My Story // Part 5: The Start

The day after I was baptized I really wanted to find a way to tell others about my change of belief.
I sat down and created a video, which I find embarrassing now due to my lack of editing skills, but then I just wanted something to post.

What End When This Pandemic Does (10)

My mom shared it on her Facebook shortly after I uploaded it to my youtube account and it wasn’t long before it had ten likes… and hundreds of comments. 

All of our old friends and people we use to worship with were commenting that we had joined a cult, that we had been tricked into legalism, and that we were brainwashed.

I found the last comment interesting because looking at and evaluating everything, I realized I had been brainwashed into never thinking for myself for years, not the other way around.

It was overwhelming.

Then a few of the men and women from our new church started responding to those comments with verses, Greek words and definitions, it was amazing to see how logical their responses were versus the knee-jerk reactions of “This is untrue! How could you?”

I got a text from a friend, “Hey, I heard about your baptism… my parents and my siblings had a bible study together today, I don’t want to really talk about what you believe so our friendship isn’t ruined, but they warned me that you would try to convert me.” 

I didn’t really know how to respond, that wasn’t the last time a friend told me that their parents had “warned” them about me and my “cult”.

So Grace, do you believe the rest of us are going to hell?” Became a question a few people would ask me in front of everyone. 

The first time, I was taken aback, “I am not God,” I told them and the people listening in, “I do not see your soul. Have you obeyed the Bible?” 

“You know, according to what you believe now, your dad is going to hell because he hasn’t been baptized like you and your mom.”  they retorted.

“I have to get to class.” 

I noticed that a lot of my friends started keeping their distance.

“Where’s everyone else?” asked one of my friends as he walked up to me in the hallway.

“I don’t know,” I told him.

I looked up and noticed that he was staring down at me, “You seem different, have you seen my friend Grace? She’s super short with curly hair, freckles, and usually is sad and making sort of funny jokes.”  

“Nope, haven’t seen her,” I told him, and then added, “I became a Christian over Christmas break.” 

He looked confused, “Weren’t you already a Christian?” 

“I was wrong about a lot of things. We should sit down and talk sometime.” 

“I’m pretty sure you’ve been a Christian, but as long as you’re happy, I’m happy, and I’m glad you’re finally happy.” He told me, patting me on the shoulder.

I opened my mouth to say something, but he stopped me, “I’m not interested, sorry, Grace.” 

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Obviously, when I heard that my congregation was going to have an evangelism class, I jumped at the chance to join.

I not only wanted to know how to tell others about the truth, but I wanted to know how to respond to my friends when it seemed like any conversation about the Bible with them was just a minefield.

“You’re doing too much,” my therapist told me one session,

“allow me to play devil’s advocate: you right now are on a high, but are you ready for a low? Are you ready to crash?” 

That was my second to last session.

Her words rang in my ears though as we drove away after my last appointment.: “You’re doing too much. You’re on a high. You are going to crash.” 

Did I crash? 

I’m not going to lie and say that I healed automatically.

I’m not going to lie and say that I never spent another sleepless night, crying, and struggling to breathe because it felt like my chest was caving in along with the world around me.

I’m not going to lie and say it was easy. 

Going to services was hard, being around people who grew up in truth and didn’t seem to understand that I hadn’t, was hard.

“Who doesn’t know that?” people would scoff in Bible class, and I would sit there quietly because it was the first time I had ever heard anything like it before in my life.

“I wish I was like you and hadn’t grown up in the church,” someone told me once. 

“No, you don’t,” I told him.

Sometimes I felt like I would never catch up, sometimes I still feel that way and forget being a faithful Christian is a marathon and not a sprint. 

There were so many times I cried to my mom because I felt so alone like no one understood how confusing it was, and how hard it was to lose everything I once held onto.

I’m so behind, it’s evident that I’m so behind. I feel too jaded to be among some of these people. I don’t feel worthy to be here. Those were all thoughts that went through my head when I walked into our church building. I don’t think people understood why I cried through a lot of the hymns, I was so thankful but tired and discouraged at the same time.

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I started using the evangelism class I was taking. 

My first study was with my dad, throughout studying with him, I couldn’t read him at all. He said very little. I couldn’t get him to talk about religion, when I did, he would refer to it as “what your mom and you believe” and leave it at that.

