to someone who kindly lead me through the definition of lying.  Nothing I was doing was a lie!  But by then it was too late.  I was convinced I was a liar of the worst kind.

This was just one of the sins I couldn't quit committing long enough to get sanctified, but it wasn't the only one.  There were a lot of vague, general sins of the soul that were addressed in the church.  These were the Unknown Sins.  If I was having trouble staying saved, or couldn't get sanctified, it was because I wasn't willing.  The only concrete thing that was ever said to me about being willing happened when I was around 10.  I'd made yet another trip to that (god-forsaken ) altar (it should be burned!).  The mean pastor was praying with me.  I could not get saved, or as they put it, pray clear through.  He kept asking me if I was willing.  I said "to do what?"  He then gave me the test: was I willing to become a missionary, have my husband and kids eaten by the natives, and contract leprosy?  I'm not making this up!  Eventually, specifics were moved away from, and Being Willing became the vague whip they hit me with.  I think in the back of my mind, I was always afraid that if I said I was willing, I'd suffer that fate.  At any rate, my sin, declared the church people was that I Was Not Willing.

So life went on, one soul-murdering day at a time.  I'd go to school, hear messages there about how fallen I was, so I'd go to the altar.  On the way home, or to church that night, I'd inevitably sin again, and have to go back. In addition to all that praying at the altar, I began spending all my free time praying, imploring god to make me willing.  I quit eating, I quit sleeping.  I quit laughing.  I thought if I were miserable enough, god would surely break my will in answer to my prayer.  I thought I could stay saved for maybe 5 minutes, then get sanctified.  Then I would be completely empty of myself, and full of the holy spirit, and he would make my being a non-person easy and natural.

I became, in a way, the church sweet heart. Like I said, there were 4 of us young people there.  The future of the church!  and I was the only one who was So Serious About God.  My older brother tried as hard as I did for awhile, but I was the only one who hung in for a long time.  They quit asking me how I was doing.  They instead inquired as to the state of my soul.  How's your soul, Libby?  If I didn't go to the altar every Sunday, they became concerned that I was in rebellion.  More than once, if I hadn't gone to the altar within 5 minutes of the "altar call" the pastor's wife came to me, in front of the whole church, bawling, and asking me to go to the altar.  "You're not saying no to me, you're saying no to Jesus", she'd bawl.  Every summer, the whole church conference would hold camp meeting in PA.  Thousands of people came.  I'd go there, thinking that in the midst of all these people fervently seeking the lord, and being willing, I couldn't help but be, myself.  I usually went to that altar at every opportunity, and in fact, would go there to pray between services.  If, however, a service went by that I didn't go by myself, she'd seek me out there, too.  How she found me in the crowd is a question I still have.  I'm sure she'd say god had led her to me.

*****

Stay tuned for Installment 5, where we watch a camp meeting in more detail.

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