So awhile ago I was in the evil place–also known as a bookstore–and saw a book on sale for about $5. So what the heck, I picked it up. It was called the Yada Yada Prayer Group. I did not realize at the time that it was the first of seven books, but it was cheap and a fun read. While it was like a lot of contemporary Christian fiction (aka, schlocky and full of stereotypes) it was still an okay read. So I finished it, hit the library, and have finished the first three books in four days. The themes haven’t changed much, still schlocky and stereotypical, but the thing is stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason. There’s a little bit of truth behind all of it. And while it might make you cringe and while you might say ‘no, that’s not me’, the truth of it is that there is always a little something that you can relate to.
The books aren’t fantastic fiction, by any means, but they are an easy read. I think one of the things that really rings true is that among this group of twelve women are various ethnicities. Two hispanic, one South African, three black, and the rest white. Messianic Jews, Christian, searching for God, and an ex-con among them, but still a diverse mix. Thrown together by circumstance and not by choice they then have an experience that draws them together as a group.
I never experienced this until i was in college, growing up in my white-bread suburban county. And while my mother was always careful to preach that bigotry was bad, that all people were equal, it still gave her a heart attack when a guy named Bobby drove me back to school one year–and he was Korean. Wasn’t even dating him, he just lived nearby and was giving me a ride. Then the shock she had when I had a long relationship with a black man freaked her to no end. Or when she comes to my house and I have a (native american) indian friend over.
I have other friends that are a mix of ethnicities, and to tell you the truth it never occurs to me that someone might take offense at our friendship until my mother wants to know why on earth I have someone like that in my life. To tell you the truth, I miss how simple it was when I was in school when we were all just together for the sake of being together. For whatever reason. I feel like the censorship on my life has increased as I have aged, which makes no sense, but at the same time I don’t know why I don’t just tell her to shove it. Shouldn’t she be proud that the lessons stuck as a kid and that I don’t think twice about it? It’s one of the reasons I like my church so much as I feel that of all the places that I have been in this (still very southern-minded) town it is one of the few ethnically diverse and yet simultaneously colorblind places around. And I like that. I have learned much from other cultures.
Anyway, back to the book. The narrator is a 40-something mother of two. Can’t identify there. White. Okay, that’s me. But the struggles that she has with her faith and especially with her prayer life are real for me as they are things that I have struggled with in the past as well. I have also had issues with trusting God and with the validity of my faith, so it’s interesting to see that played out in print. It is also the story of a woman that is having to adjust to the fact that church isn’t just the stuff she learned in sunday school as a child–or as one of the guys that spoke at church a few weeks ago said, “I grew up with the basic sunday school teachings and the Felt-Board Jesus Story”. That cracked me up because it was so true. You would always have the felt figures to place in the proper places on the green backdrop, and heaven forbid you put Joseph on the wrong side of Mary because it was always done a certain way and who were we to change it.
I think that is what is getting to me in these books. The fact that I have been looking for these sort of motivations and explanations that there is a much bigger and stronger version of faith than what I grew up with and what my family practices that the main character is going through. I know my denominational and church style upsets my mother sometimes, but at least I am going, and I’m still looking for that something more sometimes. Like the narrator, I also have issues with consistency and dedication, and I have problems with complacency. I know I am rambling a bit here, but it’s hard to explain. I know I’m not the only one searching, as we wouldn’t have teachers or pastors or services if everyone had all the answers. I think the big answer is that growing up there were a few women/men that were my Acteens leaders or sunday school leaders that had a place in my faith formation. It really wasn’t anything I learned from my family.
Now I know if my mother ever figures out I have a blog and stumbles across that it is going to hurt, but it’s true. I think that my brother was able to form his faith in my household more than I was. I tend to do better with actual instruction, school-like, teachers, someone that has more knowledge than I do helping me discover new things. Growing up in my house as a kid it wasn’t really faith–it was practice. I’m not saying that my mother or brother have no faith, far from it, it’s just that faith by osmosis doesn’t work for me. We went all the time, and I mean all the time, but it was practice, rote, or tradition. Social functions. I grew up knowing good from bad, heaven from hell, God was good, Jesus loves me, and prayed Now I Lay Me . . . and God is Great . . . every night. But we were never a family that had Bible study together or had prayer time together or even really talked about the message from church together, we just went and then talked about what happened–not what we learned–as we caught up on the people and friends we had. And whenever I read fiction or real tales about women of faith I get almost jealous, as I struggle with so many things. I hate praying out loud as I am just not comfortable with it. I pray all day, but cannot do it aloud. And when it comes to talking about this kind of stuff aloud I really struggle with it as my upbringing rears its ugly head and gets in the way. I would love to have what the women I read about have–a husband that they can pray with, a family that prays together or talks about their faith openly, but it’s hard. I don’t really know if that is something that I will ever be comfortable with or that I will ever have. But it would be nice, wouldn’t it? To be able to come home and work through something aloud with spouse or friends and know that they understand on the same level that God is ultimate and that I just want someone else to be able to talk about these things with. Yes, very nice.
You know, I really need to stop writing late at night. I get far too rambling and far too introspective and far too confused!!