I don't' think I had ever been so fearful in my life, could not remember feeling so lost and confused. I didn't know what to do, who to talk to about what I'd seen, and worse, didn't know how I would live my life without being afraid of making mistakes, of doing something that would put me where those people on the banner were. I might have just been a kid but I knew even then how imperfect I was; knew people lose tempers, abuse others, lie, cheat, and do worse.
In our house, I was the one always in trouble, always being yelled at or disciplined for something, usually things I had not done (not by my mother, but by the other adults who took care of us while she worked). My father had abandoned us.
Writing that last sentence makes me realize why this spiritual experience hurt so horrible. I loved my father, horrible as he was. Whenever he was around, which was only about once every few years, if that, I was the happiest kid in the world. There were eight of us kids, but I think I was probably the only one who truly loved him, the only one who wasn't afraid of him, though I probably ought to have been. Had he been there, I could have talked with him about what I'd seen and heard at that church. He may not have had the answers but I would have felt comfortable asking questions.
As it was, I was unsure as to what to do or who to go too.
I didn't have to worry long because when my Mother got home from work (usually around 2:00 a.m.), and had slept some, she always asked about what we'd done while she was gone. While eating breakfast the next morning she asked about church, how I liked it.
"There was a huge banner hanging in the front," I said. "It was a picture of a burning fire, Mom, and there were men and women and children burning in it."
I remember her eyes widening, could almost see her thoughts tumbling about her mind like leaves in the wind. She patted my shoulder and said." Don't go back there, Barbara. I can't believe a church would show such things, especially when their are children present."
"But what do you think about it, Mom?" I asked, needing, more than simply wanting an answer. "
"It's utter nonsense." she said. "Nothing to worry about."
But I DID worry. I worried because I couldn't forget the words "what you DON"T know can hurt you.