I’m still sweating. That kind of nervousness that lightly gathers on your forearm, the back of your neck, your upper lip. That kind that is preceded by a hot wave reddening your cheeks and followed by a large unsettling sickness in your belly causing your heart to race and fingers to shake.
My husband comes from a fundamentalist Mormon (polygamist) sect. We are spending Christmas with them. And every night, their family gathers in a circle on the floor and his father, as head of the house, asks one of those present, usually one of their ten children, to say the nightly prayer.
Silver’s sister came into the game room and said, “Hey, come in for night prayer if you guys want.” I glanced at Silver. Should we? We agreed to at least kneel with them out of respect.
But what happened next shocked me. “Teal, will you say the closing prayer tonight?” his father asked me. ME!! Completely and entirely unprepared for that, I agreed out of habit of being agreeable. Did he have no idea we were unbelievers??? Was his family really that oblivious and out of touch with us?? My mind began to race. It had been years since I prayed. And technically this wouldn’t even be a prayer, as I wouldn’t actually be thinking anyone would listen. I would just be reciting words they would want to hear. But I felt SOOOO weird about it. I glanced at Silver again, “Do what you want,” he whispered. I felt extremely awkward and unsure and untrue to myself. But I figured I could withstand that for a few moments if it meant I didn’t have to face even further awkwardness by now refusing to pray.
So I did it. “Dear Heavenly Father…” I started. I felt sick. What the smell was I doing. What was I reinforcing. I rambled on with some “thank you’s” for family, living a fortunate life, time together, and some other junk that my mind tried to recall from my zealous religious days, and then… because of the Christmas season and the social pressure I felt to say it, “for sending your son on this earth to die for us that we may celebrate his birth tomorrow.” My ears were ringing so loudly I wanted to puke. I hated these words. I hated that they were coming out of my mouth. I hated the reinforcement of lies and misplaced hope and excuses for self-righteousness, judgement of others, the extreme sexism of the culture I found surrounding myself.
My mind is reeling. I immediately came to the computer to try to debrief with myself about what just happened. I feel so deceptive. I DECEIVED a FUNDAMENTALIST RELIGIOUS group into BELIEVING in GOD even more!!! OMG!!!!! ON CHRISTMAS!!!