Wednesday, August 03, 2005

one lesson, 38 years ago made a difference

I was baptized when I was about 8 1/2. Many folks hear this and think that makes me a "dyed in the wool" LDS person. I still think of myself as extremely blessed to have been introduced to the Gospel, to have had a family that accepted it and yes, be baptized while still only 8 years old. I can personally see how this young age baptism blessed my life.

We were converts, and as such -enthusiastic. After a year or so, I had Brother Hitzka as my Sunday School Teacher. He was a regular guy type of guy as I remember, nothing much to write home about. However, one Sunday something prompted him to be a tad more dramatic in his lesson presentation. We were all seated and he asked us to count off, one, two, one, two, one, two. I was a two.

"All of you 'two's please stand up. Go over to the door. Wave to everyone and say good bye." So we all complied. I remember standing there thinking I was going to be given a special assignment, would go off to the kitchen for a glass of water or perhaps out to the grass for something else, who knew? I was excited to be one of the "chosen"! "O.k.!" he said, "You can leave now, bye!" We just stood there not knowing where to go. "Um, BYE now! Go!" and with a swoosh of his hand we understood we were to GO, but where was still a mystery. Irritated, Brother Hitzka stood up, opened the door and began to physically lead each of us 'two's out the door. As he started to close the door, one boy asked, "Where do you want us to go?" "I don't care. I just know you will leave eventually so I thought why wait? Just go now and get on with your lives!" We all stared at Brother Hitzka.

For me, I had some abandonment issues already, so to have my Sunday School Teacher tell me to go began to tear at something familiar inside of me. I was immediately scared to death that I would never be back. I would never go to his Sunday School class again and maybe never see him again either. I felt a loss of love, his love, a love that I didn't think about until that moment in time; but something told me Brother Hitzka did love me. But did he decide not to now? I didn't quite know what to do with this information. The moment seemed very long, but eventually Brother Hitzka asked us all to come back into class.

"I read a scary fact this morning. By the time you kids grow up to be 21, half of you will have left the church. " Oh, now I get it, he's making a point. But inside I didn't feel much better. In fact it made me physically sick and I wanted to throw up. Brother Hitzka explained how when grown ups grow up they aren't much smarter than we were right then. He wanted us to be smart. He wanted us to know that things get hard in life and that sometimes, adults see the only solution to problems is to leave the church and their activity in it. He stressed that the one thing that was smart would be to hang onto our activity NO MATTER WHAT WE FACED AS AN ADULT! I don't remember too much from the lesson than that and the feelings I still have when I remember it all.

Brother Hitzka was right. In my class were 12 kids. By the time we were 21 exactly half of us had left the church for various reasons. "C" left because his family was a complete mess and he just couldn't figure out how to please them, himself, much less God. "G" left due to an early and sad temple marriage that fell apart. "K" left because her parents "shoved the church down [her] throat." Truth be told her parents were nuts, but it was an excuse for her to experiment with the late 70's and not feel guilty. "C" left because she had been abused by her father and when the church became involved the justice was not justice but a "good talking too, but not much else." Bitter. "S" left out of boredom. "E" left out of, again, familial shame brought on by a parent's public sin.

Did the other 6 of us have great lives? No. One of us married a man with children, one of whom decided to be gay. Another lost a spouse. Others had trials with word of wisdom issues, sex, and financial ruin. The truth is EVERYONE had an excuse to leave. EVERYONE had a reason to stay. For me, I also had trials. LOTS of trials. (Haven't we all?) I can honestly say that I could hear Brother Hitzka telling me to leave during each one. The point is this: After that one lesson I was so sick at the thought of leaving my Heavenly Father (someone it took me a lot of work to find) that I couldn't leave. The thinking of inactivity made my stomach ache - hard. I promised myself one thing. "If I ever felt like just staying home, or being mad and wanted to quit, that I would not allow myself to do that. I would work it out however I could, but I would ALWAYS go to church. EVERY Sunday. NO EXCEPTIONS."

That one promise, made by a 9 year old to her future self, has been the saving grace that helped me through thoughts of "This is enough! No more!". Through the desires to go out on the boat, take the day trip, just skip it this once. I realized even as a child that activity is more than sitting through "Dry Council Sunday" and the travelogue "testimonies", the hypocrites that demand this or that and do otherwise themselves. It's more important for me to sit through all the "junk" because that is where I am supposed to be. I have never regretted going to church, even when the lessons have been ridiculous and the drama of the women is worse than anything you see on t.v. Being there is important.

I still feel that love I felt from Brother Hitzka. I feel it through other people now. I know that feeling is directed from Heavenly Father. As a grown up I still have that scary feeling of abandonment. When I think that I would be the one doing the abandoning, it makes me sick. This time I choose to leave. This time I am the one who says, "I don't need you, you are not worth it! I am finding something better, something easier than you." The only difference is that I am saying it to my Heavenly Father. That thought and those feelings are what keep me in the bench, in the dull lesson, in the room when I want otherwise. I want the love and the feeling of going home to my Father someday more. I stay active.

Thanks Brother Hitzka.

add to sk*rt

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