“That night, for the last time in my life but one— for I was a big boy twelve years old— I cried. I cried, in bed alone, and couldn’t stop. I buried my head under the quilts, but my aunt heard me. She woke up and told my uncle I was crying because the Holy Ghost had come into my life, and because I had seen Jesus. But I was really crying because I couldn’t bear to tell her that I had lied, that I had deceived everybody in the church, and I haven’t seen Jesus, and now that I didn’t believe there was a Jesus anymore, since he didn’t come to help me.”
excerpt from Salvation
I cried when I read the essay the above paragraph was extracted from. I cried much like I imagine Hughes crying, small and pitiful, wrapped up in a warm blanket in hopes that it would melt the ice I could now see in my soul. I cried because I could relate. I know how it feels to hold that inside and see that loving face so passionate about her god, her savior, a great presence she wanted me to share, but that I couldn’t.She doesn’t know. She doesn’t know I hate the church. I hate sitting there listening, singing, talking about something I didn’t believe. I try to be honest, especially with myself, and this felt like lying. I never really believed— even as a child with a mind easily molded. I remember sitting in Sunday school with the other boys and girls dressed with bow ties and ribbons reading a story about God. I had asked how do we know there’s a god? The teacher replied, “You have faith.” Unfortunately, even as a child, that wasn’t good enough. How could I possibly have faith in something I couldn’t even begin to believe. Sure, I’d heard about God and Jesus, but I’d never experienced God or Jesus. God or Jesus were never there for me, or anyone it seemed. I used to lay in bed at night and whisper, “God, Jesus, if you’re there, will you please show me, please let me know.” I did this maybe a hundred times over the course of my young childhood. I never received a reply. Nonetheless, with no response my “faith” still burned, that is until in my most desperate plea for God or Jesus to be there, their backs were turned— perhaps they were attending to those of you who believe. I begged for their help, and I’m still alone. I cried out for my brother (currently age 11) slowly dying before me. A rare disease that even God can’t cure or slow. It’s sad to watch a kid lose th
e ability to run before he ever really had the chance. It’s heartbreaking to watch the baby you held unable to speak his thoughts because the nerves his tongue are dying like the rest. Pitiful, pitiful circumstance that damned my faith to a hell I don’t believe in. I wish that was all. I wish I could stop at my brother is dying and don’t believe in God because he won’t save a child he claims as his own, even though according to the Christian faith he is all-powerful and perfectly able to do so—and he’s a good god? No, I have a devout Christian family parading around with bibles like this generation does with cell phones. Even my spawn of Satan, slightly abusive, bipolar father has devoured the Bible so thoroughly he shits scripture— I could honestly care less what his opinion on my beliefs are though. My mother tried to push me into faith, tried to make me a good, religious child like any decent southern girl should be and I’m afraid to tell her she failed. I love her and I know she loves me, but she loves the Bible, the church, the “community”, her God. It would break her heart. She would feel as if she failed. Every Sunday morning I find something to do, someplace to be. I’ll have too much homework (AP stuff she would never understand or question), some program to be at for ROTC or extra credit, or I’ll come down with a cold, a headache, severe stomach pain, a reason to stay out of church that morning, a way to be honest with myself, even if it means lying to her. So I’m trapped under the warmth of my blanket, trying to melt the ice in my soul, asking God to answer, but knowing he won’t. I wonder when she’ll notice the seal on the Motrin was never broken?