I was brought up in the Anglican church tradition and as a child, I understood God to be a loving, ever-present father figure. God wasn’t particularly threatening to me as a child and God was just always ‘there’ and wanted me to be good or ‘live well’.
Christian faith continued to be important to me but during my teen and 20s, there were experiences and some religious teaching that planted seeds of doubt and fear which haunted me into adulthood.
In my early teens, I became involved in charismatic, evangelical youth groups through a boyfriend. These groups were really exciting and eye-opening: a whole new culture! I felt a sense of belonging and I had deep, committed friendships. I liked how God seemed to talk directly to us in words and pictures and how Bible verses seemed to have direct relevance to our own situations.
There were things that happened that frightened me as well. At 14 years old, I was given a book by a youth leader about blaspheming against the Holy Spirit being the ‘unforgiveable sin’ and being damned to hell for eternity. Around about the same time, I watched a graphic theatre production called ‘Heaven’s Gate, Hell’s Flames’ which had depictions of the ‘unsaved’ dying in untimely accidents and being dragged off to hell by demons. In my late teens, a different youth camp leader gave me a book called ‘The Path to Hell’ which cemented my fear and overwhelming responsibility to try to share the (fundamentalist/conservative) gospel and endeavour to convince whoever would listen. Being embarrassed and overwhelmed by the enormity of the task, I have always felt guilty about never leading anyone to ‘giving their life to Jesus’. Nearly 30 years later, I can remember the bleak terror that often gripped me. I could not tell anyone such was the fear of it being true and irrevocable.
After completing a music degree and teacher training, I worked for an evangelical Christian charity. We performed in a Christian band and taught RE lessons around schools in tough areas. Despite actually doing some very worthwhile work in challenging communities, behind the scenes, it was really important that our behaviour would not cause a ‘stumbling block’ to unbelievers because we were personally accountable if we were to dissuade them from the faith. Acting on a frantic sense of ‘time running out’, I allowed myself to be placed in numerous dangerous situations in the name of saving souls. I used to worry morbidly about random strangers that I should be preaching to. What if I was their only chance for salvation?
I was also required to sign a contract forbidding any physical relationship or even being alone in the same room as my boyfriend. We were basically being groomed for marriage but didn’t get to know each other properly. (Having already been asked to make a vow of chastity at the age of about 15 at a youth event, I didn’t really need to sign anything!) The marriage failed in a very traumatic divorce and I have since found out that we were not the only young Christian couple to have encountered marital problems.
Despite the fear and doubts, faith and the quiet presence of the Divine (the universal Christ) has been a strength to me and given me hope in the hard times although I am still working out what faith now means to me. I still think of myself as a Christian but my understanding of faith and God has been blown apart in recent years and I want to distance myself from exclusionist views and be free from fear and prejudice.
I have several vivid mental images about being taken into a green space of freedom, seeds being planted, moving through seasons and Spring approaching and being released from a cage. I believe these are all gifts of Love to me from God.
Learning about the Enneagram has been a very helpful tool for me to make sense of the past. What if I had known about my type-tendency towards fear, loyalty and self-doubt? Could I have loosened those patterns and found my inner wisdom at a younger age? What if I had also been aware of the growth possible through my Enneagram type: courage and faith, accepting and making peace with mystery and living with difficult questions? Would it have changed the path I followed? This is another unknown but narrative Enneagram work has helped me to accept and tell my story with curiosity and self-compassion. This is the crux of what I wish to offer others through my Enneagram teaching, coaching and writing.
The same Father-God who was present in childhood, still walks alongside me today – although I often relate to Her as Mother-God. I still want to follow The Way of Jesus but without being ‘religious’ or afraid.
Recently, I have rekindled my violin solo performing – just for fun. I have found huge meaning, emotional expression and connection through my music in a way that I didn’t when I was younger.
By joining the ‘Nomads’ tribe, I have realised that there are many of us walking this path although we do not always see each other.
– Helen Calder