Throwback Thursday: This one time at bible camp…

Every Thursday, I dig out an old diary and share an entry sans editing (in hopes we’ll all see my grammar and apostrophe use improve) with a short commentary. If you like laughing with/at Young Ashley, feel free to use the handy search bar to the left and simply type “Throwback Thursday” and you’ll find the whole archive. Thanks for reading!

Saturday August 4, 2001

I’m on a retreat @Spencer lake!

             I’m diverted from God.

Matthew 5:29-30

“If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better to lose one part of your body than  you whole body to be thrown in hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for you whole body to go to hell.”

Mark 7:20-23

“He went on:’What comes out of a man is what makes him unclean for from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deciet, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All evils come from inside and make a man unclean.”

Romans 8:12-14

“Therefore brothers, we have an obligation – but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to it, you will die; but if by the spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are lead by the spirit of God are sons of God.”

In a way I need this, but in a way I want to go home. Last night, when the other girls thought I was asleep, I heard them talking about doing BJs, making out, swearing, and all that. @ a church retreat!

Then @ the session this morning, a guy was wearing a shirt that said:

Abercrombie & Fitch
Juggs Beach
Skinny dippers
Welcome
If your (idk) aren’t jiggly, 
keep walking, dont be
emBAREASSed
 

I couldn’t believe it! Why you even by a shirt that said that?!

G2G, ♥ Ashley

This isn’t the first time Young Ashley has mentioned her church activities and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last. If I’m remembering correctly, this was my first of two church retreats – with any luck I still have the diary containing the second one. I think that shortly before this retreat, I had joined a bible study that met on Wednesday nights, so I was excited to spend time with my new friends.

Bible verses with just a dash of self-loathing

Bible verses with just a dash of self-loathing

The bus ride to the camp was bumpy and made me nauseated as I was forced to listen to the  kids around me flirt. I had thought a church retreat would be a literal retreat, but I quickly learned I was wrong. At school, I was constantly aware of how my thighs looked fat when I sat down, how I never had fewer than 15 pimples on my face, and that my clothes were always from Kohl’s and never Abercrombie. I thought I wouldn’t have to worry about these things around my church friends because they’d be focusing on strengthening their relationship with God, not trying to couple off.  I held my church peers to a higher standard, and until this weekend they hadn’t let me down. It was knocked into my head to always surround myself with positive and godly people, because they would encourage me to be the best disciple for God.

Even then I had a problem with this idea. If I was always with godly people, when was I supposed to encourage other people? When was I supposed to be a shining beacon for Jesus? Who would see my little light shine? Wasn’t it pointless to just be good around good people if our mission was to be a disciple for Jesus? I didn’t ask anyone these questions because they seemed so foolish. I guess that people outside of my godly group would see our warmth and come to us and ask what was up with our awesomeness. And THAT would be where we’d tell them all about how much Jesus loves them. God would be proud and be all, “Yo, PETER! That girl totes gets a seat at my table. “

...or remind people of Jesus, I guess.

…or remind people of Jesus, I guess.

I had never seen my bible study friends outside of church or the apartment where we met each Wednesday. Without such close supervision, they were free to be the same bratty middle schoolers they were every other day. It depressed me because I knew I was just like them – or at least I wanted to be just like them. I wanted to be able to talk about making out with a boy and maybe even about how would never “do a BJ,” but I had nothing to add to these conversations other than disapproval – just like I experienced at school. I interpreted my subsequent isolation as guilt about my unclean mind. I expected this was normal and part of the church retreat experience. How else was I supposed to grow spiritually? Wasn’t God sending me a message? I expected to feel some royal communion with him, but I was just ashamed of myself and the people around me. But the fact that I didn’t feel this sudden and striking connection with God was irrelevant – he was just testing my faith.

Taking into consideration my limited self-awareness and life experience, there were two things I could done after this retreat: conclude that the hypocrisy of my peers was evidence of larger hypocrisy in organized religion and stop attending church-related functions or accept God’s challenge and attend more church-related functions in attempt to strengthen my faith in hopes of being an example to my peers.

If I kept a decent record, we’ll see that I went with the latter: going to Sunday services, joining the church orchestra, attending bible study nearly every week, attending services weeknight services at my friends’ churches, and trying to keep my mind pure by acknowledging and advertising my disgust with the Thong Song. It was so lewd and sexually immoral. Man’s mind is so unclean. It should be gouged out.

Throwback Thursday: You are Going to Hell for that.

Every Thursday, I dig out an old diary and share an entry sans editing (in hopes we’ll all see my grammar and apostrophe use improve) with a short commentary. If you like laughing with/at Young Ashley, feel free to use the handy search bar to the right and simply type “Throwback Thursday” and you’ll find the whole archive. Thanks for reading!

Good news, guys! We’re onto my third journal! And it’s not a Pooh journal! I’m not really sure how I got a hold of this one, but it’s actually not terrible looking. If have to take this to public places, I won’t feel the need to explain to everyone notices it.

Don't be so optimistic, journal. You're still terrible.

Don’t be so optimistic, journal. I’m sure your insides are still terrible.