I’ve always been close to my dad, he was the one I went to with all my problems, my rock, my foundation, and not being connected to him in the most important way, and knowing that every time he left for work could be my last to ever see him in all of eternity, was so hard.

I would cry and beg God for him to listen during church after every study. I would beg for God to give him time.

One day, I was riding with him and we had been riding in silence as usual, when he broke it. “If it’s true, then what about Billy Graham? What about all the people who I know are way smarter than me and know their Bible better? How can they be wrong when they are so much smarter than I could ever be?” 

“It’s the Bible versus the doctrine of men, Dad.” 

He didn’t say anything again for the rest of the drive.

“I don’t think he’s even listening or reading his Bible,” I told a friend in tears one night after worship.

Months passed.

One Wednesday night, I heard the sound of water filling the baptistry after services, “Who is getting baptized?” I asked, but no one knew.

“Grace,” an elder walked up to me and hugged me, I looked at him, confused, “your dad is about to be baptized.”

I stared at him, what?

I felt my whole body go numb. It didn’t feel real as everyone found a place to sit back down in the pews, I looked across the room and made eye contact with my mom, she was in shock as well.

I felt disbelief and joy as I watched my dad get baptized for the remission of his sins that night.

“I was listening to the sermons and to you and your mom,” my dad told me afterward, “I’m sorry for being so stubborn.” 

It was surreal.

Our family was fully a Christian family, finally.

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My Story // Part 4: The Light

One morning I was sitting in my room writing when I heard a loud voice listing Bible verse after Bible verse. 

I was confused at first, but then remembered that my mom had told me that she had invited the homeschooled girls’ basketball coach that she assisted over to talk about her beliefs. My mom had told me that she had noticed the lady do some strange and different things, but that she thought that they shared similair beliefs.

I peeked out of my door, my mom and the lady were sitting at the kitchen table, both of their Bibles open.

My Story: The Light

I had never heard someone list off so many verses like that, it was effortless. 

I listened in from my room, “Yep,” I thought, “that lady is crazy.” 

When the lady left, my mom turned to me and said, “I’m pretty sure she’s in a cult, it’s called the church of Christ, she says it isn’t a denomination.” 

How can something not be a denomination or a sect? I wondered.

“What did she say?” I asked.

“I don’t think she thinks we’re Christians.” 

My mom has always been the strongest and godliest person I know, so that seemed insane. 

I thought we would move on, accept the fact that my sisters’ basketball coach had some wacky beliefs and never talk about it again, but that booming voice kept coming from our dinning room. 

I could hear the pages of the Bible flying every direction.

“I don’t think we’ve been obeying the Bible, Grace,” my mom said one day, “I don’t think we’re Christians.” 

“Mom, that’s insane. Her crazy talk is getting to you.” 

“Every story about someone becoming a Christian in the Bible says “and then they were baptized”, if it wasn’t a part of salvation why were they immediately baptized? The jailer’s family was baptized in the middle of the night, if it wasn’t a step, why didn’t they just wait?” 

I was in disbelief that my mom could believe something like that, “What about the thief on the cross? He wasn’t baptized. Are you saying that if someone dies without being baptized that they aren’t saved?” 

My mom wasn’t shaken by my questions, “The thief on the cross died under the old law, Jesus himself said he could go to paradise.” 

“That’s crazy to think that.” I shook my head.

 

I went to my room and I wrote a paper, I wrote all the arguments for the sinner’s prayer I could find, all the arguments for grace and belief only.

I gave it to my mom, she gave it back covered in Bible verses and the corrected context of the verses I gave.

One night my mom was crying, “Grace, He doesn’t hear my prayers.”

“What?”

I haven’t been baptized for the remission of my sins, and God doesn’t hear the prayers of sinners read John 9:31, Psalm 34:17, Proverbs 15:29, Isaiah 59:1-2. All these years I have been praying to Him, but my sins have separated me. I’m not a Christian. I don’t know how your dad will react, but I need to get baptized.” 

I was in shock. How could my mom believe she wasn’t a Christian? 

The next night my dad picked me up from the movie theater I was at with a friend, “We have to go to that church of Christ building,” he told me when I got in the car, “your mom is getting baptized.”

We drove in silence before I broke it, “What do you think, Dad?” 

“I think she was a Christian before, but if this makes her feel better to do it, then she should do it.” 

“Do you think we’re Christians?” I asked.

“Yes.”

