What was it like the first time someone threw you a lifeline?
I was fourteen the first time someone threw me a lifeline. Not the drowning kind but the social convention kind that tells you things aren’t as bad as your imagination tells you they are, Even though your imagination may be partly right in its assumptions.
It was a Saturday night, And a young man’s fancy turns to love. It turns to – well – his heart may turn to love but his brain turns to mush. That was where I made the misstep.
I went to an evangelical event called “Youth Time” (we were’nt very savvy on branding in those days). Churches from all over the county that were too small (which is to say all of them) to field much of a youth group sent their kids to a large monthly gathering, held at churches that rotated opening their sanctuary. This one was held at the local Bible conference grounds.
Well there was a lake and moonlight and what was a fourteen year old with raging hormones supposed to do. This was oxygen and heat. All that was needed was fuel. And when I walked in it was right there in the form of Carolyn Rupert. Why I can’t remember what I had for lunch but can remember her name five decades later is beyond me.
I managed to get her name and a whiff of her perfume – her mom’s Jean Nate or something like that – during a game where you pass Lifesavers on a toothpick. If you never played it I can’t explain. If you’ve ever been fourteen and hormone driven I don’t have to bother explaining.
By the time we were singing praise song I had maneuvered to the back of the crowd and nearly convinced her the lake was a beautiful sight in the moonlight.
We stumbled through the woods to the lake. It was too “dangerous” to take the road because adults might be driving to the lake and see us. Se we stumbled and stubbed our toes to the beach. Held hands for a minute then made our way back. That’s when I was going to need a lifeline. My father had shown up early to give me the ride home, Standing in the back, scanning the crowd, the one thing he didn’t se was me. BUSTED.
It rapidly got worse. It could have been handled in house but he decided to outsource this particular issue. To the new pastor. So I rode home with the new pastor, He told me how I should treat every girl like a sister. Useless advice since all I had was an annoying little brother. And it made me feel worse because I knew whatever that meant (I not only didn’t know much, I didn’t suspect very much yet) I had not had sisterly designs on that evening,
Then when I was about to go under for the third time beneath a massive wave of guilt, that’s when he threw me the lifeline.
I don’t remember the conversation before, only the feeling after. Of relief. Of I’m not going to drown, though it will feel miserable for a while.
And the lifeline was this long:
“No one wants their life flashed on the silver screen.”
It wasn’t much as lifelines go. But it was enough for me. I looked at him. He was staring at the road as he drove.
In that instant I knew a feeling of relief. They al were just like me, No talk of original sin or the darkness of the human heart,
Just knowledge that everyone had a past, and this would be part of mine.