During her freshman year, Klara lands in the middle of Missouri to attend an all women’s private college, drawn there for their lauded theatre program, and she hooks up with a Cult Group through the encouragement of Lily, a new dorm friend who pleads with her to come and witness her own baptism. She gets sucked in initially by the purity of what seems to be the groups focus, which they say is Christ, obedience, discipline and devotion. The fact that for years in high school she had been self medicating with alcohol in order to quiet the voices of shame and pain allows her to consider attending a few evening sessions and she eventually agrees to sign up for the same baptism session as her friend. Maybe this will be the right path, a way to straighten things out and get control back in her life. To do something right.
It becomes clear relatively soon that this group is very different and she is not that comfortable with the intensity of it, but wants to follow through because she harkens back to a time before her brother’s death when religion and Christianity and Jesus seemed like the only safe option. The night of the baptism event was scary and a bit weird- listening to gut instincts, tuning into discernment… trusting one’s own intuition, is important. And she knew this, her senses were on high alert. But when you are young, far away from home, sad most of the time and desperate for peace, you somehow turn off that inner compass and justify a more mature person’s voice that is saying to you: this is the path to that peace you are seeking.
When it came to be her turn, she entered the bathroom on the lower level of the church’s house, small white candle flames flickered all around the tub and vanity amplified by their reflection in the large mirror. The electric lights were shut off. She was offered a hand for support and watched as if separate from her own body. Her legs moved and straddled the tub and then bare feet entered the water. She was fully clad in the requisite sweats. At first, they had her standing up, still supporting her frame as water danced around just below her knees. The leader then motioned her to kneel by gently pulling down on her elbow and she sat down in the tub with her legs bent upwards to help inch her frame close to the front of the tub and allow room for her upper body to eventually lie down towards the back. The sound of voices began to whisper words she could not understand, like in a different language of some kind. The person performing the baptism wrapped his arm around her back for support and lowered her backwards into the water submersing her completely into the waters. On entry into the waters, she could hear him saying something, prayers and supplications to God in English this time, but she does not remember his words. All she recalls was the overwhelming fear and sudden shuddering that coursed through her whole body. Her head and shoulders seemed to take on a life of their own and her mouth opened as if wanting to utter an important truth or to beg for help. She was confused and shaking and terrified as the people around her were now raising their voices higher and higher, louder and louder- begging for some entity to do something. This she sensed from their upward gaze and facial expressions that begged for attention. Evidently, what was happening was the spirit was attempting to enter into her and she was supposed to accept him and allow him to bring a new language to her. Her senses then brought her clarity and the only thing she desired was to get out. So, she pressed herself up while attempting to gain control of the shudders, someone wrapped her in a towel and helped our out of the tub. That was when she looked up and sought out the faces and saw that there was grave disappointment on everyone’s face- complete and utter rejection and a sense that she had blown it. This was explained to her later, she was informed the spirit couldn’t enter because evil resided within her. Somehow- evil had not been properly emptied out in order to make room for her soul to accept the spirit.
For the next few weeks, she was followed around campus, stopped in the middle of the quad to be instructed on what was required of her next, she was often woken up at early hours by Jan, one of the leaders, because a word from God had been brought to her and she had to get to Klara right away. Her roommate was least appreciative of these disruptions and Klara found Stacy avoiding her during the days and weekends, absent from the room most hours. Calls to her mother netted little support, because her mother felt that God was the answer and if Klara was attending a church, any church, then maybe things would change for her. Towards the end of that first semester, her Dad called to let her know that he had another job transfer, this time from Illinois out to Southern California and they would be fully moved in by Thanksgiving. She begged him to let her move too. She didn’t want to be so far from them, please let her come. She could not bear any longer the harassment that was regularly thrust at her from these intense soldiers that were intent on instilling in her guilt, shame and control. Klara at one point approached her drama coach for guidance and he reassured her that it wasn’t her. He let her know that this had been an ongoing problem on campus and gave her the name of someone she should contact for support. Campus Crusade for Christ. That was an odd recommendation she felt, for here she only wanted out of the religious craziness, not necessarily wanting to move from one group to another. Still, she reached out to the connection and found more support and in the end, she cautioned her tormentors to leave her alone because college authorities had been alerted and actions would be taken if they did not cease and desist. And, Klara informed Jan that she too heard words from God, and those words were telling her to move to California. Jan told her they had connections in California and someone would get in touch.
For the first full year in California, Klara fully expected to hear from someone – but no one ever contacted her. She wondered if they did, how would they even know how to reach her, as she hadn’t provided any forwarding details.
In the ensuing years, Klara slowly and completely cut out church. Anything resembling organized religion was of the list. She sought spiritual nourishment through the arts and literature instead. It would be fourteen years later and many other off-road explorations into untraditional concepts of spirit, for Klara to call out to God in desperation one solitary night and ask Him to show her if He was real. Because if He was, she needed to know who He was. And, He answered. And so began a personal journey into a relationship with Christ which builds and grows in a solitary way. It is that quiet and peaceful source, the truest and best source, that allows her to move forward with hope.
She still doesn’t thrive in a group church setting, she still resists control freaks, she doesn’t attend a formal church. She reads her bible, she talks to God and she tries to listen and watch for him in the sacred in daily life.
Be Still And Know I Am God. Psalm 46:10
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for, assurance in what we can not see. Hebrews 11:1
And, it’s enough for now.