I said it was long, and I meant it. 🙂 I don’t know if the following is understandable, but it’s my story.
Spirituality. I think it’s always been a scary word to me, if I’m completely honest with myself. I was at the tender age of 5 when my mother was “born again” at a James Dobson or John MacArthur seminar I believe. Soon after, she sat down and told me that she had lied to me my whole life about the Easter Bunny, Santa, and the Tooth Fairy. And then she said she was SO sorry and that she knew Jesus would forgive her. I was so angry with her, and I was so incredibly confused that she was able to deny the existence of all of the invisible entities that I once held dear and simultaneously believe that everyone needed to believe in another invisible entity. The thing that soon changed my mind was the combination of the fact that I was still young enough to have my mind molded, and that suddenly there was a Hell. Fear of this Hell caused me to cry buckets at the story of Noah’s Ark, and promise that I would NEVER ever EVER be a bad girl again because I love Jesus and God and I will go to Heaven. Suddenly, rainbows weren’t just incredibly beautiful things that showed up in the sky after a rain sometimes, but reminders that God was once so pissed off at people like me that he drowned them all but his favorites and felt bad about it and said He’d never do it again. He placed in the sky to let you know He’s still watching. Almost like how my dad used to hang the belt on the wall in the living room instead of the closet.
My childhood consisted of church, my parents screaming and fighting, church, getting screamed at, church, being hit and “spanked” for sometimes no reason, other times I probably deserved it, church, being home schooled and bullied by kids at church, and more church. By the time I was 11, my mom had decided that being regular christian humans wasn’t acceptable with God. Suddenly we had to wear a special cover to pray, all of my jeans, overalls or any other pants were removed from my wardrobe and replaced by ugly dresses and skirts, the television was removed and we weren’t allowed any music with a “satanic” beat. Classical music was pretty much all we could listen to unless it was praise and worship music, but even most of that made my mom feel to “worldly” so she got rid of Michael W. Smith praise songs in favor of some church choir singing old hymns. I used to love Classical music. I love the fact that old hymns melodies were once drinking songs….but, I digress.
Legalism seeped in and slowly destroyed what wasn’t already broken in my home.. I was a 14 year old, ugly skirt wearing, long, long haired weirdo outcast in my small community and my best friend was my cat. My 4 younger sisters and younger brother were the next closest things to friends I had, but I admit that I’ve always been my own person and the 4 years between myself and my first sister didn’t help. That and the fact that from the time I was 8 my mother used me as a live in babysitter (not an exaggeration at all) well…let’s just say we were all suffering from some type of abuse/neglect in addition to the immense suppression that was inflicted by our life having rules of conduct that prevented us from even remotely fitting in with our peers. We were extreme even within the walls of the Reformed Baptist church my parents were members of. Love was missing. Missing from my home, the church, and my heart. When my parents marriage suddenly ended when I was 15, and my mother went into a very deep and dark depression, leaving my siblings and I to for a large part, fend for ourselves, I told God something I had wanted to tell him for years: “I HATE YOU!”
Well, the sky didn’t open and God didn’t kill me right on the spot, so maybe he understood..or..maybe he doesn’t exsist? This is what I thought at the time, but then my old “friend” Hell (or the fear of God) got me to start living like a good christian again. After only a few months I experienced some really awful and scary “encounters with demonic forces”. I saw things move on their own, felt presences, saw ghosts..and I became convinced that I was going to Hell if I didn’t repent. SO, I”repented” and was hardcore back into reading my Bible and praying for mercy. Even when I “rebelled” against some of my mother’s wishes and started wearing pants. cut my hair to the middle of my back, and started listening to Jars of Clay, I was completely certain that I was on God’s side and He was on mine. Fights with my mother would get so horrible and I would even end up injured after some of them. Finally, at 18, I couldn’t take it anymore. I moved to a Christian Conference Center on the coast only about an hour’s drive from my mom’s house and worked (waitressing, housekeeping, deli counter) 13 to 16 hours a day for room and board and attended their Sunday evening “service” since I couldn’t go to church since we had to work in the morning. I thought maybe I would find level-headed and kind hearted people there, since all my life the churches I’d been a part of were so close minded and heartless toward me and my family. Well, it didn’t take long to discover that these people were just the same, but they allowed blue hair and piercings, just not “rebellious” attitudes. I attempted suicide several times in this stage of my life, because I couldn’t find a loving soul without an agenda (and because I was a dramatic teenage girl with too many bad feelings). I figured I’d just like to meet God now rather than keep trying to find him in people. My last attempt at taking my own life was thwarted with the cute conference center worship leader taking a moment to see if I was okay as I was barreling off the grounds to drown myself in the undercurrent. He ended up listening to my story and successfully showed me that suicide is just plain selfish, because there is always at least one person who you’re taking yourself from. I never tried to take my own life again, but I also never found another listening ear while I was trying to work through my thoughts.
I dated a confused agnostic, and attended a Bible College program run on the same grounds as the conference center. I tried to make sense of the obviously contradictory ideas that were presented about the scriptures, and made a few friends with blue hair and piercings. They were way nicer and more understanding than the regular looking people. My relationship started going really bad. We fought a lot and he beat me (and himself) if I didn’t devote every spare moment to him. We went to get help from conference center overseers and were sent to christian couples counseling which got us no where at all. And then I met a guy that my best gal pal introduced me to… and my boyfriend saw that we hit it off. He dumped me after trying to drive us off a cliff but chickened out…soon after that I dropped out of the bible school, and I left the conference center.
