Hidden in my heart: Boundary lines

The most important lesson I learned in life, I learned in PE class.  My Christian college required actual for-credit PE classes (that did not transfer.)  The purpose was something like being a good steward of your mind and body by learning to be active early in life. The first semester of my sophomore year, I took self-defense class for 1 credit.  We learned  how to stay aware walking down the street, how to best attack the eyes and testicles, and even how to change a tire.  One afternoon, sitting on the floor of the gym with my classmates for story time, I learned two definitions that changed everything for me: rape and consent.  Before that moment, I had no vocabulary for what happened to me about six months before.  Abstinence-only education had taught me nothing about consent.  I knew the concept of how to say no to tainted purity but nothing like “yes I want to” or “no I don’t.”

During this particular semester, I was subconsciously seeking out safe places to exist off campus.  One was a Presbyterian church that would shuttle car-less students to Sunday services then provide a home cooked meal for us at a rotating church member’s home. Another was an exclusive bible study.  I signed up for a weekly small group at the home of our school’s assistant chaplain.  That hour collectively meditating on scripture was an escape from the Christian campus existence.  The passage that I remember us diving into most deeply was this one:


“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” – Psalm 16:6

Since that time, it has continued to resonate with me.  I think those boundary lines were starting to impact me.  I used to view boundaries in a negative light, even beyond my poor understanding of bodily autonomy.  I would always forgive, always give more, and always sacrifice for what I believed to be the good of the kingdom.  I would chide myself and beg forgiveness for not being willing to give up more and be more “broken” for a Christ-like transformation.

I had a deep spiritual connection to a personal Jesus who I would never say no to.  My stream-of-conscious dialog with him made it so I was never alone. It took years, but I slowly built up boundary lines to make my personal space more pleasant.


Hidden in My Heart: Baptism #2

I memorized this passage in preparation for my second baptism.  20150115_132842

For my first baptism, I was eight years old.  I became afraid of hell, so I asked Jesus into my heart one night.  The logistics of that baptism where complicated.  My mom grew up Baptist and my dad was an adult convert.  We were attending a Presbyterian (EPC) church that primary baptized infants.  My parents thought of this as a minor doctrinal disagreement and stayed involved in the church, even though they disagreed and considered a “submersion believer baptism” to be very important.  When I became saved, my family insisted on accommodating a proper baptism, so the church bought a horse trough, so I could have the first submersive baptism.

A year later, we moved to a new city and ended up in another EPC church.  The denomination’s motto is “In Essentials, Unity. In Non-Essentials, Liberty. In All Things, Charity,” so my family still thought it was no big deal that the church baptized babies, while they believed that baptism should happen when one is old enough to accept Jesus. We stayed at that church all through high school, so that church community became another family to me.  I got involved in the youth group during middle school and high school, going on mission trips and even joining the leadership team of the group.  Eventually, my church started offering baptism to adults and “big kids” as a demonstration of reaffirming one’s faith.  Once a year, the whole congregation would meet at a state park on a Sunday afternoon in August for a potluck, water skiing and a baptism ceremony in the reservoir.  My senior year of high school, several of the more popular girls decided to get baptized, so I joined in.  There were required classes to attend in order to participate in the baptism.  Since we all decided last minute, they threw together an extra classes just for us with a video of the Pastor’s presentation. We each had to select a scripture to memorize and recite at the ceremony.

My second baptism was an act of rebellion.  I was rejecting my mom’s religion.  When my parents asked why I felt called to be baptized now, I would say that I was doing it, now that I was old enough to be a believer “for real.” I was passive aggressively denying the legitimacy of my childhood conversion.  I was coming out as a Calivnist and showing that I embraced the teachings of my church over those of my parents.  I had not made a free will decision to follow Jesus as an elementary schooler; He had providentially chosen me.

Baptism day arrived in August.   We were supposed to wear white clothing.  I had planned on a white shirt and grey shorts over a yellow swimsuit.  I woke up to find that my period had just started.  I was 17 and being fairly repressed and lacking in anatomy knowledge, I had never successfully used a tampon before.  This baptism was the push I needed.  I had to stay home through the morning church service just to have time to psych myself up to insert a tampon for the first time.

I made it in time for the picnic and when my turn came, I stated my chosen bible verse, then got dunked in reservoir water and managed to get washed in the Blood without inadvertently getting washed in my own menstrual blood.

At that time, I was recovering from some depression and anxiety.  It was the last month of the pre-9/11 world.  I was looking forward to applying to Christian colleges. I was lonely and socially awkward which gave me lots of time to dialog with Jesus in my head. I really was convinced that nothing could separate me from my close relationship with the Lord.  He was the one I would turn for everything and I planned to sacrifice anything to serve him with my life.

Hidden in My Heart: Not your own

The summer between 2nd and 3rd grade,  we went on vacation to a week-long family program put on by Young Life. We had a great time hiking, horseback riding, rafting and stargazing in the mountains and there were special programs for kids and group activities like square dancing.  One detail I remember is that I first learned about the concept of branding during that trip.  I saw animals on the property with a fused YL brand and asked about it, learning that it is a way to demonstrate ownership of the animal.

At one of the kid sessions, we did a craft where we got to try out the branding iron. We each got a rectangle of wood and branded one side with the YL. On the other side, we copied this scripture:

“For you are not your own. You were bought for a price.” (1 Corinthians 6.19b-20a, NIV.)

You were bought.  You are property.  Salvation means indebtedness.  Jesus died for you, therefore you owe him. Nothing you do can ever be good enough.  You should feel guilty for doing what you want because your sin caused the crucifixion.

Looking at the passage in context, it speaks to bodily autonomy.

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price.Therefore honor God with your bodies” (Corinthians 6.18-20, NIV.)

You do not own your body. Someone else does. You do not decide what you do and do not want or what makes you comfortable and happy. You stay pure because God.

Abstinence,  in the context of evangelical culture is not a real decision. It is a bounded choice, because if you make the “wrong” choice, you will become a used up piece of bubble gum.

This verse demonstrates my early understanding of bodily autonomy. I do not own my own body; I have already been branded. Just by existing and needing salvation,  I belong to God. I do not own my yes or my no when it comes to my body. I am a temple. I an a passive object.