In the eyes of most people, this new decade has gotten off to really a rather crappy start for me. And I’ll be honest, it wasn’t the start I was hoping for, but at the same time, I wish this would have happened a lot sooner.
Let me start at the beginning. I like to joke that I was born a Christian, but that isn’t far from the truth. I remember praying with my Mom when I was 5 or 6 to accept Jesus into my heart – mostly out of a fear of going to hell. In Grade 5 I was baptized, and in the years that followed there were countless rededications as I attended various youth events, Bible Camps, and Christian conferences. There was always the burning desire in my heart to know God and Jesus better, to have this deep sense of assurance that no matter what He loved me and wanted me as His child. I had heard that God wanted this kind of relationship with me, but I had never experienced it.
Then in my early twenties, I began to wonder if maybe all that I believed was something I had been taught, practically brain washed with, to make me behave and live in constant fear of screwing up – a.k.a. sinning. With the exception of a few people, whenever I mentioned how I was feeling to people I was given answers like “you are just going through a dark time, just have faith, stay strong, and it will get better.” So I tried. And I tried, and I tried. I got up earlier to do even more journaling and praying and Bible reading. I became even more actively involved in the church because I thought maybe I wasn’t doing enough. But no matter what I did, no matter how much I cried out, I continued to feel like I was invisible to God. Like somehow, I just didn’t matter.
To remedy this, I thought that maybe I needed to go away and focus purely on my relationship with God. So I took a 6 month leave of absence, I went to Germany and South Africa in an attempt to “fix” my relationship with God. To be blunt – this didn’t work either. There were a few moments where I felt like there was some sort of spiritual connection – I was able to pray in deeper ways then I had before, but I still didn’t particularly feel like I had a relationship with God.
When I got home, I no longer felt like I fit anywhere. I no longer felt like I could attend the church I grew up in, as no one there seemed to be able to understand where I was coming from – and I couldn’t really articulate how I felt either. So I thought maybe I should give up on my faith altogether. I had done everything I knew how to do to try to have a relationship with God, and I did not have this abundant, joyful, peaceful life that I had been promised since I was child.
With that logic in mind, I decided to attempt to live a life free of my Christian upbringing. Unfortunately (or probably fortunately), I could not separate myself entirely from the values I had been raised with. I tried to rebel (which would be mild in many people’s eyes, but I know now for me it most definitely was rebellion), to party, to casually date, to live for the moment, but I knew that this fundamentally was not who I was.
And then I met the man I consider to be my first “real” boyfriend. I had been on a few dates with different guys before him, had even dated one boy for 2 months, but I feel like this was my first real relationship. What I am about to say is not intended to be used as judgment against him, but rather a realization of how I let his views, thoughts and opinions impact me.
We were first introduced in an online dating website and after chatting for a bit we realized that we had a few things in common, including the fact that we both came from Christian backgrounds. I thought this was great, because it seemed that I finally found someone who understood where I was coming from, and I knew I could not get away from the fact that I had a belief system I needed to maintain. One of our first dates was even to go check out a church that he thought he might like to attend, so I thought that this was a really good match.
However, as we began to discuss various elements of our beliefs, there were some things that I found to be just a little off. Some of his views where “science” overruled what I understood from Scripture were a bit alarming, and his ability to reason away certain principles and values by taking them in their proper “context” was concerning. But rather than heed these red flags, I decided that I could understand where he was coming from, and so I began to try to accept his more liberal interpretation of the Scriptures. All the while my conscious was questioning me, but I justified it away, because this was the guy who got me going back to church.
As time went on, he began, indirectly, to question some of the Biblical characteristics that I had developed over years, specifically, I felt, my gentleness and love and concern for others. Again he would apply the reasoning that the verses I used to develop these characteristics were taken out of context, and that I should be much more callous and cynical. But this just did not sit right with me. I knew that this was not who I was, nor was it the person I wanted to become. But rather than stand up for myself, I again pushed these feelings and my conscience aside in an effort to keep the peace and make the relationship work.
Then finally, on January 7 & 8, 2010, it all fell apart. If I had been honest with myself, I had known for a while that things weren’t working, but I so desperately wanted things to work, that I tried to shrug this feeling off. However he also was recognizing that things were not working properly between us. To outsiders everything appeared fine, but we knew the truth, and so, after a month of trying to make it work, we came to the conclusion to end it. We determined to still be friends because neither of us disliked the other, but we just knew that it was not going to workout in the long run as anything more than that.
At first, I was devastated. I felt I had done something wrong and I should have been different, better, I’m not really sure, but I felt there must have been something I could have done. Then I started to look at what happened, and realized that there were words that had been spoken and things done that had really hurt me. Though this had not be the original intent of these actions, hurt had been the result just the same, and I began to realize that it was a good thing that it was over, because the longer it had continued the more hurt I would have become.
At the same time I was going through my first real breakup, God brought a friend back into my life that He has used to change me so much. In my eyes the transformation is incredible. This friend has been there for me over the last few years, but tried to keep a bit of distance because he didn’t want to distract me from the relationship I was in. Over the last year and a half, this friend has encouraged me, prayed for me, and has reminded me – without be pushy – that God loves me and cares for me.
Once my relationship was over, this friend and I began texting, a lot. He sent me links to various sermons, to which I was now willing to listen. And that is when all of the various pieces I described earlier fell into place. It culminated on January 24, 2010 when I finally was able to see all of these things clearly. I realized how blind I had been over the past years, but especially in the last year and half. All I could do was thank God for finally opening up my eyes to see the truth.
I know this is a journey, and I’m just finally back on the right path after a long detour. I know it will be challenging, but I’m excited see where this journey takes me and to meet the people God brings into my life to encourage me along the way. He has done so much already, I can’t wait to see what else He has in store for me. Thank you Jesus.