“I talk to God, but the sky is empty.” – Sylvia Plath
This is my faith story and to some it doesn’t have a happy ending.
Ever since I can remember, I spent every Sunday at church. From birth to the beginning of 4th grade, my family attended a Church of Christ church. I remember putting on pretty dresses, frilly white socks, and my dress shoes on Sunday mornings. I remember the choir and the song books, but no instruments. I remember having family friends and going to events that were simple and fun like the fall carnival. At one point, something went down, but I don’t know what, because I was so young, but it resulted in us moving churches.
Church hopping was one of the most awful experiences ever. It is an uncomfortable as well as awkward thing to do. Although I was just a nine year old, I dreaded having to try a new church every Sunday. My parents would force my brother and I to go to the “children’s” area and have class with kids our own age during service. Besides the fact that we didn’t know anyone, it also sucked, because sometimes we were really overdressed or under-dressed depending on the church. This just made us stand out more.
Eventually, my parents decided to stay at a nondenominational church (which is the one they still attend today). I have always said that nondenominational, for this church anyway, is pretty much Baptist, but they just don’t want that label. We were happy here for awhile. They had a very active children’s ministry, so I got involved real quick. I made some friends (kids I still know today). This church really stresses baptism, so after a few months there I, as a 9/10 year old, decided to get baptized. All the other kids had or were doing it, so I felt it was only right.
Well looking back now I wish I hadn’t. Not that being baptized is a bad thing, but I just don’t cherish that moment like others I know. I was just a kid following the crowd. I know what it means to be baptized, but I don’t think I fully understood that at that age. I don’t even remember the date or the month… it just wasn’t that special to me– which I feel means that I didn’t really understand the weight of what I was doing.
Time went on and I eventually moved up to the youth ministry. By this point, my need to be perfect had already set in. I was raised in a Christian household with Christian parents teaching Christian morals. I believed I needed to do right all the time and never mess up, because messing up equaled to sin. I didn’t cuss, party, drink, smoke… whatever the situation, if it could be considered questionable, I didn’t do it. If my name was brought up, it was an automatic assumption I wasn’t involved- and I wasn’t.
For a couple of years I felt accepted in this group. I had two best friends and a handful of “frienquaintances,” so I never questioned anything. This was obviously how life was supposed to work. As I hung out with my best friends and experienced their families, I realized that not all Christian families were the same and that I did not fit in. Eventually our friendship fell apart (a story for another post), but after that I started to feel alone. We got a new youth pastor and him and I never got along and I never really felt like he took me seriously nor did he try to accommodate or include me, at this point I was 13 to 16.
This took it’s toll and I had my issues, but I had also alienated myself. I refused to go to youth, because I despised the guy so much, so I put space between me and the people who called themselves my friends. This was when I realized who honestly cared about me and who didn’t. I still went to all the camps, workshops, and events, but I never felt accepted. I just went, because I was supposed to and it was what I had always done.
At the beginning of my junior year of high school I started going to a youth small group again. There were two for my grade and I picked the one opposite of my ex-best friends. This was a good group and I liked the people in it, but I refused to let myself get close to any of them or let them really know me, because I had already been scarred by friendship gone bad and I couldn’t handle any others. I went, I learned, I participated, and I became the best Christian I could be.
But you can’t just be a good Christian. It has to be more than that. It has to stem from somewhere deep down. Since I grew up in church all the religious lingo came easily to me; phrases like “God spoke to me” and “I felt God leading me to do this.” After this was just natural. I became an incredible actress. I believed myself. As I turned myself into the best Christian I could be, I could see how proud my mom and my small group leader were. I had already ingrained in everyone’s mind that I was perfect. How could I tell them I feel nothing? How could I tell them that God doesn’t speak to me? So I bottled that up and kept on pretending.
My first semester in college I lived in Arkansas. I couldn’t find a church I liked, then I had car problems, so I just didn’t go to church, but I still read my Bible and made good choices. The next semester I transferred to North Texas and was determined to find a good Christian crowd to hang out with. I found a Bible study that I liked for awhile. At the start of my fourth semester, I had class during my previous Bible study time, so I joined the BSM. It was inspiring and encouraging at first, but little by little I just had different viewpoints and didn’t appreciate their pushy attitudes. So I am distancing myself from them.
Currently, I am not going to church and not attending an outside Bible Study. I’m not saying this, because I am proud, but I am also not saying this, because I am disappointed in myself. For the first time I feel like I can breathe, make my own decisions, form my own opinions, and not be expected to be what they want me to be. Being the perfect Christian was my life, but it’s not anymore.
❤ a girl