One Sunday when I was eleven I heard a sermon about hell that terrified me. I believed the pastor was talking directly to me. God, displeased with my life, might strike me down at any moment. He totally cared what an eleven-year-old boy who like to play with Lego sets in Virginia Beach was up to.
I remember the pain in my chest I felt after the sermon. I remember holding it all in, certain I was destined for an eternity of torture. Finally, I spoke to my mom about it. She assured me I wasn't going to hell.
But why should I believe her? Sometimes I overheard her praying for us, pleading for the salvation of our souls. She was just being polite to my face. "Oh no, sweetie, the pastor wasn't talking about you." But I'd see her out in the garden, at sunset, sitting out there with her eyes closed, her lips moving. She had barely spoken much that day, and I could see the sadness in her eyes. It was because we were going to hell, that's why she was so depressed.
Anyway, my Sundays mornings are free now. Maybe I'll take the Lord's name in vain. Maybe I'll dishonor my parents. Maybe I won't keep the Sabbath holy. Maybe a murder or two. So many possibilities now.