3/11/2012 | Share this article:By Christian Agnostic ~
I was raised in an Evangelical Presbyterian Church in the Northeast. At age 8, my Sunday School teacher (who was a very sweet grandmotherly type) told us all about heaven. How wonderful it was, how we would never get hurt or die again (pretty good news for someone who regularly skinned their knees at recess) and that God loved us and wanted us all to be there when we died. She told us in a sweet loving tone, that all we needed to do was accept God's gift, his son Jesus, and the fact that Jesus had died on a cross so that all my sins would be forgiven (like the time I threw rocks at passing cars-that is until we threw some at a cop car-oh and the other time my cousin and I decided to stand on the corner and moon people-yeah-I had a lot to be forgiven for...).
Next she quietly sealed the deal by telling us to repeat a prayer that would let God know that we wanted this gift and to have eternal life. I quietly repeated every word of that prayer, and meant it with all of my second grade heart, and knew when she was finished praying, that God and I and Jesus, were going to spend a lot of time together as I grew older and eventually went to heaven.
After this event, I told anyone who cared that I was a Christian. I got a Children's Bible for Christmas (Living Bible) and proudly took it to public school to read and talk to friends about this mysterious book from God. Life was good, God was good, and I was on the fast track to Eternal Mojo with the Big Man and his son Jesus....
Fast forward to the next year of Sunday School....this year I was being taught by the Husband of my Sunday School teacher from the year before. She had been sweet and loving, he was inpatient and a little bit grumpy. I don't remember a whole lot about him, but I do remember that I didn't like him or the lessons he taught.....I do remember that he totally grossed us all out by showing us a huge wart on his index finger, and then proceeded to tell us that his Doctor had cut off the wart with a huge knife, but it eventually grew back bigger than before. His Doctor cut it off again, but it still came back....so now I guess he was pretty ok with it, since he was using it as a sort of Sunday School show and tell. Ick......
Anyway, another icky thing he told us was about Hell. I had never heard of this place before Mr. "Wart that Wouldn't die Sunday School Teacher" enlightened us about something far worse that fungus on your fingers. He taught us that some people didn't believe in God, and that if they refused to say that they believed in Jesus, that they were going to Hell. A place where the devil lived and would torture you with Eternal fire. At first I wasn't really paying attention, and wasn't too concerned, I mean-Jesus and I already settled this last year in your wife's class. But I guess we were restless and he was frustrated that we weren't paying too closely to his wart or his lesson anymore. He then asked if there were any questions....I wish I had not opened my smart ass mouth to ask a question. The question I asked and the response I gave were about to ruin almost 2 weeks at the Shore in the middle of my summer vacation. Two weeks of anxiety and sheer terror...but I'm jumping.
Back to Mr Wart's questions.....I decided to make sure I heard him right, and asked if it was true that anyone who said they didn't believe in Jesus was going to hell. He again restated the fact, that anyone who said they didn't believe would meet such a fate. For some reason, I chose to play the class clown by hamming it up with my Sunday School buddies and I blurted out (in a sarcastic tone) well, I DON'T believe in Jesus. Of course, this was false, I did actually believe in him-but I was just being a clown. As soon as I finished my silliness, Mr. Wart slammed down his hand on the Sunday School table (quite a show of emotion for a Presbyterian) and mouthed words that would haunt me the rest of the summer....he simply told me, that at least he knew where I was going when I died-meaning hell. He spit his answer like he was disgusted with what was in his mouth. And with that he dismissed class and left me to stew on the fact, that I was going to HELL. All because I jokingly denied Jesus.....
Later that day, we loaded up the car for our 2 hour ride to the Beach....I had been counting down the days....but now it seemed unbearable, because I was hell bound. I literally spent sleepless nights trying to pray to God, asking him to forgive me and wondering if the devil was already preparing a place to torture his newest recruit. It totally diminished my 2 weeks at the beach...sure...I had lots of fun. But as soon as things got quiet and I was laying in my bed, I couldn't escape the terrible facts that
- I still wet the bed, as in, soaking wet and drenched in pee every morning
- I was going to live in eternal hell and there seemed to be no way to undo it