Yet, all those verses kept running through my head.

My mom was baptized that night and added to the church (Acts 2:47).

 

“God, I know I don’t have the strongest relationship with you,” I prayed one night, “but does that mean I don’t have a relationship with you at all? Is baptism essential? Are they right?”

I knew if they were, I wasn’t saved. I prayed the sinner’s prayer at five, I was baptized as an outward sign of an inward decision at twelve, there was never any talk about remission of sins or that baptism was a step just like hearing the gospel (Romans 10:13), believing (John 8:24), repenting (Acts 2:38), confessing faith (Romans 10:9), and then baptism into Christ, that for some part we had left out.

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Sunday rolled around, we went to the church of Christ building where that lady who studied with my mom went and where she was baptized. I sat with a few of the high schoolers.

“I have a question,” I asked one of the girls next to me, “since I haven’t been baptized, you guys don’t think I’m a Christian, so I shouldn’t take communion right?” 

The girl looked uncomfortable, but she nodded yes.

“I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable, I just don’t want to offend anyone,” I told her. I decided not to take it. I had been taking communion since I was five, it felt wrong. I felt like I was doing wrong by standing down from my beliefs, but I wasn’t even sure if I was right anymore.

The man that preached that morning used more verses than I had ever heard in a sermon before.

I was in awe, I felt so happy to finally just be given the Bible, not some political rant or a feel good speech from the pulpit.

My brother and I talked about how different it was on the way home.

“Did you write down all those verses?” my brother asked me, “I’ve never heard so many verses used at once, it was awesome. He really knew the Bible.” 

I felt confused. I had braced myself for a cult, for lovebombing, but all I had been met with was sincerity. I wasn’t used to sincerity.

These people were friendly, and they loved the Lord and clearly knew their Bibles. They had no doubts on where they stood with God and His word.

I realized that I wanted that. 

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One night I opened my Bible to study like I usually did, I was reading through Proverbs at the time and during my reading I came to verse fifteen of Proverbs twelve:

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.”

I’ve been closed, I realized. For years I have wanted people to just give me book, chapter, and verse and now that people are, I am not listening. The least I can do is listen

“God, if you can hear me,” I prayed, “please help my heart to stay open to your word, I just want to obey you.” 

I stopped sleeping.

I couldn’t sleep.

I read through those verses about baptism over and over again.

I read all the stories about salvation, even the ones that didn’t mention baptism seemed to imply it when I put it next to the rest of the Bible.

I cried, read my Bible, and cried some more. I would open my mouth to pray but all of my sins came to my mind along with Isaiah 59

“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:  But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.”

 

“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” -Mark 16:16

 

“Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.”-Colossians 2:12

 

“The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:”-1 Peter 3:21

 

Through faith; the answer of a good conscience toward God.

Repeated over and over again in my head.

It’s obedience, I realized, that’s all it is. 

Why did what I was told by denominational people make me feel like it was disobedient to obey God? Like I was lacking faith to obey God?

The next day was Christmas, I didn’t sleep that night, the day passed in a blur.

I knew the truth.

I couldn’t ignore the Bible anymore.

I was afraid to be baptized though. I knew it was a big commitment, and I knew that I was wrong about a lot of the Bible. I didn’t want to make a commitment without understanding it fully. No more incorrect beliefs. I had been in the dark long enough.

The preacher’s wife came to my house the next day to study with me.  

We read through John 3:5, 1 Peter 3:21, Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, Romans 6:3-5,

2 Timothy 2:10, says IN CHRIST. How do we get into Christ?

“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”-Galatians 3:27

 

After the study, I said the words I had been dying to say, “I need to be baptized.” 

“Are you ready?” my mom asked me.

“I know what the Bible says, I know what I need to do.” 

I grabbed a change of clothes, and we were off. It was the scariest car ride of my life. I didn’t know where my soul would go if we got into a crash, all I knew was that I needed to obey the Bible immediately.

“And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?”-Acts 8:36

My first thought after coming up from that water was, “I am His, I can die now.”

It wasn’t in a morbid way, but I felt such a calm knowing I had fully obeyed the Bible, knowing that I was saved.

 

If you think this is the end of this series, it isn’t.

Like all things, this is only the beginning. 

 

My Story // Part 1: My Denominational Childhood

My Story // Part 1: My Denominational Childhood

Disclaimer:
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.

I went.

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.

And then… I met her