Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Lenten Project: Day Nineteen

Spiritual counseling at Bob Jones University is the worst kind of torture.  I was required to undergo this counseling the first semester of my junior year due to the wicked sin of "spiritual pride" uncovered the year prior.  Apart from that, I had no other clues as to why I'd been singled out for the terror of spiritual counseling.

20 year old Hannah

I'd been assigned to room with a hall leader in my dorm (hall leaders are prayer captains who are in charge of all the other prayer groups on the hall--they have a lot of power, and usually were nasty pieces of work who would turn a student in for the smallest infraction).  I'd been put in the hall leader's room because the dorm sup and dorm counselor wanted her to "keep an eye on me."  This is not mere paranoia--I was actually told this!  While the hall leader amazingly turned out to be a nice enough girl, I lived in constant fear of accidentally getting into trouble for forgetting some rule, or for talking about theology too much, or for not having the right kind of friends. (I'd been accused of not being a good Christian the year before, due to the fact that I didn't hang out mostly with my roommates.)

My counselor was a girl a year or two older than I, in her first year of grad school at the University.  She was the dorm counselor, but had no training, no experience, no skills whatsoever to qualify her for the job.

She demanded that I tell her everything, that I make her my confidant, but she made clear that she was not my friend.  She was my counselor.  Yet another spiritual leader to direct me.  During one meeting, I tried to share about my past doubts, asking questions, trying hard to understand, to get a foundation to my beliefs, and she mocked me, saying if I didn't know by now, then it was clear I really needed this counseling!  She didn't answer any of my questions, either.

She wanted me to confess things to her each week, but I had nothing to confess, so I caved in to pressure and just made up stuff to satisfy her.

"I was dissatisfied with my roommate when she talked on the phone too loudly.  I repent of the sin of discontentment."

"I felt anger at the boy who stood me up at my society's dating outing.  I repent of my bitter, proud spirit."

"One of the Academy kids I worked with last year has been asking me theological questions about salvation, and is unsure he's saved.  I repent of thinking I am a spiritual leader to him, since I haven't been appointed to that role by the University.  I should tell his parents and then stay out of it."

By the end of the semester, I couldn't remember all the things I'd confessed, but apparently I'd been marked as a bad apple, because I still couldn't advance in the spiritual hierarchy.

When I say Hell is Bob Jones University, this is what I'm remembering.  My futile efforts to try to be relabeled as good.  Trying to convince my APC that I really was saved, and she didn't have to hold a prayer service/intervention over me with the other APCs and PC (she even called in another hall leader to take me out for coffee...and a conversation trying to convince me I truly was not redeemed). Trying to show that I really did have a relationship with God, even though I didn't want to share all the details.  Trying so hard to live up to the BoJo model, to fit in and be like everyone else.  And failing, over and over again.

I would have given up all my questions, my doubts, by wonderings about greater Christianity, if only they'd accepted me into their group.  And I did, when I managed to convince the Administration to hire me as a University staff member the next year.  I conformed, tried not to think much, and did a very good job of being an ideal BJU model, till this messed up past came back to bite me in the arse.  That's a story for another day.