Notes were passed from one end of the row to the next. With poorly muffled giggles and stern looks from the front, we carried on with our Sunday morning ritual. My favorite part of Sunday was this rebellious act of community. Every Sunday was the same, after we sang the last hymn the conversations could begin. A note would pass from one friend to the next, each person adding a few words to the silent discussion.
The same person who gave us the stern looks would be the one I would hear whispers about a few years later. The whispers hinted at changing beliefs and thoughts on evolution. I was scared. I was not scared for myself but for our Pastor. How could he think such things, evolution was not possible, my Bible says so. I was taught that evolution was the exact opposite of the Bible.
As a child and teenager I did not question anything I was taught in regards to the Bible, Church, or God. I don’t know if I was discouraged from questioning or that I just never thought to. I was told this is the way we believe and I thought all of my friends believed the same. I remember feeling that I went to the right church, the correct church. I knew that others might be going to heaven but that the way we believed was ultimately the most correct.
I remember having very judgmental thoughts about those outside my belief system. Not just people who did not go to church, but people who were a part of other denominations. It was as if I could elevate myself above others by seeing that my rules were closer to God’s rules. I rested in a sense of security that I was doing enough to be found in favor with God. It was trying and wearing but it was how I created safety in a world that I believed was destined for doom. I needed to hold out for heaven and to try to help others see that my community had the right answers.
I am not sure at what age I realized that what I was doing was judging others. This act of determining whether they were in or out based on what they believed, praying for them because they were misguided or had chosen not to follow God, this was not love, it was judgment. I was rarely exposed to other belief practices for fear of being lead astray. I guided younger girls in the same way I had been guided, but the problem was that rarely did this regiment of daily beliefs bring me peace. What brought the most peace was the communing of souls sitting in the same space; hearing and receiving the journeys we were experiencing, like kids passing notes down the pew.
I have come to realize that the posture of judgment I had assumed for the first 25 years of my life affected me deeply. Even now, when I am having a rough day or I am completely worn out, my thoughts tend to revert to that judgmental posture. I find that this mentality comes with great fear, insecurity, and a lack of trust. Over the last ten years I have learned that when I am mentally triggered and find myself having judgmental thoughts, they are simply just that, thoughts fueled by fear. Judgment is not who I am but a cognitive road map that I am learning to reroute. Learning a new way to process this type of fear is not easy and it takes time, but with insight and perspectives grounded in love this path feels much more hopeful.