Editor’s note: This story is a part of The Lutheran World Federation’s Her-stories global Lutheran storytelling project. If you have a story of how women have reformed the church or influenced your spiritual life, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Her-stories” in the subject line. Written stories can be up to 1,300 words. Audio/video can be up to five minutes. To learn more about Her-stories and submission guidelines, please click here.
[Audio transcript] My name is Marit Johnson, and I’m 23 years-old.
Lutheranism has been a part of my life since birth. I’m a PK – a term I’ve never liked, but have had to live with. With my dad being a pastor, I’ve been Lutheran before I even left the womb.
I come from a small town in North Dakota – only about 1400 people. My high school graduation class had thirty students. My confirmation class had eight. I was the only girl. Confirmation classes were every Wednesday afternoon with the 8th graders right after school and the 9th graders following. The boys were always happy for confirmation. In the fall, it got them out of football practice, and in the winter, it got them out of basketball.
But Lent was different. In Lent, we didn’t have confirmation class. Each of us had to ask a member from the congregation to be our confirmation mentor. We would meet with our mentor after each service – each pair finding some corner in the church to discuss the sermon. How did it relate to confirmation? Church teachings? What it meant to be Lutheran?
Most of my confirmation classmates seemed to choose their mentor so easily – a Jr. High teacher, a former Sunday school teacher, a trusted coach. I was at a loss. Who could I choose? This was an important decision. I’d have to talk to this person about
intimate religious thoughts and ideas for a minimum of thirty minutes – not an easy thing for a young introvert to do.
My parents had a suggestion. “How about Carol?”
Not many fourteen-year-olds would ask an 80-year-old widow to be her mentor, but I did. Twice. For both my 8th grade and 9th grade confirmation years.
I think I shocked Carol by asking her to be my mentor, but it’s one of the best decisions I ever made.
Our little hideaway was the nursery in the back of the church. Sitting side-by-side in two rocking chairs, we talked about each service. My Dad always sent notes with prompts and questions to the mentors before the service for a starting point. Carol and I made it through each list and beyond. My fear of having nothing to say seemed silly. Our sessions spanned an hour if not more. She and I were always the last ones to leave. Each Wednesday I helped my Dad turn off the last few lights as Carol put on her coat and said goodbye.
Every Wednesday was filled with faith, poetry, quotes, and wisdom on life. I learned so much from Carol then, and I continue to learn from her now. Her kindness and her faith know no bounds.
One of my favorite quotes Carol gave me comes from WH Auden’s poem As I Walked Out One Evening. It goes like this, “You shall love your crooked neighbor with your crooked heart.”
Isn’t that exactly what Jesus calls us to do? To love our neighbor with our whole heart? In this broken world, I know that I fault my neighbor for many things. Each day I remind myself “You shall love your crooked neighbor with your crooked heart” because I sin each day, too.
Carol recites almost all of her quotes entirely from memory.
At my confirmation party when Carol handed me my gift she laughed as she told me, “I wanted to pair this with a Bible verse, but all I could come up with is ‘Vanity of vanities all is vanity.’”
She gave me a pair of earrings. I still wear them often.
Maybe, someday, I’ll be as cool as Carol.