"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: The World As It Is

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The World As It Is

"We see the world not as it is but as we are." Sisu included this gem in a recent post.

I was about 25 when I heard this idea for the first time. I thought it was dumb. Later it hit me like lightning.

I was a very young 18 when I left the OALC and my family, and I wandered in a parched emotional Sinai for several years, unsure of my future. I had been taught to see the world as a dangerous place and the evidence was certainly there, if only in the newspapers. I went to college by day and waitressed by night, walking to and from work on the very strip where the Green River Killer prowled for victims.

My antennae were tuned to fear -- not horror-movie fear but the garden variety, more like a low-grade flu. The kind of fear that makes you a tad more ALERT than you need to be, no matter where you are. That turns innocuous remarks into poison darts. That prevents one from being curious about others, because one is so busy defending oneself.

I met wonderful people, but when I encountered any rudeness or dishonesty, it loomed larger than the million kindnesses that preceded it.

And I was still attached to having OPINIONS about everything, as if it was possible and important to have the RIGHT thoughts.

But I was fortunate. As the years passed, I became more and more acclimated to the human race, in all its dizzying variety.

One spring day I was walking in the city, passing strangers on the sidewalk, meeting their gazes briefly and walking on -- watching long lines of drivers cooperating with each other to get to their destinations -- hearing the familiar noise and bustle without really hearing it, When I noticed that almost everyone was smiling. At me.

That's because I'm smiling, I thought. That's when I felt the thunderbolt: Love has changed me. Love sees differently.

I'm sorry . . . really there are no words to express this. You can understand if you've been there, and if you haven't, it seems a bit ridiculous.

I still struggle with my fears (hence the blog's title). But I'll always remember that insight, and I'm grateful for it.

Anyway, thanks for listening.


  1. Nicely written and I completely understand where you are coming from. I have days now when I am so incredibly happy that I'd like to yell it from the rooftops!

  2. Free, you found that you were a person just like everyone else. You weren't any different, you were just like them. With fears, insecurities, questions, faith, love, and yes, finally, confidence in who you were. Loved by God and by others just for being you - unconditionally - and then able to reach out to others in the same way. And it showed! AnonyMouse

  3. Dear Free,
    You are so sweet! I hope I make it to Astoria next summer so I can meet you.
    I wrote a long missive yesterday but it's not here so I guess it disappeared into Neverland. I'll try to reconstruct it later. It was about fear being instilled in us as youngsters. Your posting certainly resonated with me!

  4. I can relate. I started to lose my fear of the world as a teenager when I went a little wild. As an adult I still suffer from "judgementalitis". I really did view the world, as a child, with an attitude that they are all "UNCHRISTIANS" and must therefore be bad. I think I will never be as socially free as some because of the isolation growing up. I had tons of cousins and church friends but was isolated from reality. But I am a works in process! God loves me and isn't finished yet.

  5. Good Morning to all of you dear ones!



  6. Many Trails Home11/04/2005 12:08:00 PM

    This is a gem. God bless us, every one. MTH

  7. Hi "Free:"

    This is my new mantra:

    "The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you. They are unique manifestations of the human spirit." Wade Davis

    Comes in a poster at a wonderful catalog I subscribe to: Tools for Change/Syracuse Cultural Workers on the Web at www.syrculturalworkers.com

    --A laestadian who has not left her church

  8. A friend of mine owns a business and employees two OALC members. When these men have brought their kids into the shop on occassion, my friend commented on how absolutely silent the kids are--no response if he tries to talk or joke with them. He can't figure it out, as he is a real friendly, outgoing guy. I told him not to take it personally.

  9. The kids are probably shy, I don't think this reflects on the OALC. When my kids are talked to by my co-workers they sit in stone silence, embarrased to be the center of attention. So i can relate.

  10. i grew up in an apostolic church, probably one of the more liberal factions. as a kids we had fun at church, running around outside, playing kick the can, football, etc. it seems to me the folks in that church had plenty of laughter to share. the laestadian experience sounds totally different to the experience i had growing up. i left the church for a variety of reasons, mainly because the membership seemed limited to finns and people who married them. i also have never understood what could be so wrong about dancing and having a beer every now and then...

  11. Anonymous--

    My guess is you are a Pollari, like I am. Anyway, I did not understand WHAT a Pollari was but I am guessing you are from the Indpendent Apostolic Lutheran Church, either the bigger one (Matt Reed) or the smaller one (Aunes Salmela). I might even know you! Anyway, I know of at least three couples in my congregation that are neither Finn nor have married Finns, so maybe that is changing? It's usually the case that they started going to church with a friend of theirs, and then meets someone from outside the church and has brought them in that way. And yes, you are right, beer and dancing still quite prohibited so that has not changed. I myself had a blast at church when I was young and going there was the best part of my life. I remember how hard school was for me socially and how much pressure there was to be popular, to drink and party, and other things I didn't want to do, but there was always so much love and acceptance and laughter at the church. I might have killed myself if I didn't have that because I was so bullied and tormented at school. At church I was popular, had romantic interests and a good social life. In school, boys would bark at me and tell me I was a dog, girls would trip me and call me names in the hallway. If it wasn't for church, I would have believed I was the ugliest girl alive, even though I was in actuality quite pretty. I used to cry uncontrollably going back from Labor Day services because I had to go back to school and face my tormenters.

  12. It is wonderful that you were brought up in a loving church. I wish everyone could experience that. My FALC childhood was not so great. Certain families have tended to stick together (they try to control the church, etc). In my teenage years, I saw some of the kids in the "unpopular" families get made fun of and stuff like that. One of my brothers HATES his childhood because of the things he experienced from the church kids. I got over it for the most part (realizing the kids were brainwashed, etc) but it's really traumatic for some. Children learn to hate...it is usually not instinctive. It's no wonder the FALC just had a split.

  13. Wow, I wonder if there are kids at my church who experienced that as well? I know there were some "more" popular kids than others at my church, and some kids not quite as popular, but looking back 20+ years I don't know if I am seeing things accurately anymore. I know in the past I have had some challenges with the church. It bothered me as well that some families were more influential than others. I know a couple of kids at the church who I thought picked on some of the weaker kids, too. When adults found out about these kinds of things they intervened, chiding bulliers that you can't mistreat a brother or sister in faith. The biggest bully I don't see around anymore to tell you the truth. I've heard he is a drug addict. Some of the minor ones have actually seemed to grow up to be really nice people, which surprised even me. I think there are mean kids everywhere, as there is no sin not common to man. It must be really rough for kids who don't fit in at school because they refuse to conform to the world only to find that they are not accepted at the church either. If that had happened to me I wonder where I would be today.

    One thing I thought would be an issue that so far seems to have turned out well is the incidence in the last 15-20 years that children born of mixed (Finn and non-white) heritage and from adoption have grown up would they be accepted as teenagers? Would they find lasting friends and would they fully participate in the social life, including dating? So far it seems some of our xenophobic nature has worn off, and that's a good thing. There are some Native American, latino, Asian, and black children at the church now and they seemed to be as cherished as the "Finn" kids.

    Every church has some unhealthy elements, including mine.
    Church SHOULD be a refuge and provide hope for the hopeless!

  14. The problem is too much focus on hell, too much judging, and too much pride. All these churches need is to open up the bible and to read how much love christ had for his people. I was told this is what "worldly" churches do...but... WWJD? ("WHAT WOULD JESUS DO")