No matter which direction I turn, I see walls. They all rise higher than I can see, with no way to climb over them. The floor beneath me is packed solid and impossible to dig beneath. From where I stand, I can see three paths. One leads straight ahead and the other two branch out on either side.
I am inclined to go straight, into the rather large tunnel that shows a glimmer of what might be daylight at the end.
The path to the left is decorated with graffiti and littered by empty cans and bottles. It appears narrower than the middle tunnel and it makes a gradual turn not too far from the start, but I can hear people from somewhere further down it. They sound like they are having fun, but all I can wonder is who would throw a party here, in the dark and the cold?
The path to the far right is small as well, though not as small as the other. It looks as if it goes on straight for quite some time. There isn’t anything at the entrance but a drop card, one that protests abortion, and a length of ribbon, presumably used for the purpose of tying back one’s hair. Quiet chatter drifts towards me from this channel, accented occasionally by an angry voice.
I turn back to the middle path and am about to step into it when I hear something.
Come this way…
A voice beckons from somewhere in the dimness, calling me away from the straight path. Almost without thinking, I find myself stepping into the path to the right…
I had been right. It continues straight for a long while. I’ve relaxed, begun to think that maybe this one was the right choice, when it makes a sharp turn.
Shadows of people pass me occasionally, milling back towards the entrance only to turn back and run past me, towards whatever lies ahead. Buildings begin to appear along the wall, spaced periodically and then with more frequency.
The Change begins with my outward appearance. The closer I am to What Is Ahead, the more my appearance is altered.
My hair grows long. Whatever makeup I had been wearing melts away. I stop at a building and exchange my generic clothing for a lacy blouse and flowing skirt, met with the approving smile of the woman behind the register once I step out from the changing room.
My thoughts, which had once been so unique, begin to conform with the whispers I hear in this tunnel.
Father God, I pray for a hedge of protection –
Abortion is evil. Homosexuality is a sin. Condemn them.
Christian music, Christian movies, Christian books. These are safe… All else is filled with lies...
It doesn’t even click with my mind that what I’m hearing might be wrong.
I simply accept it as truth.
It could be hours by the time I realize how twisted my mentality has become, or it could be weeks. Months, even.
Days spent accusing people, looking down on them from an ivory pedestal, for living different than the way I do. Weeks of damning them to hell for thinking thoughts unique to my own. Years of thinking that I was preferable to them, simply because I deemed my life more “holy” than theirs.
What have I become?
I see a young girl in a polo shirt and denim skirt, singing softly under her breath. Her posture is demure, her voice meek and mild.
She is the last thing I see before my shame motivates me to turn and run back the way I came.
Back at the start. An empty slate, wiped clean by the forgiveness of my Savior. Again, I am about to start out on the middle road when someone calls to me from the tunnel to my left.
And I abandon what is right, what is good and pure and whole.
Hemlines fall higher and higher against the girls thighs as neckline plunge further down than I had thought possible as I meander down this tunnel. No. I stride. Strut. Nearly run. Meander is too gentle a word for the intensity my steps possess. I grapple with what I had been taught about modesty, about a woman’s demeanor and outward appearance, before relenting and trading in my “prairie-muffin” clothes for things deemed stylish and, dare I say it, worldly.
The theme of this tunnel is simple. Live for yourself. The motto rebounds off of the walls, echoing in the noise, just loud enough to be heard without distracting from the happenings.
At first it’s fun. I’ll admit to that much.
But then it gets scary.
I start to see piercings and tattoos. Curses colorfully accent every sentence, sometimes every other word.
And I lose faith. hope. Characteristics that had once been cherished desert me.
Or, perhaps, it is I that desert them.
It isn’t just mental bonds I fight with to escape this time. There are physical ones as well. Curse words have engrained themselves so far into my mind that half of the time I don’t even think before they’re out in the air between myself and whoever I’m speaking with. There are people I have become friends with who try to hold me back from liberation, dragging me backwards as I make my escape.
Only there isn’t an escape.
The cavern, the place where I began, is just ahead when I trip, stumbling back until I’ve lost track of how far I’ve fallen or how much ground I’ve lost.
But I start again, running as hard and as fast as I can for that opening, the place I feel free.
Then I wake up. I am at the start with the same choice to make, three paths to choose from, but something is different.
I don’t know what I believe anymore.
It’s true. I know the basics. I know the core of my beliefs. Genesis 1:1. God created the Earth and put us on it. What His motivation was, I don’t know. Maybe we’re pawns. Pawns that He loves, sure, because I do know, in my heart, that He loves us. Dearly. John 3:16. His son died for our sins, so that we wouldn’t have to. Revelation 1:7. I believe that Jesus is going to come again and that everything in Revelation will come to pass.
But the details is where it all gets fuzzy, and I think that’s in part due to how many different beliefs I have had driven into my skull as I’ve grown up.
And that’s why I don’t know what is right and wrong. I don’t know who to listen to and who to ignore. I don’t know what has meat to chew and what is just a mouthful of bones that needs to be spit out.
I don’t know what I believe anymore.