As an impressionable youth under the auspices of a religious education, I had a deep and abiding fear of God. His wrath was the monster under the bed, my feelings of unworthiness in the night, and I lived in fear of him taking me away one day. I was terrified of being punished like Lot, tested like Job, marked like Cain, and made to suffer like Abraham. This was the God who flooded the world and declared “ Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19). There was no greater threat to my young existence than the angry man upstairs who apparently got in moods and could end the world as we know it. Religious episodes of The X-Files such as “All Souls” and movies like Bless the Child were horror films to me, and would leave me nearly shaking in fear. I’d sit in religion class and feel my palms itching, wondering if they’d start bleeding from stigmata holes. As I got older and got a healthy dose of Evangelical interpretations of the Book of Revelations, the Rapture became a bleeding sore I couldn’t stop scratching at. I was consumed with the simultaneous fear over being taken and being left behind. Both seemed horrific and bound to leave me separated from everyone I love. I feared God in a way I never quite worked up terror at the Devil. To a young child my logic was simple: be bad, go to hell. The Devil’s agenda was pretty clear cut and accordingly didn’t recreate the same level of paranoia. God however, was tricky. According to the rule books I was being taught from, there were a lot of hoops to jump through. It wasn’t enough to listen to your parents and try not to kill someone. He cared about your intentions, the state of your soul, and how much weight you put into the voices whispering to you in the dark. For a kid that spent a lot of time lying awake at night filled with self-doubt and thinking rotten thoughts that I was never allowed to voice, I was pretty convinced I was in Heaven’s reject pile. I’d try praying while I laid there, asking God to help me with my childish woes, to make me good enough. Good enough to be loved, to be liked, to be accepted. To want me enough so that one day I might see my Grandma Katie and my cat Joey again. And I never felt anything. I’d done as I’d been told and tried offering my heart to God, and I only ever felt like it was a gift he had no interest in.