Guest Post Sunday – Rachael Mogan McIntosh

Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 1.16.02 PM

I Was A Teenage Christian Faith – Hugger

Through the beauty of Facebook and a mutual friend, I got in touch with my very first boyfriend this week. He’s married now, like me, with three kids. He’s a proper grown up person; a surgeon even!  Talking to him sent me back in time nearly thirty years.

I was fifteen, and deeply immersed in the land of Antioch, a group for Catholic youngsters. We wore giant wooden crosses and wrote messages of support and love in each other’s Bibles.

At video nights, we learned to kiss; demonstrating appalling techniques as we figured out pash-mechanics: tongue-stabbing, tonsil-probing, teeth licking. Safely schooled in good old Christian fear, there was never any question of actually ‘doing it’, although we became skilled at what we later called ‘dry rooting for Jesus.’ (Sorry, Mum.)

I remember a lot of faith crises, when one teen or another would worry about their relationship with God, and other teenagers would hug them a lot. On Sunday nights when we met up after church to sing Christian rock and hold hands damply around a prayer circle, there were always or two boys having a ‘really hard time’ and needing hugs. The girls were always happy to hug those who needed it. We had a lot of hormones too and nobody was ‘doing it’, but lengthy hugs when somebody was worried about Jesus were different. They were not sexy. They were religious hugs. Lengthy, intense, sweaty, religious hugs.

I remember an older boy called Beelzebub* who played the guitar at our weekend retreats. We would all stand on chairs at the breakfast table while he rocked out ‘Jack and Diane’ and ‘Joy To The World’, and I tried to clap loudly and do good 80’s dancing to capture his attention. Sadly, my love for Beelzebub* went unrequited, despite how high I belted my 501’s, how fluffily I bouffed my peroxided fringe or how enthusiastically I waved the ‘I Love Jesus’ hand signal in the air.

It wasn’t too long before the sexy faith hugging started to pall a little.  I took to slipping out of the side door of church after communion, before the final prayers, and then to hanging around smoking Silk Cut outside the church hall rather than going inside for the prayer circle and the dancing. We started drinking hip flasks of vodka through straws, and instead of watching ‘Cocktail’ at the video nights; we started renting ‘Shocking Asia’. Instead of questioning our relationship to God, we started questioning his existence.

I relived some of that long-ago past this week, remembering the intensity and the wonder of it all. The newness and the purity of it. Antioch was where I made friends with boys for the first time – smart, kind boys – and started learning about love and relationships. I made a lot of mistakes there. I learnt some excellent Christian rock. I started refining and extending my latent talent for naughtiness.

And now, here I am, with two daughters  and a sweet little son of my own.   They are being raised as godless heathens, because they are small enough that their father and I have that power, but religious faith – or lack of it –  is their choice to make as they come of age. I was a rebel, and their father is deeply stubborn, and so it’s possible that they are genetically coded for extreme naughtiness, and their push-back against their atheist parents may well take the form of enthusiastic religiousness. Take that, Mum and Dad! God bless you!

It only feels like five minutes since those days for me. That’s how I know that it will only be another five until my kids are seething hormonal casseroles looking for excuses to hug people. Jesus is probably as good an excuse as any. It was a really good time, after all.

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 4.48.50 PM Rachael Mogan McIntosh lives on the Australian south coast with her three children and just the one husband. She likes to make lists, cook and read books in the bath. She finds motherhood very pleasing and endlessly comedic. She agrees that it is not easy but neither is making a really nice croqembouche, and in her experience they both come with great rewards, although only one has custard. Follow her on Twitter – @mogantosh and visit her blog here! And you should, funny stuff!

Did you go to a Youth Group?

What did you really learn?