By Maggie Rowe
for some reason, God also decided to include the animals. He drowned
the bears and the elephants and your kid's turtle and your neighbor's
golden retriever. He drowned the green alligators, the long-necked
geese, the humpty back llamas, and the chimpanzees. He drowned the
cats, and rats and elephants. And sure as you're born, our Father
who art in Heaven drowned the unicorn.
That crazy God even tried to drown the fish.
this murderer, this mass grave filler, this sick twist
So you've probably known dads with really bad tempers -- maybe your
dad was like that or your friend's dad -- but a big coping strategy
with this kind of dad is you GIVE HIM HIS SPACE.
But according to youth pastor Dale, that wasn't possible with our
Father who art in Heaven because the Lord is ever-present. He is
always with us. Watching us. Literally everywhere.
illustrate this point, Dale loved to recite the Footprints in
the Sand poem -- which you've probably heard. A billion times.
It's about the man who dreams he's walking on the beach and sees
two sets of footprints -- one is his and the other is the Lord's.
But when times get tough, he only sees one set and so he says to
God, "You promised me, Lord, that if I followed you, you would
walk with me always. But I noticed that during the most trying periods
of my life, there have only been one set of prints in the sand.
Why, when I have needed you most, you have not been there for me?"
The Lord replied, "The times when you have seen only one set
of footprints. It is then, my child, that I carried you."
Sweet, right? Just lovely imagery. Unless you BELIEVE IT. Then it's
really uncomfortable and fucking creepy. Like when
the fat guy on the subway is breathing down your neck. He might
not be a pervert. He might just be a businessman. But still,
you don't want him breathing down your neck. I mean imagine that
God were here with us right now -- like right here -- watching us.
Creepy, isn't it?
When I was ten, I told my youth pastor Dale that I had these thoughts
about wanting God to go away because I thought it would be nice
to have a little privacy now and then and I was afraid God was going
to punish me for them. Youth Pastor Dale, aware I was at a tender
impressionable age and that his answer would have a strong impact
for years to come, said, "Maggie, listen. It is very, very
important that you not feel the way you feel. God wouldn't like
it very much if he knew you didn't want him around. I bet you don't
like it when people want you to go away. No, you don't." And
then he went into that whisper voice that every Baptist pastor does
when he wants indelibly to etch some bit of churchly horror into
a malleable child's still growing skull. "And Maggie,"
he said, "God sees and knows everything that we think. All
the time. Literally."
So God was my Father who was always with me but then there were
more images. God was a Dove. A Mother Bird. A Pearl of Great Price.
A Spirit. A Ghost. The Son of Man. A Loaf of Bread. A Ray of light.
A Grain of Wheat. A Glass of Wine. A Fish. A Bridegroom. A Lamb.
A Mustard Seed. Yeast.
So I told youth pastor Dale "I'm really
Dale said "Maggie, those things are metaphors. Like when Jesus
says, 'I am the bread.' He is saying his path of love and compassion
offers spiritual nourishment, just like bread that you eat offers
So I said, "Oooooooh well that makes so much more sense. So
God isn't literally a Father and He's not literally always with
me, watching everything I do." Youth pastor Dale said, "Maggie
So I was left with two choices. Either God was a trigger-happy pathological
maniac who was going to be breathing down my neck for the rest of
my life or every adult I knew, everyone at church, my parents, my
friends, my friends' parents, our neighbors, the little guy with
the scarf at Blockbuster Video, the nice Indian family who ran the
White Hen Pantry and every single one of my relatives and their
parents -- were whacked out of their minds. And so I grew up terrified.
And what's frustrating to me is that it would have been so easy
to take away that terror. It would have been as easy as taking away
the word "literally." And replacing it with the word,
"dammit." That's all. What they could have said
was that "Jesus Christ was such an illuminated man, he so embodied
the qualities of love and compassion, that he was he was like God.
Dammit. And if we could likewise embody these qualities, our lives
would be radically transformed and it would be as if we were born
again. Dammit. And we are guided so surely to this realization by
an inborn sense of truth that it is as if we have a wise Father.
Dammit. Who is always with us. Dammit. And never leaves our damn
But of course that's not what they said. So I guess the best way
to describe my experience is to say that Calvary Valley Baptist
Church fucked me up the ass. Literally.
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