The theater was dark, though we got there early. A few people trickled in, but not many folks for the first showing Saturday morning. There were some young people, including my daughter and granddaughter, though I’m not so sure my daughter would consider herself a “young person”. Most of the people I noticed were like me, older and had gray hair; one person had a walker.
The thing is, the movie was about us old folks in a younger time. A time that was full of color and questions, when we seemed so full of life, yet death was never far away. It brought back memories, both sweet and sad. Friendships were transitory, yet there are a few names that I still hold in my memories and my heart.
Haight-Ashbury. How did a (somewhat) good, religious girl end up there? I say religious because religion was all I knew—and I was just as empty as those seeking enlightenment with drugs and pursuing meaningless relationships.
I played the guitar and sang over the PA systems of Greyhound buses. I sang on street corners in San Francisco. I hitchhiked around California trying to convince people to join me in the legalistic bondage I thought was Christianity. But it wasn’t. I was driven to please a man-made god, not recognizable as the God described throughout the Bible.
For me, home wasn’t good; in fact, I was sent to boarding school in Washington state (I was originally from Oregon) when I was 13, almost 14 years old. When I graduated from the academy, the thought of returning home terrified me, so I pleaded with my dad and stepmom to send me to college in California. It was 1968.
I was socially awkward and never seemed to fit in there. I thought I wanted to serve God (though I didn’t know Him) and didn’t have any other plans for my future. I’m not sure why I went to college other than to avoid an unpleasant home life.
I made it through about three years of college with no guidance before I realized my various activities weren’t conducive to academics. I remember going to one of my religion professors and asking him why we needed the cross since we had the law. I figured that all we needed to do was go to church on the right day of the week, and all would be good. I don’t remember what he answered me.
I eventually dropped out of college and got involved with a vegetarian restaurant down in Haight-Ashbury. It was a quasi-Christian outreach—I don’t know what else to say about it because as we were trying to promote vegetarianism, while at the same time some people from girl’s Teen Challenge in the area were witnessing to us. The reality of the situation is that they had the words of life. We had a dead religion that could not protect us in the face of the demonic activity and darkness of that area.
Memories flit through my brain as I try to piece the confusion of those years together. I didn’t stay in one place very long because my restless, searching soul found little peace. Once when I was still in school yet hitchhiking back and forth to San Francisco, I took every pill I could find because I couldn’t handle the emptiness and confusion inside myself—I was suicidal and had been for a long time. I lost a day but not my life—God seemed to have other plans for me.
I bounced around between “the Haight” and an inner-city ministry in S. California. I didn’t find what I was looking for at either place. Finally, one night when I was back in San Francisco, I knew that I had come to the end. This restlessness and the emptiness in my soul was so strong that, when the restaurant closed for the evening, I was going to silence the tyranny inside me by walking to the Golden Gate bridge and jumping off. I was silently screaming, yet I calmly closed the door and walked away. But then… God has a way of interrupting our plans!
Someone stopped me. They invited me up to one of the Christian communes in the area because a group of people there were going to be praying for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. That was something novel I hadn’t tried, so I thought, “sure, why not?”
Something radical happened to me that night. I’d like to explain it, but I can’t. Jesus met me in a powerful way, and He saved my life—in more ways than I can count. The obsession with suicide was gone, though the battles were not over.
That night began a faith journey for me, and it was completely unfamiliar and very difficult. I began letting go of my reliance on my performance for salvation and started to rely on the finished work of Jesus.
“For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8)
“I pray that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power in your inner being through His Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height, and depth of God’s love.” (Ephesians 3:16-18)
It has been a faith journey. I was a slow learner, and about 20 years later when my life seemed to fall apart, I walked away from Him—my old acquaintance suicide returned, though he didn’t stay. I came back to the Lord even stronger. …even though I walked away from Him, He did not forsake me!
From my past, my family and my religious upbringing, the most difficult aspect of having a relationship with Jesus is believing in and receiving His unconditional, undeniable love for me. Uninhibited, unrestrained unlimited love and acceptance. Yes, that’s what the cross did for me and will do for anyone who comes to Him.