Everything written in this series is from my point of view on things then, as I lead up to when and how I changed. These are the major events in my life that had an impact on my view of God, the Bible, and denominations. If I wrote about every event, we’d be here too long and I too many people would get mad at me.
This is my side of my story and I harbor no ill will to anyone mentioned in it (everyone will be anonymous), I know some people from my past will most likely read this and I don’t want anyone to think I am angry, because this isn’t who I am anymore.
This series will include my struggles with congregational problems in the denominational world, my confusion about what the Bible actually taught, LGBTQ+, depression, and suicidal thoughts, so if any of that bothers you, please click off.
The view of that little Baptist church through the back window of my parent’s van as we drove away left a knot in my throat for the rest of the week.
I was eleven and that building and that group of people was all I knew.
It wasn’t always the best for me there, the other kids were all older than me, I was a punk and often (I can’t blame them for it) was excluded, I felt invisible most of the time there.
But it had still been my second home.
I had climbed every tree there.
I had sung my first hymns there.
I had announced that I had become a Christian at age five after praying the sinner’s prayer to the congregation there after services.
That congregation was a strong group of Baptists, we were all homeschooling families and tightly knit before the lying, the stealing, and the greed set in.
I don’t remember much of the bad, I tried to forget a lot of what I did know.
I remember the glares in the hallway.
I remember overhearing one man say to another “I won’t forgive you,” after a meeting.
I remember my mom crying.
One of the most impactful things for me growing up was watching how people treated my mom.
My mom has always been one of the closest people to me. My mom had a very hard life and is a survivor, she’s one of the strongest people I know.
I watched people who claimed to be her friends rip her apart. I watched them quote Proverbs 27:1, say cruel and untrue things about her and use their knowledge about her past to hurt her and blame her for things that weren’t her doing. I watched them leave her to put herself back together alone.
Hearing your own mom, the strongest person you know, sob like her heart is shattering in her chest is one of the worst things. Seeing her break was devastating, and I couldn’t believe that people who claimed to be her friends would do that to her and just leave.
I watched her family and her friends let her down again and again.
I remember realizing that baptist homeschool moms can be vicious and that they’ll tear you to shreds if you don’t fit their standards or if you ever slip up.
I remember wondering how people like them could claim to be Christians.
Honestly, I think that’s one of the reasons why I never have truly looked up to people because one of the first things I learned about people is that they’ll hurt you and let you down.
I remember being afraid of the adults because there was always something wrong with me and my family and never anything right.
BUT, I also remember crying when leaving for the last time because they were still good people, and I didn’t know how we would find anyone like them again.
The new congregation we went to was closer to our house and we had already been going to their Awana program, so we knew some people.
In Awanas my siblings and I did really well when it came to memorizing verses and we could quote a lot. Because of this, people thought that we were super smart and we were all basically teacher’s pets.
We were quiet, obedient, and could quote whole chapters of the Bible, so we were already pretty well-liked and known by the adults when we first went.
It wasn’t that big, but it was bigger than the ten families I used to worshipping with.
It took a while, but slowly that building became my second home.
I joined the choir.
I started going to the youth group’s events.
Things felt like they were on the up.
When I was around twelve, I went to stay with my grandparents for a week in the summer with my siblings.
One night, my grandmother told me that she was going to a praise and prayer night at someone’s house and she wanted me to go too.
The moment I stepped into that house the smell of frankincense hit me and I felt hands on my face as people started to greet me.
I was used to adults ignoring me, not grabbing me by my face or shoulders while talking about how glad they were to finally meet me.
I was freaked out and slightly charmed at the same time.
We sat around on chairs in a circle, except for one lady who just rolled her wheelchair over to join us.
One guy sat down with his guitar and played some songs, none of which I knew but I tried to sing along as best as I could.
This is it? I thought while relaxing, I can do this. I had been worried that it would be crazy weird.
Then they started chanting, they chanted for healing for the lady in the wheelchair, and I watched as she stood up slowly, wobbling, wincing. The pain was evident on her face as she screamed that she was healed while catching herself on the arm of someone else’s chair as she stumbled forward slightly.
I remember wishing that she would just sit back down. I remember worrying that she was going to fall and hurt herself even more.
After that passed and the lady finally sank back down into her wheelchair, my grandmother asked me if I wanted to receive the Holy Spirit.
I had prayed the sinner’s prayer at five and then I was baptized when I turned twelve as an outward sign of an inward decision. No one had really mentioned the Holy Spirit going inside of me, I was always just told to invite Jesus into my heart.
So, I said yes.
The rest of it was a blur, they sprinkled stuff on my head in order to anoint me and to “invite the Holy Spirit in”.
“Speak.” the guy that had poured stuff on my head told me, and I realized that they expected me to chant like them, I opened my mouth but I couldn’t figure out how to make the noise they had been making.
“You need to have more faith,” he said after staring at me for a minute, he grabbed my hand and lifted them up. “It’s a gift, ask God to hand you the gift and you will receive it.”
I didn’t know what else to do, so I prayed. I was shaking, their excitement was contagious, I wanted it to be true as much as they did.
When I opened my eyes, everyone was staring at me, so I did the only thing I figured I could do… I rolled my tongue.
It’s pretty easy to turn off your brain and let pig-latin and gibberish leave your mouth, and I figured that was all everyone else was doing.
They were overjoyed, one person shouted out that I was praising God, she claimed to be an interpreter.
I wanted it to be true all of a sudden, so I played along and tried to convince myself that I was doing more than just babbling of freewill.
When my mom found out she was horrified, when I looked back on it I was horrified of my naivety and I wished that I had stopped babbling and had just said “sike”.
Even back then though, I was searching for the answers no one could ever give me in bible class.
Back to our new congregation, an elder of that congregation really liked me for some reason, he always told others that I was going to be the first female president, and he was always talking to me about going into law or politics. He would print out articles and give them to me randomly. He also told me that marriage would be a “waste of my potential” when I said that I wanted to be a mom and homeschool my kids in the future.
I was angry at that point in my life, basically, walking on eggshells made me furious, and I decided to stomp on them.
I cut my hair, dyed it bright red, wore all black, invested in purple lipstick, started listening to all of the “devil’s music” according to the kids at my co-op, and got into writing horror.
I actually got a little bit of a kick out of watching the kids and parents at my co-op wince at the fake tattoos that I put on my neck.
I was still a good kid according to their standards. Being the teacher’s pet never stopped.
We got a new preacher, a man who shouted randomly during sermons, read one Bible verse, and then ranted the rest of the hour and a half.
He liked me in the beginning.
He would use me in sermons, he would praise me during devos with the youth group, obviously, this really helped me be crazy popular with the other youth.
People love the person that others point at and ask “why can’t you be more like them?” right?
My attempt to break that image by being goth didn’t work.