My name is Debbie Davis and I am 54 years old. I am a fraternal twin married to an identical twin. I was raised Presbyterian and my husband was raised Mormon. Thankfully, he left the Mormon church a couple of years before we got married, and I have a great relationship with my extended LDS family since I am not the one who pulled him away from the LDS church. I have DOZENS of relatives within 20 miles of my house, thanks to the LDS part of our family. My husband and I have two sweet children, a 26 year old girl and a 25 year old boy. I also have a lovely 34 yr old stepdaughter who has blessed us with four wonderful grandchildren.
Here are bits and pieces of my faith journey so far, so you can get a feel for where I am at now.
Earliest Church Memories:
Love & warmth from my Sunday School teacher at our Disciples of Christ church in San Bernardino, California. I remember being fascinated by her Bible stories but mostly I liked her beautiful mustard seed necklace.
Love & warmth from the “coffee fellowship” adults.
Love & warmth from my parents who took me to our Disciples of Christ church.
The Questions Begin:
We had moved to Ogden, Utah and I was 14 years old and attending the First Presbyterian Church of Ogden’s “Communicant”class. We were being taught everything we needed to believe to become members of the church. The problem was – I didn’t believe any of it. Peer pressure took me all the way through the class and then on to the ceremony where we joined the church. I vividly remember how awful I felt as I knelt down in front of the alter to be baptized and confirmed in front of the congregation. I was in a deep, dark, black, hole – desperate to believe in God, but not believing one word of anything they had taught me.
If I Just Say It One More Time – Then I Will Be Saved:
Somehow, I heard about the “Sinner’s Prayer”and decided that if I could go through all of the steps then I would have a salvation experience and finally be at peace with no more doubts and questions. I prayed and cried and prayed and cried. Nothing worked and I remained in the deep, dark, black, hole – but I didn’t tell anyone.
A Little Bit of Peace:
Yearning for community and connection, I decided to attempt to relate to “God” through questions and prayers that I kept in a private journal. I would write to God and tell God about my life, my hopes, my dreams, my problems. I think it was a healing time for me because at least I was being honest with someone. I was still craving a “born-again”experience that would reassure me that God was there and listening to me, but that never came.
The Born-Again Baptist Years:
I got married, moved to Georgia, then Colorado, then back to Utah. Along the way I attended many different churches with my husband. We checked out the Presbyterians, the Southern Baptists, the Latter-Day-Saints and the Episcopalians. When we arrived back in Utah, we started attending a Conservative Baptist church because we liked the music and the sense of community we felt as we sat in the worship services. I threw myself into Bible Studies, Women’s groups, Sunday School classes and all kinds of other church gatherings. I started using Christian lingo and found an even greater sense of community when I matched the theology of my words to the theology of the people around me. I was so happy to finally be in a place where “truth”was taught and I had rules to help me interpret the Bible. I loved the pastor (a grandfatherly type man) and in an attempt to hold onto my newly found warm fuzzy place I even got re-baptized (by immersion) to wash away those old doubts and fears I had as a teenager. I still didn’t have my born-again experience but at least I had found the truth and a community of believers.
The Questions Come Back:
After my honeymoon with the Baptists was over, I lost my warm-fuzzy feelings and my questioning mind started kicking in again. I prayed so hard, and tried to fight against my own brain – trying to convince it to stay in the warm-fuzzy place, but the questions just wouldn’t go away.
Back in the Presbyterian Church:
My husband and I eventually left the Baptist church. He is a member of the Episcopal Church because he likes their theology and the style of worship. I am a member of the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA). I love serving on our governing board (called the Session) leading the Fellowship Team, being part of a community, having friends, and exploring ideas about God. The problem is – I am STILL not in a place where I can be honest about what I REALLY believe! I know just what to say (and not say) around my pastor who is very conservative. I continue to be great at mirroring the Christian lingo used by whoever I am talking to. I am pretty sure they are doing the same thing with me. I have a sense that our church is FILLED with people who value friendship and community and who yearn for a place where they can be honest about their struggles – but who really don’t believe even a fraction of the theology of the Presbyterian Church and know better than to say any of that out loud.
So that is my story. Thanks for letting me tell it – and for giving me a safe place to be honest about what I am thinking and feeling.
What a relief to take off the mask…