By Star Young
Growing up in the South, aka the Bible Belt, Bible was a graded subject just like Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. I attended a denominational private church school where you got your place in the lunch line by the Bible verse you could quote. In fact, I actually read the whole Bible but just like the other subjects, I retained what connected with me and forgot what I crammed just for the grade.
One day in 2nd grade my teacher came into the class and told us that today was going to be a very exciting day. She felt that it was the day we would rise up and go to heaven. The whole class of 2nd graders looked around at each other with anxiety and jubilation. We were all going to heaven, today! Of course we didn't even crack a book that day. We wouldn't even go to the bathroom because we didn't want to start floating up in the act.
Well it didn't happen during the school hours. When I got home from school I informed my parents of what was going to happen any minute. I don't think they even got what I meant until my mom checked on me in the bathtub. She was surprised to find me in my bathing suit. She asked me what was I doing. I simply stated, 'I told you, we are rising up to heaven today'. Then she asked, ' Why are you wearing your bathing suit?' I then answered, 'Well if we rise up while I'm in the tub, I don't want to go naked!'. Needless to say, after a few parent phone calls there was no more talk about leaving our chairs except for lunch or recess. Though the talk of heaven continued.
That same teacher told us all about the wonders of heaven where we would always be happy, never be sick or have any worries. The only thing that worried me now was that some of my friends might not be able to play with me in heaven if they didn't believe in the things I did. Thus my career as an evangelist began as I tried to save or convert my friends so they could play with me in heaven.
Well this time my mother was receiving all the phone calls- about me. She tried to explain to me that each person has the right to their beliefs. We talked about faith and she impressed on me that it is a personal choice and how we are lucky to have the freedom to choose what we believe. She told me that the relationship with God was a personal one and to God that was the most important thing.
I went to my local high school, which was in a larger diverse metro area. I had a wide circle of friends from other faiths and I would ask lots of questions about their beliefs and traditions. Everyone had such different ideas that I began to question what I was taught. In college, I wasn't thinking too much about my faith, but I knew I was still searching.
When I began my career, I also began a deeper quest for my own personal beliefs. The term spirituality was still somewhat radical. There was a distinct difference between spiritual and religious, you were either one or the other, but you couldn't be both. It could be a polarizing subject.
Over the years I read hundreds of books on different religions, new age, quantum physics and self help books trying to find what connected to me, what felt right and would finally give me peace about what to believe.
After a successful career, marriage and two beautiful children along, with great material comfort, it still felt like something was missing. When I started my divorce and what felt like to me the world was spinning out of control, I stopped and asked God 'Why?'. It had been a terrible year. I had tried couple and personal counseling, an Oprah soul session, read The Secret, joined a Bible study and read various self help books, but nothing satisfied that internal need.
One day I was on my knees, I felt confused, lost and lonely. I heard a guttural cry that I really wasn't sure where it was coming from. Then I realized it was me. It scared me. I cried out to God. I told Him all my worries, my fear, my pain. I cried and let it all out. I couldn't fix, control or deny anymore. Exhausted I handed it ALL over to Him.
As I lay in a puddle, I felt I might fall into the deepest sleep I had not had in months, maybe years. Just at the moment I heard Him say, 'Daughter, arise for I am with you'.
My eyes were closed and I said out loud - 'What?'. He replied, 'I am with you. You are born again unto me'. Then as softly as I heard Him, I softly felt His presence. Then it was just quiet. All that was left was a peace that could not be explained. I began to question myself, was it really God? But as soon as I started to doubt, an internal confirmation told me to trust.
That was a new beginning for me. Not that everything was magically smooth sailing, but the storm that had rocked my world turned to a rocking that I could survive. That day I realized what a personal relationship with God meant. The words of my mother came back to me, faith is personal. After what I call my 'kneed' experience, I didn't have all the answers but I did begin to understand the difference between religion and spirituality. There was still so much I didn't know about my future but I knew I was on my path to my # happily 4ever after.
Star Young is an entrepreneur and Fortune 500 award winning executive. Ms.Young is a certified excellence coach and a trained facilitator of Edward Deming Continuous Improvement. In addition, she has been a talent for CBS syndicated programming, as well as a co- founder of the Beauty Spot and author of Smart Girlfriends Guide series.