The first piece of real advice I remember hearing from my mother was, “Listen to that little voice inside. It knows what is in your heart. If it feels wrong, don’t do it. If it feels right, do it.” I heard this nugget of wisdom throughout my childhood. As an adult, it is a recurring theme. Over and over again I am tasked with hearing the Little Voice over the bigger voices. The Little Voice is the true voice, I’m told. The Little Tiny Voice waits its turn to speak and when it does, you’d do well to listen.
This was great advice, in theory. Sometimes when faced with a critical decision such as, eating a cupcake from a classmate’s birthday party at school, I would consult Little Voice. I would get quiet inside and close my eyes, like my mama taught me, and ask, “Little Voice, I would like to have a cupcake. Is that okay, do you think?” And Little Voice would always say, “Do you think it is okay?” This frustrated me no end. I would think to myself, of course I think it’s okay, but I want a cupcake now don’t I? To which Little Voice would reply, “Nothing is wrong with having a cupcake unless you believe there is.” In the end I would have no cupcake. I would feel righteous for choosing Jehovah over the temporary pleasure of a confectionary treat.
My grandmother became a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses before I was born. Jehovah’s Witnesses had a long list of taboos. Among them was the celebration of birthdays. It was forbidden, considered sinful even, to celebrate one’s birthday. In the Bible birthdays are mentioned three separate times. Each time, something terrible happened. The Elders, in their infinite wisdom, translated this to “birthday celebrations are bad.” I translated this to, “I must be bad if I eat one of these cupcakes.” It didn’t feel wrong. I knew inside it wasn’t wrong. Little Voice even indicated as much. Nevertheless, I was trained to believe it would not please Jehovah. Displeasing Jehovah was bad. Charming ideas for a seven year to carry around.
My mother continued the religious tradition until I was ten and she divorced my father after learning of his decade-old infidelity. She believed in divorce only in extreme circumstances. Adultery was extreme enough for the congregation and after ten years of being miserable, she was free to divorce without guilt. Later she was caught smoking a cigarette and the illusory cocoon of her acceptance into the fold would be shattered. She lasted ten years in a terrible marriage so as not to offend God, Jehovah, only to be cast aside over a cigarette.
A tiny seed of anarchy was planted in me then. I knew God, Jehovah, and I knew He (later I would wonder if it might be “she.”) would never forsake us and never judge us nor condemn us for making “bad” choices. I knew this from my own religion, the very same group of people who condemned others with self-righteous indignation. They shunned one another and refused to associate with “worldly” people.
I was 24 when I finally felt the grip loosen of those long held beliefs about God, Jehovah and the whole Who’s Who of the Bible fraternity. It’s been almost ten years since I started my journey in earnest awakening. A little bit of struggle here and there, it’s hard not to get caught up in the human dramas we create. It really is a process, isn’t it? I thought for sure I’d be where I was going by now. How do I know I’m not already there? How do I know if I’m even on the right path? I know because Little Voice told me so. It reminds me every day. “You can’t not be on the right path,” It says. It says, and I listen.