As a teen and pre-teen I would kneel (figuratively) before God (usually as a result of guilt or peer pressure) and confess my sins and ask for forgiveness and promise to give up lustful thoughts and jealousy and hateful feelings and pray every day and be a good little Christian and even give up swearing, which was the absolute WORST part about those short-lived religious explosions.
At the little Christian High School I attended, there were many, many discussions on the importance of having Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. Hell was a place I was sure to end up (along with the rest of my heathen family) for all my wicked thinking about boys and the cussing and all my evilness. Oh and the conversations with one school-mate who insisted that Gandhi was in hell because he was Hindu. The "speaking in tongues" hubbub my Junior year sent underclass boys and girls (and even me, by that time a disgusted and rebellious near Buddhist) into tailspins of self doubt.
During those same years I remember a conversation with an older, wiser friend who, when I confessed my fear of hell, laughed a great, deep belly laugh at me - "you are not going to hell" he told me. I looked at him, shocked. "I'm not?" I said. Somehow, that's really all I needed to hear.
After leaving home, I settled into a comfortable existence of believing in God (most of the time) and being "spiritual but not religious" and when the religious right political movement really took off I about lost my shit.
So to come - 15 years later - to where I am now is all at once completely expected and a total surprise.
Most Sunday mornings I find myself looking forward to the time that I can get on my knees (literally) and pray. To thank God and call forth those names so present in my heart. Sometimes I light a candle. I hear Mother Laurie preach the refrain, "God loves you anyway" and know my daughter is getting her religious instruction from her. I take the weekly Eucharist with people who are black, white, gay, straight, single, married, old and young and we are all equal and unjudged. During the peace I am met with hand shakes and hugs and peace signs.
The religious fervor of yore that I experienced in high school still exists in some circles, and hey - that's great. You go with your bad selves. But that's not where God speaks to me. And that's okay, too. Some friends find God when they're in nature. Others don't find him at all. That's okay. God loves you anyway.
On May 16, I will become a confirmed Episcopalian. I will never lose my Mennonite roots, but this inclusive church has brought me back. I have fallen in love with its history, its tradition, its public statement of tolerance, and its Book of Common Prayer. It is where I have rediscovered God.