I had my first Peter moment when I was about 13 years old I would guess. This was the first time I can remember denying Christ, that is, and it’s not a pleasant memory. Prior to this I remember being bold and even reckless in my faith conversations. I remember asking neighborhood kids if they believed in Jesus. I remember being on vacation and asking strangers. Maybe I lost that spirit long before 13 years old, but it was at 13 years old that I distinctly noticed its absence.
I was at Art Camp at the local university. I was taking a photography course and there were a handful of kids I felt the need to impress. Looking back I’m not even sure why. One girl, a few years older than me, lived in my neighborhood. Another girl had, at age 13, already chosen her wedding dress, not to mention the boy she was going to marry. There must have been other kids, a crowd, enough to make me feel threatened, although I’m sure in reality they wouldn’t have cared one way or the other. We were all sitting around the courtyard eating our lunches in the shade. I was cross-legged on the paved ground with some of my camp-mates, and someone started a conversation about God. I was used to conversations about God–I attended a Christian school and we talked about God every day, it was curriculum. But here I was out in the world, unprotected. Here I was among artists and poets and philosophers, and they made it very clear how they felt about any Divine Being.
“I don’t really believe in God,” announced Ashley, the girl with the wedding dress, who was perched casually atop the brick half-wall. Noted, I thought in my head and continued to munch on my sandwich. “What about you?” Ashley asked, and all eyes were on me. It was the question I had been quietly dreading. “Are you a very religious person?” My heart began to race and I thought about a million different ways I could deflect the question, or answer with something “cool” like, “I have a soul and I know it’s connected to something greater, so yeah, sure, what’s it to ya?” In actuality I believe I took the world’s longest swallow on my peanut butter and gawked stupidly at my shoes for a few moments before muttering some embarassed answer. Maybe it wasn’t even a denial, I can’t remember my exact words. Isn’t an ashamed, “Yeah,” as bad as an outright, “Absolutely not!”? Maybe I said something about believing in God but not being religious (it’s always religion that is truly unpopular, rarely God), maybe I said something about my parents making me go to church (they have never made me), maybe I was simply noncommital: “I don’t know. Maybe, sort of, sometimes.” I don’t remember. I remember feeling a little sick afterward, I remember feeling guilty. The point is, I was not proud to align myself with God.
I think I heard a rooster crow that day.
Since then my life has been a series of denials and half-hearted admissions of my faith. It’s really sad to type that out. I would like to be bold again. I guess you could argue that this is bold, writing this here, on the World Wide Web, but really it’s not. This is easy. I want to be bold in my neighborhood, in my workplace, in my every day. I want to be that kid again, the one who bumps into another kid at the campground swimming pool and shares a laugh and then just puts it all out there. Or at least answers a question with confidence. I could be that kid. But it takes time.
Everything takes time.