Over the course of the last couple of years, people have asked to hear my testimony of how I became a Christian, of how I learned how to conquer the darkness and embrace the light. It’s a long and complicated story and much of it would take posts and posts to get all the details.
And some I’m not ready to share or even know how. So for right now I am focusing on a major part of my life the last ten years, the biggest events that really affected me the most and helped me become the person I am today.
I asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins when I was six. Whether I fully understood what I was doing is something probably only God knows, and it wasn’t until I was around the age fourteen that I rededicated my life to Christ and fully understood what it means for to be saved. That’s the long and short of me “becoming a Christian.” There were no bright lights or angels singing from heaven, just me realizing that I needed more, that God was what my seeking soul craved.
Bitterness still exists, I’ll be honest. I’m human — I would be lying if I said that sometimes I don’t relapse into the mindset of yesterday.
I use to think that bitterness was just a part of life, like brushing your teeth in the morning or going to work or doing school. It was something so normal and mundane I didn’t realize it wasn’t meant for any of us.
I use to think that bitterness was freedom, because I thought it gave me the freedom of feeling. I thought that because I was acting on my emotions, that because they weren’t buried inside, I was experiencing release. That’s never the truth though, because no matter how much you hate someone, you end up only hurting yourself.
Once they’re gone, they’re gone, but the trauma can last a lifetime. Healing doesn’t come in the screaming rage but in the nearly impossible form of forgiveness.
This is my story.
I was bullied by someone I trusted and admired at the age of twelve.
Over and over I relived her words. She made terribly rude comments, sometimes on my looks, and also the fact that I was a late bloomer. She acted like I was dumb and naive and quickly saw that she could play with my emotions. When I would turn away so she couldn’t see the tears, she fed off that and would laugh. Her parents were there watching much of the time and did nothing to stop her, making the actions worse.
I quickly realized that if I could please her, then she wouldn’t berate me as much, and so I dressed like she told me and did what she wanted me to.
Our time together was brief, but her words and actions scarred me well into my teen years. I didn’t understand how someone so much involved in church, someone admired by her peers and adults in the church, could treat me like that.
I remember sitting with her during an evening teen service while visiting a church and the pastor asked people to raise their hands (I don’t remember the exact reason, but I think it was if you knew what it was like to struggle) We were supposed to all close our eyes so there would be no judging but I snuck a look at her.
Just to see what she did.
Her hand remained down despite the fact that almost everyone in the room had theirs raised. I remember inwardly scoffing. Ok apparently she’s perfection. This was the first time I really began to understand hypocrisy within the church that I’d heard about whispered among the older teens.
Then the pastor asked those of us to come forwards who wanted Jesus in their lives, who knew they needed to be saved. I remember wanting to get up so bad, to go to the front and have the pastor pray over me. I remember wanting to go to him and tell him that I was struggling and needed Jesus, but glancing at my friend, I refused.
She already made fun of me and I didn’t know what she’d say if I did go forwards. I didn’t want to fuel her mood, to let her see the pain.
This was the summer I began to become a cynic, judging the church, judging certain denominations, and counting down the days until I would be eighteen and old enough to leave. Rapper NF once sang that the church was the place that taught him how to judge, and I relate to that. My dad was a pastor and I grew up going to church every Sunday. It was instantly assumed (not by people necessarily in our church but in the the church in general) that me and my siblings were perfect. I was often put higher up in the eyes of my Sunday school class or friends because my dad preached. It was like a golden ticket to assumed perfection, and I both enjoyed and hated the title of PK.
I saw the ins and the outs of the church, of how people judged instead of extended grace, of how they twisted a Jesus who loved everyone into a condemning God. Don’t get me wrong, many of my happiest childhood memories involved church. Long VBS summer nights. Church picnics and chili contests. Bare feet in the grass and children laughing. Hugs from people who felt like family.
All of this is etched forever into my memory.
The summer after my brief experience with my friend was hard for me though. I told my mom about it and one of my friends but no one else knew. Looking back, I don’t think anyone really understood what was going on inside me because I kept so silent. I had prayed the sinner’s prayer in 2005 at the age of six, but I didn’t grasp the idea of salvation or the darkness inside. I didn’t understand that God isn’t the church, that He didn’t condone the actions of my friend, that he wasn’t nodding approval. I just saw that someone I trusted, who called God their friend and was admired by many in the church, had hurt me deeply.
I was too young to realize that Christianity is more than a prayer, more than whispered words. I was dying inside and couldn’t understand. I read my Bible and prayed and was your generally good person.
But I was doing what many kids do when they’re raised in a Christian home: I was building my faith in God on my parents’ faith and my faith in the church. It wasn’t something yet I had claimed for my own.
I was sold on the clean, homeschooled, PK image but I wasn’t exposing all the darkness that threatened to consume the light.
And I never dreamed how God would use that darkness for the fight in the light.
I only saw the pain as I dangled between normal PK, homeschooler on the outside and questioning my faith on the inside.