Now I lay me
Down to sleep.
The beginning of the first prayer I was taught.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
I do not know if I was the only child to think this but… this prayer is ominous. I recited it nightly because that is what I was taught to do. I tried not to think about the words, “I pray the Lord my soul to take.” It was not that I was unable to comprehend the words, it was that I understood the words too well.
Every night at 7:30 p.m., I began getting ready for my 8:30 bedtime. And every night before my eyes closed and my conscious took a break, I recited that prayer.
It took me a good hour before I fell asleep. Thirty minutes or so were me constantly checking my room for demons and making sure the Devil was not lurking. Still, I recited the prayer.
Soon, saying the words felt like a cone of safety was protecting me while I slept. It became habit. A habit I was afraid to break.
During the third grade, for Christmas my father gifted me a gold necklace in the shape of a book. When I held it in my hands, I felt a latch on the pages. It opened. Inside, on the pages, was the Lord’s Prayer. I had heard the Lord’s prayer recited in my grandparents’ church, but not in my mom’s church so I had yet to memorize it.
I read the Lord’s Prayer from that necklace almost daily and I never took the necklace off.
Our Father who art in Heaven
Hallowed be thy name.
The first prayer, I have heard from various voices, is meant to “introduce” children to praying and then the child will move onto the Lord’s Prayer. I suppose I fit that mold. It was not until I began reciting the Lord’s prayer that I realized I am just doing what I am told.
I understood and comprehended the prayers, sermons, and scriptures, but in my bones I felt like an imposter sitting among a faithful congregation. A hypocrite.
My mother’s opinion regarding leaving, or not having, a church was loud. However, the longer I went to church and sat listening to sermons the more I realized God cares more about the actions and contents of a person’s soul than a proclamation.
I was and still am a good person with a good moral compass. But that, in my situation, has nothing to do with religion or my professing “Jesus as my Lord and Savior.” I had to confront my motivation for using prayer as a safety shield and answering, “Yes, I am Christian,” when someone would ask. I realized that even though my actions, morals, and some beliefs may align with Christianity, I could not claim to be Christian. To continue to claim membership of Christianity would be dishonest not only to myself, but to Christians who wholeheartedly believe in their faith.
Callie Boyd-Scoggins is a senior attending La Sierra University. After graduation she intends to work with the elderly.
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