When I thought I missed the Rapture

I was working in my back yard Monday night. The coals were lit, and I was waiting for them to burn down far enough that I could put the chicken on for dinner. When it gets warm I love to grill out. The smokey flavour, the heat being outside instead of in, it's win-win!

I'm still clearing out the stuff we cut down, and had a random memory pop up while I was putting thorn branches into the rubbish bin. I don't know why it popped up, but I felt the emotions all over again. It was a very strange sensation.

I was in the third or fourth grade, so would have been 8 or 9. For a few years after my mother pulled us out of school to home school us, she still took us to Awana every Wednesday night; she was even a teacher (or whatever they were called, I can't remember) for the very little kids, like pre-K. Awana is like boy and girl scouts for church kids; at its most basic, you get badges for learning Bible verses and stuff like that. It's very much indoctrination, but when you're a kid, you don't have much say; plus if you're a home school kid, this is about the only socialisation you're going to get, outside of church on Sunday.

I didn't go to the church that ran Awana, at that time. We'd left to go to a different one, but if I remember right, that didn't matter at all.

My mother dropped me off at the school (I think it was a school) that night, for my meeting. We'd meet in a gym, have games and exercises, running and stuff; the boys would meet in another room, and they'd broken us up into grade-groups (I think my grouping had 3-6th graders, something like that).

Without waiting to see if I made it inside, she left; that was pretty normal, as she was always in a hurry to get back to the church where my sister and brother's troops met. So I walked up to the door. I had my sneakers in a backpack with my uniform top and my book (yes, you wear little shirts or sashes with your badges on, and have a little book), and my winter boots on. The snow covered my boot tops, and I remember thinking it was weird there was snow on the walk-way; it was always cleared.

I opened the door, and walked in; then I noticed how quiet it was. One boy, about my age was standing in the long hall way, his eyes were huge, and scared. "There's no one here," he whispered. "No one except the lady in the office."

Turns out, tonight everyone was meeting at church to watch a magician, or chalk artist, or some kid-evangelist-type person.

So, I went to the office and asked the nice lady with bright pink lipstick, "May I borrow the phone?" Then I called the church, and asked them to get my mother. I thought she'd forgotten and would come get me.

I waited for ten minutes-- an eternity for a child-- and was told, "I'm sorry, she's not here tonight." So I called home. No one picked up, and I think my Dad was working 3-11, so that meant she didn't drop off my siblings and go home. I left a message on our answering machine "Mom, I called church and they couldn't find you, so I called home. I'm supposed to be at the church with my troop tonight."

Surely the person at church was mistaken, so I called back. Same again, she wasn't there. "Well, if you see her," I said, my voice quivering. "Please tell her I'm heading to the church."

This would have been the mid 80's, so she didn't ask me how I was planning on getting there. I would have been honest: I'm walking. I know the way. In the 80's kids were allowed a lot more freedom by their parents and society as a whole, than they are now.

I learned later that I was about a mile and a half from the church. I didn't know how far away it was when I set off; it took five minutes in the car, after all, and we were in the city, so we couldn't drive very fast!

I told the boy I was going to walk, but he decided to stay put. He was going to try to call home again, and have someone come get him. We sat on the swings outside, hashing this out, I remember drawing in the fluffy, powdery snow with my boots, leaving deep marks, straight to the frozen sand.

With that settled, I set off. I had my hat on, my mittens, my boots and coat, and thought I'd be fine. It wasn't far, after all. And I wasn't supposed to be here, I was supposed to be there. So, there I went.

I felt abandoned, as I made my way up the side walk. It was cold, dark, winter time and she left me there. I was all alone, and felt for awhile (silly as it sounds now) as though I was thrown away. As I trudged in my "moon boots", the snow deepening as the night wore on, I honestly truly felt like my mother had thrown my away. I had never felt such despair in my entire short life.

