Janetís spiritual biography, early years
How far back should I go to relate my spiritual life? My earliest memories for the most part are not pleasant, but I think thatís because my memory is critical Ė I remember what confused me, or troubled me, or was painful to me. The good stuff I just lived in.
I donít remember loving or trusting people, but I do remember loving and trusting natural things: air and stone, plants and animals, sun and stars. From wonder to wonder, existence opened to me. I can see now that this was the way God spoke to me as a small child. I knew spirituality in wilderness, and it was wilderness there in the Nevada desert, that seemed intruded upon by people.
Times were somewhat hard, as was my mother. My father was intelligent but not wise; my mother could be wise but not intelligent. Most of the time my motherís sister (younger half-sister) and their mother were there, and sometimes her husband. I was the only child. No one in the family ever mentioned religion or God or went to church; there wasnít even one in town. There were five bars, though, and my father drank and gambled.
When I was seven we moved to the Indian reservation, along with the whole store my family had bought. From third through eighth grade I was, as far as I can remember, the only Caucasian child in my class (though most of the teachers were white). Iím now grateful for this, because I was the minority child, and even could see prejudice on both sides. In all ways that mattered to my schoolmates, I was less capable than they. And if I was better at reading and English, I was the only one who could not speak one or two other languages. I wasnít the best of students for several reasons.
There was a Presbyterian Church on the reservation, but we went only on Christmas, as a community gesture to our customers. I seldom went to Sunday School, although I did go to Vacation Bible School a couple of times. If anything concerning religion was mentioned at home, it was to ridicule it, though not unkindly. The reservation was considered a mission, and ministers were sent for two years at a time, and never came back. They did, however, come into our store, which was sort of a coffee shop. I worked in the store when not in school.
I became sick at the beginning of one summer vacation, Iím not certain which one, but I was about 12, certainly no older. It didnít seem serious, but it put me in bed for a couple of weeks or so. The new minister, whom I did not know, came in for coffee, and asked my mother where I was. The next day he brought a copy of Hurlbutís Story of the Bible as a gift for me. I quickly read it straight through, and asked my mother if the stories were the same as the ones in the Bible. She asked the minister. He told her I should read the stories in the Bible itself.
Of course there was no Bible in our house or my auntís or grandmotherís. So I put my pennies together and looked at the Sears catalogue (there was no bookstore nor library for 100 miles). I ordered about the cheapest King James Bible; it couldnít have cost more than a couple of dollars. All the Bibles were King James except for one Douay Version. When it arrived I looked in it a bit and saw it had Ďa plan for reading the entire Bible in one year.í I looked at how short the daily readings were, compared to book reading, and I wondered why it should take so long. So I started with ďIn the beginning . . .Ē and read straight through the summer, every book, chapter, verse, and word Ė even every Ďbegatí. I was in Revelation in August, though I found that difficult going (I couldnít understand it), and I donít think I got through it before school began, but I did soon after.
As a side benefit, I solidly learned Elizabethan English. Shakespeare was to be quite simple!
I genuinely enjoyed it, though I liked the Old Testament much better than the New.
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