There’s also this on the first page. Not really sure what I was going for, but whatever. Nice drawing, 12-year old Ashley.

Bald? Gorilla arms? Massive eyes? Must be Zooey Deschanel in a twisted universe.

Bald? Gorilla arms? Massive eyes? What the hell is this supposed to be? 

Anyway, I decided to call this one Libby. I don’t journal too much these days, and I think it’s because I have a close friend to talk to about things. Also, I fancied myself a bit of a young, alive version of Anne Frank. 

Thursday April 20, 2000

Dear Libby, 

My gosh I wanna cry. I saw Godspell with Kali, and it was so heart softening. It’s about how it would be it God had walked the earth today instead of 2000 years ago. I don’t want to tell you about the begining, it’s too long. But the end, omigosh, it was so sad. The guy who plays Jesus (Ben, he’s the pastor’s son, but sort of a QT) prayed to his father in heaven when everyone else fell asleep. And when one of his friends came rushing in with men to get him and tie him to a 3’x4″ board of wood, there was a sense of urgency. With Ben crying in fake pain, Kali and I sat there, tears in our eyes, we watched as the men dragged him to the stage to be put on a real cross. He acted so well, all while people pretended to put fake nails in his wrists. Then he sang out in his soothing voice, “God, I am dying…” Then, “God, I am dead…” And he hung his head, which gave the illusion the life was gone from his body. The people took his body and held it high and walked out thru the audience to the doors. After about two minutes of watching the people mourn over his death, (oh yeah, b4 he was wearing a superman t-shirt.) he walked up to the stage in a clean white suit, giving everybody the reassurance that God’s always with you. Ben was singing, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord…” And oh the words still murmer in my  mind. 

It’s strange, over the period of 3 weeks, I’ve been exposed to the story of Jesus’s death twice, and both, my eyes got all watery. I think it’s a sign to something, but what? 

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say it’s a sign that you saw a theatrical production that was a bit heavy on the pathos.

Wut.

Wut.

I think it’s dangerous to introduce religious concepts to children before they develop critical thinking skills. When you’re an impressionable child, you don’t understand rhetorical techniques. You don’t understand how sounds, colors, lights, words, melodies, and key changes can combine to manipulate your emotions to sway you. It’s clear that even though I knew the things in front of me weren’t real, I was still moved by the production. In that sense, you could say it was a great play.

And I would be okay if it stopped there, but it doesn’t. It pulls you further to feel that guilt. It’s YOUR sins that are piercing his wrists. It’s YOUR sins that are driving that crown of thorns on his head. It’s YOUR sins that have lashed his back. YOU crucified him by being exactly what he created you to be: a human who is foolish and selfish. If you’re like the majority of the population, you haven’t done anything so terribly offensive to warrant this sort of punishment. It stands to reason that if Jesus hadn’t died, we’d have to endure hell, right?

One of the Sunday school lessons that has been fused into memory was one that illustrated the severity of sins. We were asked which was worse: “Killing another person or lying? Taking the lord’s name in vain or disobeying your parents? Being envious of your friend’s toy or not resting on Sunday?” Because we were children and were faced with a dichotomy, we picked one or the other. Some of them seemed arbitrary, but I remember working with my group to come up with an answer. When we were done, we presented our answers and PSYCH! No matter what we answered, we were wrong.

“Each sin is the same in God’s eyes. Whether you lie or say his name in vain, whether you kill someone or are jealous, a sin is a sin,” the teacher told us. “But the good news is that Jesus died for all of your sins because he loved you. All you have to do is accept it.”

Give that message to a child too early, and she’ll spend a great deal of time anxiously determining how terrible she is. I had been jealous of my friends’ toys and sometimes I lied to my mother about cleaning my room. And since I never knew if I had truly accepted Jesus into my heart (I accepted him roughly 23 times between the ages of seven and 18), I was constantly in fear of burning forever because I didn’t know if I was doing it right.

I’m sure there’s a argument with twelve talking points about how mistaken I am, and that my real issue is that I just don’t know Jesus. If I knew him, I would understand these things. And maybe this will make some of my family sad: I once had that faith, and now I don’t. What happened to me? 

 That is the definition of faith – acceptance of that which we imagine to be true, that we cannot prove.   – Dan Brown

I don’t have faith in God anymore. I’m just no longer willing to accept something for which I’m unable to find compelling evidence. While it’s nice to think of someone who will guide me to what I need to do, but I’m more willing to to believe in my own ability to change my circumstances and figure it out from there. If I’m unhappy with some aspect of my life, I’m the one who has to make the changes. Praying is not going to give me a promotion or raise: working hard and being innovative will. Praying is not going to cure my occasional bouts of depression: fresh air, good books, and quality time with friends will. Why credit this guy with changing my life when I’m the one who put in the legwork?

This isn’t my usual Throwback Thursday. It took a quick and hard turn to the serious, but that’s how these things go. I don’t have much of a message for Young Ashley this week. Just keep your chin up and don’t be so melodramatic. Also, QT? B4? You’re writing English, not Bingo coordinates.