Keep Your Eyes Wide

They sat in my living room balancing bean dip on paper plates, squirrelishly entertaining tangents unrelated to the printed agenda. Developing a group “statement of faith” had been added as a discussion item after several members had expressed proposals on the new homeschool group’s official name and purpose. Some wished for an exclusively Christian group, while others suggested it remain all-inclusive, with the emphasis on supplementing education through the expectation of high morals.

Though I was unfamiliar and a little shy to the small group, I spoke first when the time finally came to discuss our group’s statement of faith.

“I love the idea of having a motto to help guide our group’s goals and help parents feel comfortable that their kids will be among moral standards. Personally, I think our statement of faith should be general since there are many faiths in our group and there may be specific doctrines we disagree on.”

Everyone nodded and mumbled profuse agreement.

Then, taking a deep breath I gathered the courage to continue on with the thoughts I’d felt inspired to share.

“I’ve been in groups before where I felt excluded because of my religion. People have even said I’m not Christian, which clearly is not true, and is very hurtful to me.” Gesturing to the large painting of Jesus Christ hanging behind my couch, “I would never want anyone to feel unwelcome because of their beliefs.”

We believe

At this point in the discussion, I wasn’t sure they knew the details of my personal faith. I only knew they all agreed there was a need to establish a standard among our homeschool group and co-op classes. And they all agreed the statement should be broad enough to include all faiths. With good feelings, we moved to the next agenda item.

A few weeks later I learned through second-hand sources the group leader was uncomfortable with how “involved” I was becoming, and that my faith was excluded on her list of welcome religions in the ideal “Christian” co-op.

I was angry, hurt, and embarrassed. I wanted to curl in fetal position in my bed and disappear until the emotion numbed. This was the exact situation I’d feared, yet had felt such calm after speaking up that night over our plates of bean dip.

Dr Seuss books

The betrayal continued to sting as my kids gathered around a stack of Dr. Seuss books and asked me to read aloud.

I Can Read with My Eyes Shut by Dr. Seuss

I read through the headache that throbbed from crying about how she wouldn’t to talk to me, just about me. I read as I wondered why, WHY, someone would unfairly go to an anti-source instead of directly to the person to learn about their beliefs.

I Can Read with My Eyes Shut by Dr. Seuss

Ironically, through the simple words of a beloved children’s author, peace began to replace the anger and I realized this experience wasn’t for her. I wanted her to give me a chance. I wanted her to be willing to learn about my beliefs–no matter how strange they seemed to her. I wanted to be included and involved with new friends that could help support my homeschooling goals.

I Can Read with My Eyes Shut by Dr. Seuss

But this experience wasn’t for converting her–it was for converting me. It was for me to gain the courage to stand up for what I know to be true. To teach my kids a lesson in tolerance and acceptance of others–no matter the differences, and to take a look at the roots of my faith.

It was for me to be able to say–not just on the surface, but to feel from my core, that it doesn’t matter what others think as long as I’m doing what I know is right. And that the right will not always be popular.

It was for me to realize the unpopularity of the ancient prophets who testified of the unknown, and to remember our Savior himself was rejected because of what He knew to be true.

I Can Read with My Eyes Shut by Dr. Seuss

It was for me to realize what’s really important is what I know to be true. I know it’s true because I’ve asked, and received that testimony for myself. Because of that very personal testimony I’ve received, God also knows I know it’s true. And so I can not deny it.

I Can Read with My Eyes Shut by Dr. Seuss

Comments

  1. I am so thankful to know your thoughts and how you worked through this situation. I was concerned for you. I am so very proud to call you friend.

    [Reply]

  2. You may choose not to publish this, but I sure hope you read it. I’m LDS and went to a high school with a very large, vocal, and anti-LDS Evangelical Christian population, spear-headed largely by one of the teachers. Each time a new student entered school he would pull that student aside and warn him off being friends with us. He led an Evangelical mission group and showed the kids movies like “Godmakers”, discouraged them from being our friends, and actively encouraged them persecuting us. I lost many friends and missed out on the opportunity to be friends with many more people. So I know how hard it is to be excluded because of something you hold so dear and precious to you.

    This isn’t going to be one of those inspiring, “But we persevered and ended up converting the bad teacher” type stories, because that didn’t happen (and rarely does in real life). High school was certainly not the highlight of my life; but that’s okay, because life is pretty long and it’d be sad if 4 years, almost 20 years ago, was My Best Time Ever. All of us Mormon kids persevered; we engineered it so that we didn’t have to take his class (I don’t know a single Mormon kid who took any of his classes); we laughed off the insults and slurs, and I think pretty much to a person left high school with a pretty poor opinion of Evangelicals. But we all survived; and all of it is just a distant memory now. You’ll survive too – It hurts, but you’ll move past this.

    A lot of the insults, slurs, ignoring, dropping us as friends, etc. behaviour was done to punish us, to try to force a conversion. It backfired. Because hey, it might come as a surprise to people – but if you’re a jerk to me, the last thing I’m going to be inclined to do is to say, “Gee, you’re really mean to me, I’d love to learn more about your concept of God!” Ultimately it didn’t help their cause; and it wasn’t until I met my beautiful, lovely sister-in-law – who is also Evangelical Christian – that I had any inclination to ever befriend an Evangelical, because of the way I’d been treated in High School. (But I can testify that nice ones do exist!)

    Reading your post today was the first time in probably 18 years I even thought of that teacher, and while I can remember his face, I can’t for the life of me remember his name. However I have wonderfully fond, loving memories of my Seminary teacher. I have wonderfully fond, loving memories of some of my Sunday School and Young Women’s leaders. Mr What’s-his-face made life harder than it had to be; but he couldn’t destroy me; he couldn’t destroy my faith. And ultimately, I do believe you get back what you put out in the world – all that hatred he fostered for us, what does that do to a person, over so many years? It can’t be pretty.

    You’re okay. God loves you. So what if Mrs Mean Homeschooler thinks you’re a heathen? Her opinion isn’t the important one!

    [Reply]

    pameladonnis Reply:

    It means SOOO much to me that you’d take the time to write this, and share your experience. It was a painful one for me, but as some time has past, I have seen pieces of good come from it. If anything, it strengthened me.
    Thank you, again for your note. It really made my day.
    xoxo
    Pam

    [Reply]

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