And when it came to saying prayers before going to sleep, I did do it now and then, but sometimes fell asleep before I finished the prayer. And we didn’t use the phrases ‘Thank God’ or ‘Praise the Lord’ every now and then in our speech.
What I did know was that Jesus loved me, and that the 10 Commandments were to be adhered to at all times.
It is paradoxical but my mother had always taught me to think for myself, yet on the other hand, I usually took whatever she taught me as gospel truth. As far as I was concerned, she was a good person, almost perfect, other people said so too. I never heard anyone say anything bad about her. And when she passed away when I was 14, this was how she was preserved in my memory.
She was independent and strong, and a perfectionist. She was the Head of English Department in the secondary school where she taught; she could play the piano and sing; she could direct the choirs at church and school, yet my sister and I never felt that she didn’t have enough time to spend with us.
She always taught us right from wrong, so I was astounded the day I learnt that the Bible says divorce is wrong. I thought ‘Does that make Mummy a sinner? Cannot be. SO the Bible must be wrong. Or at least it cannot be taken seriously.’
Furthermore, no one could explain to me what happened to the dinosaurs or how evolution worked, or who did Cain marry and have kids with. And as I grew older, I became aware of the dichotomy between science and Christianity, and you simply couldn’t believe both and the same time. You had to choose. And it was easy to believe the things that could be proven and that had evidence to back it up.
And I also thought that being a Christian was just too difficult. You had to be a goody-two-shoes, pray a lot, be nice to everyone around you, and remain a virgin. But I also was under the impression that your religion was decided for you, and you couldn’t change it, so I would just hide my head in the sand and pretend not to be a Christian. I stopped going to church and stopped praying and stopped believing that God exists.
Later I realized that people can convert to other religions, so I started reading up about other religions. My main aim was to find a religion that did not prohibit pre-marital sex. I’m not kidding. Because when I was in my early twenties, this really plagued me more than any of the other Thou-Shalt-Nots, because anytime I had sex with my boyfriend I was filled with guilt and the thought that God would punish me or strike me dead the next time I dared to step into a church. This just spiraled downwards, and I went through a dark and self-destructive phase of my life. That was when I started smoking, and I didn’t bother with safe sex and in general I hated myself and my life.
But when I was around 25 I became aware that deep inside I still had the desire to seek God. I had tried to drown it out with physical and material comforts and pleasures but a small flame remained. I felt that I wanted a hiding place, a comfort. I was so desperate and depressed because no matter what I indulged in, it couldn’t compensate for the great aching emptiness I felt all along. And around the same time I also realised that it really wasn’t men that I wanted to sleep with. Since I was in school, I had liked girls, but as I became a teenager and a young woman, I thought that having boyfriends was just something that girls did, and somehow I always thought that other girls wouldn’t bother with someone like me. So I also drowned out those desires, but they always remained flickering inside me.
When I was 26 I had my first girlfriend. To me, it was as if I had finally found what I didn’t even know I was looking for in the first place. It was like everything just fell into place at once and I was ecstatic. And also, I had a paradigm shift to the meaning of the word ‘marriage’. When I was in straight relationships, marriage, to me, was a bit of paper with signatures on it. So the ‘No sex before marriage’ was quite clear to understand. And clearly I was disobeying the Bible. But then, with my lesbian relationship, there was never going to be a legal marriage (not in Singapore anyway), we would never be defined as ‘married’ in the sense that everyone else is. So I had to redefine ‘marriage’ and to me, to be married to the one you really love is to be committed and monogamous, to cherish and respect each other, and didn’t need a bit of legal paper to prove it. So to me, I wasn’t doing anything wrong, according to the Bible.
But she was also the first one who informed me that the Bible says that gay people go to Hell. That was new information to me. I didn’t know it was written down in black and white. And it sure wasn’t stated in the 10 commandments. Oh no, I thought, first the Church didn’t want me because I was a ‘fornicator’, now they are going to banish me just because the love of my life is the same sex as I am?
So I never got back to going to church. I lived as the heathen that gay people are painted out to be. It was also partly my fault for believing what she said and not going to find out for myself whether being gay was actually a sin. But back then I didn’t think that the Bible had room for interpretation.
But gradually, I still felt that something was missing from my life. I hunted around for a church to attend that did not discriminate against gay people. I had/have a few good friends who are happy balanced gay Christians, and I wanted to be one too. But I only started really attending church when my girlfriend and I broke up, yes a cliché’ story, but it’s true. And there started my journey to know more about my faith.
What makes me more, or less, qualified to write this column? Nothing, like you, I simply am a child of God, and I have a thirst for knowledge. I am on a journey, just like you. And this column will be our travel journal.