It was probably 6:30 or 7pm; but it was dark, oppressive as only a Michigan winter can be. The snow was falling as if a giant had shaken Otsego like a snow globe. The wind was bitter, and when I had walked about four blocks I saw the bank's clock and thermometer. I don't remember the exact time, but I do remember it was 20 F. With the wind chill it was probably a lot colder. I was standing there on the M-89/Allegan Street (main street) in Otsego, and watched the number change back and forth telling me how cold it was.

I couldn't believe my mother hadn't come back for me. She was a leader, she knew the schedule, and would have seen everyone there when she walked my little brother to his troop-- if she didn't stay herself. But she hadn't come back for me. She left me there.

I walked on toward the church. No one stopped me, either. Not one person I saw at the petrol station, or walking into, or out of the stores asked me if I was lost, or needed help. I would have said no, of course. "Don't talk to strangers" was the mantra back then.

I was determined not to cry, though. I would be strong. I'd do it myself. I'd get to church, and get warm, and wait with my sister and brother afterward for our mother to come back from wherever she was and get us.

When I finally arrived, if felt like I'd been walking for a hundred years! I hung up my coat, stuffing my hat and mittens down the sleeve (like every does at that age), and put my sneakers on. My feet and hands and face were so cold! My nose was bright red.

I walked into the auditorium, and saw that it was break time. Lucky me! I'd made it in time for it to be half over! I told my own leader what happened, and her eyes got huge. "You walked the entire way here! In this cold!"

I nodded, it was a very long way, once I'd done it, but I didn't realise how far, or what 20 degrees meant. She raised her voice, calling over to my mother-- who I saw was not too far away from us. "She walked here!"

My mother's face went pale and then flushed. She was angry for a minute, then swallowed that and laughed at me. She belly laughed at me. "Why in the world did you do that?! Why didn't you call me?"

"I did. The Secretary said you weren't here," I said, simply, although I called the church secretary by her name, Ms Something or other.

"That's weird," my mother said, the look on her face was one I still can't interpret. "Maybe I was in the toilet?"

She patted me on the head and went back to her troop, passing out cookies and juice. My own troop leader actually made me some hot chocolate and apologised for not being there. It wasn't her fault, I told her. I found my way. It's OK.

That night, my mother mocked me for being scared when she didn't come get me. "I would have come for you after wards. But I couldn't just leave the other leaders like that." If I remember right, the pre-K had like 5 adults helping with it, so I'd think she could have left them for the 10 minutes it would have taken to go get me-- especially as she dropped me off almost 20 minutes early.

She laughed that I walked to the church, when I could have stayed put, alone, and waited for two and half hours for her to come get me. Was I happy now? Getting all that attention for walking. Was I happy, now that I made everyone look at me?

"I thought the Rapture came, and I was alone!" I finally burst out, tears flowing down my face. "I thought I  missed it, that Jesus wasn't going to want me! I thought He left me behind!"

Collapsing into the chair, I bawled my eyes out at the kitchen table. Such emotional outbursts were never allowed, so I figured I'd get a beating on top of it; but I couldn't help it. I sobbed and sobbed. I thought Jesus had returned, and taken my family and left me behind with that boy and that nice lady who let me use the phone. I thought I was abandoned and alone.

I had been taught my entire life that Jesus would come back, hanging out in the sky, and everyone on earth would see him, and hear this jazz trumpet ensemble played by angels, letting us all know "The End Is Here!; then Jesus would take all the christians to heaven, and leave all the wicked, evil people behind. I can't remember not being told this!

Jesus would take all the real christians with him, leaving behind all the bad people and the Anti-Christ and Satan would torment them for seven years! Then there would be this huge world war and Jesus would kill everyone who was still bad, and forgive the people who "came to him" during the "tribulation". Then Satan would be thrown into hell, with all those wicked, evil people like Adolf Hitler and John Kennedy. [Yes, she actually believes Catholics are going to go to hell. Remember: the only christians are her kind of christian].

So, when I was alone, that was my first thought. I must not really be a christian; Jesus had forsaken me; I was wicked and evil; God didn't love me, because the Rapture came, and I was left behind. I'd prayed and prayed the whole walk to the church. I prayed that the Rapture hadn't come, and that it was just a misunderstanding. I prayed that if I had missed it, some how-- maybe I was walking into the building when it happened, and so I didn't hear the music? I didn't know, but I was still terrified.

