Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Early Years

In the interest of not overwhelming anyone, I will be posting my spiritual journey in digestible portions. :-)

My dad was stationed in Colorado Springs when I was born, and 11 months thereafter he followed a call to be a pastor. I've read his written response to that call, and he was full of love for the Lord, and eager to serve the Lord in that capacity. He took an early discharge from the Air Force, and moved into my grandparents' home in a suburb of Philadelphia. He went to a Bible institute, worked part time, and my mom went back to work (and received a PHT--Putting Hubby Through--certificate) to help pay the bills.

This left my grandmother in what she considered a delightful situation. She was my primary caregiver for the next four years. My dad was an only child, and I became the daughter that she had always wanted to complete her family, but could never bear herself. My grandmother lived out her faith daily under difficult circumstances. We were two families living in a small, two-bedroom bungalow, and my grandfather was a difficult man to live with. She often included me in her Bible reading and prayer times. She cared for me tenderly, and although she was a pattern housekeeper, she always seemed to have time to help me have a tea party with my dolls out on the patio in the side yard. She taught me homemaking skills, and it was all part of who she was in her walk with the Lord. Although I do not remember it, family history records that I knelt with her when I was around four years old and asked Jesus into my heart. I never doubted at that time that Jesus loved me dearly. Several years later my dad baptized me in the Baptist church in which he had grown up.

The only mystery in connection with God that touched my life at that time was what I picked up from our Italian neighbors. They were Roman Catholic. One stormy day I was playing with Stephen and Frankie in their basement, and saw their St. Christopher medals. I asked them what they were, and their mother, "Aunt" Rita, told me what they were, and that they would keep the boys safe. I was fascinated. When I got home, I told my grandmother that I wanted "a piece of iron" around my neck. Of course she quickly disabused me of any such notions, and told me "We don't believe that way."

When I was five, my dad took his first pastorate in Pleasant Heights, Colorado, a minuscule church in an almost invisible town on the prairie in Southeastern Colorado. I was taken away from the one human being whose love I never doubted, and whose tender care was woven through my days to a barren prairie home with two people who were almost strangers to me. I grieved silently during the days for my grandmother, but the nights told the truth as I often woke screaming after nightmares in which my grandmother died. They lasted for several months.

This was the part where I learned that if one carefully conformed on the outside, and didn't rock any boats, everyone around me was happy. Quite possibly the closet rebel was formed at that time. We were there about two years during which my father pastored two different churches in SE Colorado, my brother joined the family, and then moved back to my grandparents' house while my dad went for his degree in Bible.

To be continued...

Susan Price


Erica said...

Thanks, Susan. I'm looking forward to hearing the rest of your story. Your grandmother sounds like a wonderful woman and you describe your time with her so beautifully. I also appreciate your anecdote about your Italian neighbors. Many spiritual writers I've read, such as Anne Lammott and Dorothy Day, describe early childhood encounters with catholic families who left strong impressions on them. I think this childhood gravitation to the mystical and mysterious is rich with meaning for all of us.

RC said...

Susan, thank you for your investment in this kind of sharing. I really enjoy the quality of your writing, and your reflectiveness and insight are very engaging. I don't take this for granted!

living stones said...

Susan, Thanks for sharing this. It is interesting (though not surprising to psychologists, I suppose) to note how significantly our childhood spiritual experiences influence our present spirituality. I recently read an article called "Lost in the Mystery of God: Childhood in the History of Christian Spirituality" written by a scholar named Stephanie Paulsell. (If any of you want a copy, let me know and I will send you one.) In it, Paulsell discusses her own childhood spirituality as well as some of the cliches about children (innocence, etc.) that fail to account for the full complexity and seriousness of a child's spirituality. She recommends that (re)exploring our own childhood (which you/we are doing here) might be an important spiritual exercise for coming to terms with our present spirituality. --Paul

living stones said...


Thanks so much for sharing your story, part 1. Your grandmother's care and investment in you is a particular blessing to read about--love shared in big and little ways. I had to smile about the St. Christopher medal. As a child, I never thought about how the trappings looked to others. I'm looking forward to reading the next installment. Blessings, Anna

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