I had no where to go (and refused to go home to my mom) and stayed with my girlfriend for awhile. The guy she introduced me to before my boyfriend ended it was really nice. His name is Andrew. He’s a (off and on) pastor’s kid. His family took me in and gave me a job when a roommate situation with a girlfriend of mine fell through. I started dating Andrew a few months later and they kicked him out and kept me to make sure I was good girlfriend material. I have no idea how I didn’t run screaming from the building, but they altered my wardrobe and overall style to fit their vision of being “godly” and I actually let them because I was in love with their son. Right off the bat I knew that Andrew was far more experienced than I was both socially and sexually. He hid the latter from his mom and dad quite well it seemed. Frankly, I was and still am, sexually inept and confused beyond belief. In the end, I married him, only six months after we met and so soon because his parents were afraid we’d “do it” before we were married. (Why does it really matter?)
Fast forwarding… In the first 5 years of marriage…We hopped from church to church because I wanted to find real, honest, loving people who cared and wanted to be cared for. I think my husband just went along with me, but he seemed to get along wherever… We had fights with his parents and my mom over spiritual things, we had churches tell us we were “abandoning family”or being rebellious like witches when we left over serious hypocrisy or severe misogyny and abuse of power. I always ended up feeling like the only people that mattered were the potential converts. The people “out there”… But I didn’t matter. I was supposed to have it all figured out already and be a functioning member of the “body”. At one very “progressive” church, I tried to be a youth leader and they kicked out my (I had found one at last!) mentor when they discovered he is gay. I still miss him. 🙁 The guy that took over for him had a doctorate in something theological and wanted all of us to call him “Dr.” afterwards. He made me feel like a useless woman. I couldn’t be involved in certain things because of the fact that I was born female. My talents and forte’s could only be used if it was appropriate and I was submissive to the penis people’s god given authorities. (This still makes me very mad.) I called to say I was leaving, he told me I was just taking a break. I said, no, I am not coming back. He said, yes you are, you will be back. (no, i won’t)
Year 6 of my marriage was hell on earth. I had a car accident that left me with permanent dizzy spells and headaches as well as other things. My husband lost his job and were plunged into massive debt. We could barely keep our apartment, and the only way our church would help is if we were giving enough of our time and energy to them. Even then, we were told we couldn’t live with a couple (who initially offered to put us up in their basement until we got on our feet) because our little daughters would interfere with their dogs comfort. (Sorry, you might have to be homeless, but we can’t have our 3 story 4,000 square foot home invaded by two legged sticky children and make our doggies uncomfy. God bless you, though. Oh, and here’s a little cash.) That same year I learned that my husband cheated on me and there was not one single solitary christian who could offer me a loving hand or listening ear. I stayed with him after all was said and done, and a couple years off from church.
When I look back on ALL my years in churches, I realize that I never once truly felt like a part of any of it. I always ended up being an outcast or a wallflower or an object of ridicule or just plain mistreated for no good reason. The love that those people spoke of from the podium and in ladies bible studies was completely absent from the the great majority interactions that I recall having with them. The final church I will ever attend delivered the last few straws before my camel’s back was thoroughly broken. It was about 3 years and 9 months ago. A woman at our new church, whom I had stupidly tried to reach out to in a fit of kind, peaceful doing unto others as I would want done unto me, decided to share a “word from the Lord” with me. The message? “The reason you are so lonely, and no one talks to you after church is that God doesn’t want you to have any friends”. That, among a whole slew of other mean things put me over the edge. These people were using god to justify being horrible and church was like an extension of high school social games. I couldn’t take the gossiping and backstabbing and any of it any more. After I left, I wrote a letter to the pastor to let him know that I cared for him and his family but that I couldn’t do it anymore. He wrote back to tell me that it was my problem. They didn’t talk to me even though I said I would still be happy to talk. I had just found out I was pregnant (surprise) and I had a very bad feeling about it. I ended up very sick and hospitalized when the baby stopped growing. From 16 weeks in they said she would not live, or had a serious genetic defect. She was born 3 months early, weighed only 14 ounces, and stayed in the hospital for 4 months. There were many churches that knew of our circumstances, yet not a single person from any one of them did anything but say they were praying for us. We really could have used some meals or babysitting for our older girls while I visited the baby in the hospital. The only people that came through to help or be supportive at all in a real sense were my atheist half brother and his family. It was during this time that I began to lose my religion completely. I went through one last period of fear gripping me and making me SEARCH and this time I started searching outside of scripture. I found out that Hell isn’t real, and that religion is about control. I found out that we don’t know everything, and maybe we can’t. I think I am okay with that, but I am not okay with the fact that I am feeling so incredibly bitter. I am bitter over the fact that I don’t know why people are so two faced and mean and using an invisible entity to justify their behaviour. I am bitter because I don’t know how to talk to most people when they want to know what I believe. I don’t even know what I believe. I just know that LOVE is real, and I don’t really feel it until I give it.
I am bitter because there are so many attitudes that are contradictory and so many people hurting because someone with “authority” was unloving to them and quoted scripture to justify it. I am bitter because I can’t tell someone how bitter I feel without them telling me to not let “people” color my view of “god”…I do not even know if there is “a god”…I do feel that there is a beautiful world and I wish I could see more of it. Money sucks, and lots of people suck. I still believe that there are lots of people that don’t. I want to overcome my bitterness and learn to look beyond the junk from my past that is clouding my vision. I want to move forward and learn how to be the person I always felt I was, but wasn’t allowed to be.
I am ready to swim in the ocean instead of staying inside the buoys near the shore.
I’m ready to meet all the sea creatures. 🙂