1/02/2012 | Share this article:By Lynn ~
On the first night of my honeymoon, I dreamed I was sitting in my car with my new husband, holding hands and making small talk, as we often do. Suddenly the sky flashed white, and outside the car people were screaming and yelling at one another in panic. I could hear people shouting at each other about the source of the blast, but I didn’t need to listen. I already knew what was happening, as I always did in these dreams. The sun had exploded, and within minutes my husband and I would be dead. With a sadness I still felt after waking, I told him how happy I was for the time we’d spent together, and how I wished we’d had more. Before I could finish, I felt every cell in my body catch fire as everything and everyone on Earth was consumed.
These dreams started when I was eighteen, after I left the church. I had been attending Pentecostal churches from my birth, though obviously not by my own active choice. My parents, like so many others, believed that their children should start out with a solid moral foundation, even if they weren’t old enough to understand what that meant. Considering that metaphysical exploration isn’t a popular activity in elementary school, the only information I received on the nature of my existence was from my family. I was exposed only to what they believed to be true, and sheltered from anything that might have suggested otherwise.
My parents meant only to keep me from what they believed to be eternal suffering if I didn’t have a strong Christian upbringing, but their means caused me to accept my beliefs for the wrong reason. I was too young to understand the concept of faith, so instead I became a Christian because I believed what was being told to me was the truth, just as a young child accepts it when a teacher tells them that they’re surrounded by other planets, even if they can’t see them. My religious beliefs weren’t a choice, but a lack of options, of even knowing religion was an option. I was stripped of my basic human right to freedom of thought and belief by what so many people justify as a parental right.
One of the other qualities instilled in me as a Pentecostal was the literal belief in the rapture, as outlined in the Book of Revelations. Simply stated, this was the belief that one day all the Christians would be whisked away into the sky and deposited in heaven before God unleashed his deadly wrath upon the rest of humanity. Every Sunday morning and Wednesday night, I listened to the preacher say we were living in the end days, followed by the prayers of everyone around me asking God to come that night and take us all away. I knew as a good Christian I was supposed to want this, but I can remember lying in bed on so many nights as a child, silently pleading with God to wait until I grew up and experienced high school and
marriage and parenthood before he took me away from it all.
Years of warnings from preachers, family members and every other adult I trusted left me unable to believe anything but this: the world was ending any day; it was only a matter of time. I kept my fears to myself and accepted that my life would be short. I tried so hard to let go of the resentment that came with believing I would never experience the joys of growing up. Eventually I gave up things like childhood dreams and long term goals, even simple things like looking forward to something a few months away. The summer I was fifteen years old, my parents were planning the family vacation for the following June. We were sitting on the front porch, and my father asked both my sister and I if there was anywhere we wanted to stop on the way to Yellowstone National Park. “I don’t care, you can pick,” my usual answer. I wanted to go to the Mall of America, I had for years, but before I could even finish the thought, I knew none of us would be alive by the time next spring came around. I didn’t want to look forward to something I believed would never happen.
This inability to see a future followed me into my adult years. In junior high, I believed I wouldn’t make it to high school. In high school, I believed I’d never live to see college. I dropped out of the first college I attended in the first semester because I couldn’t justify doing so much work when I felt like it would never pay off. Even now, in my second attempt at higher education, I have no career in mind and am merely working towards the immediate goal of intellectual gratification in lieu of preparation for a future. I spent my entire life believing the future wasn’t coming, and even though I abandoned the religion that caused that belief, I fear its effects on my subconscious are permanent.
As soon as I stopped believing the world was a ticking time bomb, I started dreaming it was. Every apocalyptic scenario I’d ever heard started to unfold in my sleep: meteors the size of states, earthquakes that rip the world in two, flooding that wipes away everything in its path, even the sun exploding. I could consciously choose to follow my own path, but my subconscious belonged to the path that had been chosen for me so long ago.
On these nights, I wake up in a cold sweat, realize the world hasn’t ended, and look around surprised to see myself living in a future I didn’t think would exist. Before I can fall back asleep, I put my hand over my stomach where my unborn son is sleeping, wondering if they can dream that young. I recall my father’s voice from the other end of the phone after I told him I was pregnant. “You’re going to take that baby to church, right?” I think of the childhood he and my mother chose for me, the beliefs they imbedded so deeply, and the fears that haunt my sleep because they believed they were within their rights. I fall asleep soundly knowing my children will grow up being able to make that decision for themselves.
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