“Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away?
Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord.
Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord.” Jeremiah 23:23,24
It’s Nan’s fault. Everything is – secretly – Nan’s fault.
Now, my Nan is a good woman. Good as in she has a good heart, she has loved me all my life so far and always pushed me to make something of myself. But my Nan is religious, very religious but minus the preaches. She doesn’t go around talking Jesus this Jesus that all day. She does, however, go to every single mass that her church throws.
When I was little my mum and dad made a foolish move and moved into my Nan’s third house which was three doors from Nan. Nan had three houses in a row. It was fun only when the cousins visited. It was definitely NOT fun when the weekend was approaching. Nan would come down and get us into single file for church from the day we were born. Tiny whingy babies in church? I’m not sure how much say my parents had, but they were in that single file, too.
So my cousins and I were always quizzed on Mondays as soon as we got to Nan’s after school, up to when we turned 18:
Did you go to church yesterday?
What did the priest say?
And there it was, that trap. If you lied you got a long speaking to about Bad girls get pregnant without boyfriends taking care of their kids. Or, Bad boys usually fail exams.
So I learned a new trick: if I skipped church I would tune into the service via the radio. When Nan interrogated me then I already knew what she expected to hear.
We were also forced to go to confession the Thursday before any religious holiday. I don’t remember what six-year-old kids have to confess but we probably made things up at confessions. We said prayers before and after meals, plus before bed.
When it came to Lent, Nana successfully dragged me to church every Friday night to do the Stations of the Cross. Every Friday! And that was painful. Then I had to attend on Holy Thursday the night before Good Friday, then again on Good Friday, then Easter Vigil on Saturday plus Easter Sunday. Easter Monday was a mass to thank Jesus for coming back! So it’s not hard to guess that as a child I was confused and unsure of why I needed to attend all these masses.
But then I grew up and had a life without bossy Nan behind our backs. I moved to Perth for uni and only went to church a few times during my three years here. I realized then that I didn’t care about going to church, because Nan wasn’t there. It wasn’t something I wanted to do. When I went back home after my studies — I swear I broke Nan’s heart when I told her “Nan, I don’t go to church… much.” I tried to explain that I needed some time to think about my faith.
She got angry, to which I said “Remember, the Bishop says that God is everywhere? Do I need to go to church if God is in my house? I can talk to him there.” She was OK with that because she adored the Bishop. She did, however, make me promise to at least go once in a while to take the Communion (in the species of bread) so I can stay ‘pure’ and Christian.
Since my return to Perth I have been to church around 10 times in 7 years. Most of those visits were for christenings or weddings. I sometimes think of going back to church as a follower but my husband is not of the same church. He won’t go with me. I might go alone if I do, or take Curly with me for company. Curly attends a Catholic school, not for religious reasons though, but that’s for another post another time.
But what I know for sure is – if I do get back into my religion, I will never force my children like my Nan did. It just makes you dislike the faith when someone pushes it too much!
Were you once a dedicated Christian or other faith? Did you fall of your wagon, too?
Should we force our kids to believe?