SO HOW DID I GET THIS WAY?
I've been asked many times how I got to be this calm and think the way I do about people and life. As usual, it wasn't easy. So I'm going to try to put into words my story. I will probably ramble around a lot as I haven't made an outline--too detail-oriented for me. And I will probably interject current events and thoughts to break up the narrative. If my story helps one person to decide to follow their own path then my effort will be worth it. So here goes......
In the beginning...OK, I won't go back that far. I was born on an army base in Macon, Georgia, lived there 6 months and spent the rest of my life, literally, moving about every 3-5 years. I sometimes wonder if my whole spiritual life would have remained attached to organized religion if I had grown up in one place. I was very involved most of my life with Methodist church activities, Sunday school and church service, Sunday evening and sometimes Wednesday evening, but there was never time to be invested in a particular church and its congregation. I was baptized when I was 9 or 10, I think. Until I was about 15 years old I never gave it much thought; it was just something you did. Other than my mother being sick most of the time and my Dad becoming an Air Force officer, being on a flight crew and gone quite a lot, I had a relatively normal childhood. My parents were strict and I was very compliant. I hated to get into trouble so didn't do it very much. I knew the rules and followed them. I had no problem with changing bases every three years. I made friends and adjusted to new schools easily. In fact, I loved school so, as long as I was going every day, I didn't care where we were. I was an avid reader. I won an award in the second grade for reading so many books from the school library. As I got older, I got in trouble quite a bit for reading when I was supposed to be doing chores or helping my Mom. My favorite books were, well, almost anything, including the Book of Knowledge. If I had no other novel to read, I would pick one of the 20 books and scan through until I found something interesting and then read all about it. I probably read 50-60% of that set. I have the books now and I'm sure if I opened any one there would be book marks in several places. So I've always been curious about lots of things. I didn't retain the details, but the liked learning whatever it was.
I bring this up because I feel that I learn very well, not the details of a subject, but the "big picture" concepts from reading. This helped a lot when I was beginning my spiritual search as I have not had many teachers available and have had to teach myself. I used to get upset because I thought I was missing something by not having a guru or personal teacher to depend on, but I have finally realized that I am supposed to find my way by myself. "Depend on" are probably very important words for me. I might have been someone who would have become a cult member if I had had the chance. At times it's frustrating to not understand a concept and have no one to ask about it. But then, I have had to really think and ponder and find my own truth so it has worked for me. It certainly wouldn't be everyone's method, but it's mine.
So when did I start questioning the Church and Bible teachings? When I was about 9 years old my Dad's best friend was killed in a plane crash. He was so devastated by the loss and what it did to the family that he began to question God's purpose. Why would God have taken this good man? It wasn't until many years later that he explained how this event had effected him. I love my Daddy very much and have always felt his energy strongly. I was young then so didn't understand, but was vaguely aware that something had changed. I think this event was the pivotal one that allowed me to question organized religion when I was ready. I would not be disappointing my father.
When I was 15 years old my Dad retired from the military and we moved to Riverview, Florida, where my mother's family lived. Most of the Brandon's were Baptists so we went to both churches. There was lots of church and related activities in my life. My high school classmates went to one or the other of the churches so it was a social event as well. I wasn't one of the popular girls in school, but had a nice group of friends. I was a "good" girl. I was paradoxically terribly shy, but also loved being in the limelight as well. I was insecure and craved attention. A girl I went to school with had a terrible reputation as one who "went all the way". She probably didn't deserve it, but that was her reputation. She attended the same Methodist church and was constantly receiving praise from church elders for something she had done. I sat there thinking, "I'm the good girl and work very hard in the church and no one ever praises me". But her parents had been in this church for many years and were very influential. We, on the other hand, had only been members about a year. (I'm not particularly proud of this thought process, but it did get me where I needed to go.) I just couldn't understand why my efforts weren't being acknowledged just because my family wasn't entrenched in the politics of this church. What did any of that have to do with being a Christian? Thus began my slow separation from organized religion.