When I finally calmed down, and looked up at my mother, I expected she'd be pretty angry at me. To my surprise she wasn't. She was still laughing. She was laughing so hard she was crying. She laughed so hard she got the hiccups and couldn't breathe. She just laughed and laughed and laughed.

"It's not funny!" I remember saying.

She never did calm down enough to tell me what was so fucking funny. Evidently being a super-christian such as herself, she never worried about missing the Rapture, and being left to be tortured by Satan's son. She just kissed my head and sent me to bed. "You'll be fine," she said. Just like that, my concerns were dismissed.

So, I brushed my teeth and went to bed. I covered up, and knelt on my bed, because the floor was wood, and cold, and I prayed. I prayed and prayed, falling sleep praying, that Jesus would come into my heart and save me. Forgive me, love me, keep me, find me worthy. I begged God to write my name in the Book of Life, so that Jesus wouldn't leave me behind.

I woke up stiff, but a little hopeful, some time in the middle of the night. Surely God heard me and I was saved!

That was the only time I thought I missed the Rapture. Not the only time I felt abandoned by my mother and God, but I never worried about missing that jazz fanfare again. I've spoken to many people raised christian, raised with the Rapture myth, and every single one of us went through that panic, that fear of being left. Every one of us went through that torture, and heartache of wondering if we were really good enough, if Jesus loved us, and if we loved him back enough to be accepted into heaven. We all worried that that one lie, that one bad thought about our parent, sibling, teacher, pastor, whatever, would nullify our salvation.

Some of us left the church-- left that torture behind us. Some stayed. I don't know how anyone could stay in a religion that terrifies small children into obedience, but I think it has a lot to do with conservative/authoritarian minded people. They need that ultimate law. Some of us don't need that, but some do. It's just the way our brains work.

I've written about leaving the church already. I think a seed was planted that Wednesday night that I walked that long way. I think just that doubt and self-reflection, just the act of asking, "What could I have possibly done to go to hell?" I was 8 or 9 years old; I hadn't killed anyone. I hadn't stolen anything. I was a good girl, who worked hard in school, and listened to my mother, Dad and Sunday School teacher. I hadn't done anything wrong. I'd even asked Jesus "into my heart, to save me".

That little bit of doubt, that questioning of God, or the supposed plan of God, anyway; that helped me leave christianity, to be brave and continue to ask questions later on.

I don't know how much good my mother did, mocking me, either. If she'd taken the time, swallowed her laughter (which can be really hard, I know), and explained to me that whole Rapture thing again, I might never have left. See, the way they tell it, there's no way you can miss it, every single person on early is going to see Jesus in the sky; every person on earth is going to hear that trumpet, see the sky open up, and see the christians flying into heaven. It's supposed to be one of those things you can't miss, even if you wanted to.

Instead she laughed. She mocked my distress, and further showed me that I wouldn't be able to go to her for comfort. Not something you want to learn that young, but learn it, I did.

Now, when I hear christians talking about the end times, and Rapture and shit, I shrug, and tell them, "Last I heard, Jesus was coming tomorrow, for the last two thousand years. He claimed that there were people who  were alive and listening to him who 'would not taste death' before he returned. I think he's a little late". Then I walk away, letting them sputter, stutter and generally lose their minds. It's really fucking entertaining to get them like that! I love it!

But hey, you claim that book, you worship that book, you'd damned well better know what the fuck is in it before you open your pie hole. I'll write more about confounding christians another time. I have to admit, it's one my favourite things to do.


Comments

  1. Im really thankful that my parents werent so hardcore christian. While my mom was raised with the church a part of her life, she never tried to force it on us. I think there is a part of her that is hurt that her sons dont acknowledge the god she grew up singing to and even doing junior missionary work for.
    Even though she did all that, i grew up feeling that my dad probably had a closer connection with god and that his belief system was more true to what it actually is ment by the word christian...for him, faith was a personal matter, no need for a fancy place or a middleman. He would think and god would know.

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