The Year I Almost Believed

My Real Memoir

My life as a kid was earth-bound. Our home was secular, as were those of my two best friends. Christmas was about getting presents and eating a lot. Easter was about hunting for eggs and eating a lot. Have I mentioned I liked to eat a lot?

I knew some people went to a place called Church on Sundays. Men wore suits, ladies wore little pill box hats, and they dressed their kids up like tiny business people. I went to Church with my cousins once. We put a dime on a plate, and then stood up, sat down, and kneeled a lot while some guy in a long robe spoke in a foreign language and handed out little crackers.

And then there was the Religious Lady on my paper route. She always gave me a tip and talked about Jesus when I collected her monthly subscription fee. If Jesus was anything like her he must be pretty nice, although hopefully a little less pushy.

My main exposure to religion came from seeing The Five Commandments ten times–I liked the special effects–and Ben Hur–I liked the chariot race, but wasn’t sure why those Roman guys crucified Jesus because of it. And then the Religious Lady paid for me and my buddies to watch the longest movie ever made at a second-run movie theatre. It was called The Robe, Demetrius, and the Gladiators. I had no idea till years later what it was about, or that it was actually two movies. But my absolute favorite Bible-y movie was Spartacus, except that I was confused when they crucified him instead of Jesus. Was Jesus a gladiator?

Then the YMCA stepped in. At ages eight and nine, I went to a local YMCA-run summer camp, and on the last day we got to sleep under the stars! Sky. Eternity.

I finally got to thinking about God, who our camp leaders referred to in vague, inoffensive ways. So I asked Mom, who’d been raised a vague, inoffensive Catholic, and she gave me her childhood Sunday missal, which until then I’d thought was a rocket ship. It had a prayer in it that began, “Now I lay me down to sleep…” I tried saying that for a while, but there were no cool special effects, so I quit.

But the year I turned ten, I was finally old enough for big kid’s camp in the actual mountains, instead of the city next door! At Camp Osceola, between singing silly camp songs and hiking (I burned off a lot of that Easter candy), we heard stories about being honest and talking to God. And I suddenly realized I wanted to do that, talk to God. In fact, it seemed I always had…

I just hadn’t realized it.

My Real Memoir is a series. To read the next one, click here.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Humor, Memoir and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to The Year I Almost Believed

  1. Very different from growing up as a PK!

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Pingback: The Year My Conscience Awoke | Mitch Teemley

  3. Howdy Mitch. I’m looking forward to your story’s next installment. I can relate to how the Latin spoken mass, you and your cousins attended, was little more than gibberish. That’s why, as a youngster, I found the most relevant portion of Sunday services the English spoken sermon; one standout delivered by our affable, clever, quick-witted parish priest on an unbearably steamy, summer morn. With a grin he tabled his originally planned lengthy message; replaced it with the quip: “It’s hot today. Never forget there’s an even hotter place. End of sermon.”

    It was about a decade after he had left the priesthood that a reunion took place; when he became my community college English prof.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. I grew up Lutheran, where everything was in English, but my young experience of God happened one evening, at age 12, at the coffee hour after an evangelist had preached a rousing sermon that I actually understood. People were gathered around, but their presence just washed away as I felt the presence of God’s love in and around me in my young life for the first time. I would go through some young adult years as an atheist, but then have my second experience of God’s love at age 33 and eventually go to seminary. My years as an active pastor are now history, but that young epiphany still stands as the beginning of my faith.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Can’t wait for the next part. Beautifully told.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jon says:

    Can sure relate to some of your upbringing, Mitch. My parents weren’t churchgoers when I was a kid. Still, I remember God impressing me that He was there, often in unexpected ways. That laying outside and looking at the night sky is powerful incentive to think about infinity and eternity, even at a young age. I grew up on the desert high plains at 4000 ft. The night sky was usually breathtaking (like its Creator)!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. KT Workman says:

    I’m looking forward to reading more about your experiences with religion. I grew up in the Pentecost religion, church every Sunday and Wednesday night. But when my mother started working when I was around twelve, we stopped going to church. Since those long-ago days, I have become an agnostic.
    And I think it was The Ten Commandments, not five. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  8. “Vague and inoffensive” … There seems to be a lot of that going around. 🙄
    Looking forward to Part 2, Mitch.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. murisopsis says:

    Funny how everyone has a different yet strangely familiar experience in “meeting” God…

    Liked by 1 person

  10. K.L. Hale says:

    I love this! Keep going…😊

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: God, Summer Camp, and Talking in My Sleep | Mitch Teemley

  12. gpavants says:

    Hi Mitch,

    It is those tender ages that God can change a heart. Thanks for sharing your story.

    Thanks, Gary

    Liked by 1 person

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