I did not grow up in a Christian home. This is a big statement for someone coming from my area, where there are churches on every street corner. I wouldn't say that my family was against Christianity (at least not my immediate family). However, they were very hedonistic and believed that Christians could not have fun. For this reason, I grew up not knowing much about Christianity or religion in general. I never really thought about God except as a fun-sucking leech that had damnation in mind for all partakers in sin-laced fun (which everyone knows is the only fun worth experiencing).
As previously stated, my family was very hedonistic. I knew more about sex at five than I knew about God. Honestly, I cannot remember a time when I did not know about sex (and not just about sex but about perversions of sex as well). My first personal experience with sex was at five, shortly after my father left. Sex wasn't the only thing I learned about at an early age. I also learned about drinking, drugs, and murder. Both of my parents drank and did drugs. My mother was at least stable enough to keep a job. I wish I could say the same about my father--who wasn't even stable enough to realize that children are a joy and one that shouldn't be destroyed. Instead, he fought constantly with my mom, tried to kill her and me when he found out she was pregnant again), and used my brother and I for his personal entertainment when he was too drunk to care about anyone other than himself. This didn't last long, however, because he left when I was five. I haven't seen him since.
My step dad came into my life shortly thereafter. He was infinitely better than my father in that he did not drink, held down a full time job, didn't try to kill us (which is always good), and was always there for us. There was only one problem... he was more perverse than my father and needed more than my mother could give him. . . . (My experience is this is an epidemic affecting many men (and boys!).)
So, I fell into a deep depression, one that fell down on me as a deep fog, choking the vey life out of me. It seems my mother had the same fog in her life and tried to kill it any way she could. The problem? The fog came from inside her--as it did with me--and there is only one way to rid oneself of this kind of fog. . . But I fought against it in her life. I put all of my strength and determination into "saving" my mom, but I wasn't good enough. Because no matter how hard I tried, the fog always came back--more powerful than the time before. Before I knew it, the fog had spread to my brother. I caught him knife in hand. While wrestling my brother, I knew drastic measures would have to be taken. So, I convinced my mom to send him away, thinking maybe the distance would thin the fog inside him.
Don't be mistaken. I was just at fault. I am no innocent bystander. I brought the fog inside myself, threw out the welcome mat, and bid it come in and make itself at home. I would have done anything to be loved. I did. I come from a family that does not express love--not uncommon in the United States. Nonetheless, I could never adjust. I craved it. I looked for it anywhere I could find it. First I tried friends, but I didn't have many of those and they never could understand. I tried family, but I was never fun enough for my mom, never pretty enough for my step dad, never man enough for my brother. I even tried to meet my own needs, but I was never smart enough or perfect enough to be loved. I had my step sister until she started experimenting with drugs and boys. Then the parties started and pressure was applied. And I thought... maybe THIS is how my mom will love me... So reluctantly, I gave parts of myself away. First to drinking. Next to drugs. Then pieces of me were ripped away. I tried to tell my family, but they only congratulated me on my entrance into womanhood. So I shoved the pain down . . further than all of my other pains. I decided that it no longer mattered. I no longer mattered. So, I gave the rest of myself away and welcomed the fog in to stay.
For some reason, this is when one friend decided to reach out--a friend who really knew nothing about me or my struggles--and invited me to her church. I tried every excuse I could think of for weeks, but she always had a solution. So, finally, I agreed. Once I got to her youth group, I took one look around and realized I didn't belong. I wasn't popular or rich enough to be there. So, I hung my head in shame and resolved myself to having a miserable time. Instead, I got a lecture from my friend on how I was going to interact and have fun. I actually did. People were nice to me. They talked to me. They befriended me. Never once did they snub me because of where I came from. They accepted me. And so I accepted Jesus. Everyone at church seemed so happy. I thought, Maybe if I can just get some of what they have, then I will be happy; then I will be whole. So, I dove in head first. I drank deep of Christianity and I changed. I stopped drinking and doing drugs. I left my boyfriend and my friends. I gave all of my "fun" up in pursuit of something more. The problem was. . . the fog never lifted. Instead, it seemed to cling to me. So, I tried to rip it out. But the harder I tried, the further I fell. And it became uncomfortably obvious that I was alone. No one knew me--not my family (because I had changed) and not my new friends (because I never let them in for fear of abandonment). The only one who knew all of me lived inside me. But who was that? God or the fog? Then I realized that I was the fog and despised myself for ever letting it in. So I tried harder to cut it out of my life, to find the pieces of me that I had lost or given away. It was too late. So I tried many times to get rid of the fog the only way I knew how, but was not successful at even that. The fog consumed me to the point to where I no longer had the will to rid myself of it. All I could do was pray to an unseen God to take it away--take me away (a prayer that was never answered).
The thirst for love was still there, however. It wasn't long before I discovered the online world. I thought, These people don't know me. These people can't see me. I can be whoever I want to be and they'll love me. So, I made friends with as many people as I could online. A few of them I put through hell because I just wanted someone to talk to, someone to care. So, I told them my struggles. Unfortunately, I think I freaked several of them out. . . mainly because they were powerless online and could not do much to interfere with my life. They could not stop me from doing things if I had my mind set on them. All they could do was be there for me and talk with me (which helped immeasurably more than they knew). A couple of these online friends have stuck with me through it all, but they are few and far between.
My senior year of high school, two of my biggest secrets came out and did irreparable damage to my family. My mom started drinking very heavily which threw her into a rage worse than I had seen in years past. She lashed out at me and my step dad mainly, but was on a path to self destruction. The summer of my senior year, she declared herself to be a lesbian and left my step dad for another woman. This is when all hell broke loose. I left home (in a desperate attempt to get away from home and from the memories. . . as well as the fog). My mom left home (to be with her girlfriend). My brother had been gone for years and no longer spoke with any of us. So, that left my little sister home with my step dad (her father) who was at the heart of my mother's pain and her decision to change her sexual orientation. The problem was that my mom was the bread winner in the family and I was the one paying a lot of the bills. So, two incomes were lost. My sister and her dad could no longer make ends meet. So, they reached out to my church. They explained that my mom left to be with a woman and asked for help meeting basic needs. Not only did they not help my sister and her dad, they shunned them, forcing my sister and her dad into homelessness. They did eventually get into government housing and on food stamps, but the wait was long. In the mean time, they moved around from place to place, searching for food and somewhere to lay their heads.
Meanwhile, I was at a ministry that, well, wasn't very helpful. The organization knew my problems going into it. (I was very open with them.) However, things began to go downhill quickly. I could not measure up and it became very clear that they found me to be worthless. My counselor left the organization. I begged for a new counselor. I cried out asking for help, imploring those in leadership roles for months to get me the help that I needed to no avail. The fog overwhelmed me. They spread lies and tightened the reigns of control over my life. I left. They attacked my character. I never could have been good enough for them. I realize that now, but at the time I was very impressionable. I thought that Christians were good, but I was wrong.
I moved in with some friends who were very giving, but ill prepared to deal with my problems. I stayed with them for two weeks in which time they provided housing, food, et cetera. But I just had too many problems, problems I hadn't sorted out myself. In the end, I hurt them, not physically, but it was real enough. So I moved in with my mom and her girlfriend (after convincing my friends that it would be ok, knowing it would not). I lied to them because, well, my other option would have been a shelter and after the horror stories I grew up hearing, I didn't think I could take it. I knew I could handle my mom. So, I sucked it up and moved back home.
Home life was hell, but I wasn't there long. I left for college after about six months. College was ok for the most part. I learned a lot and made some friends. I met back up with my friends who had helped me before and apologized for hurting them and for everything that had happened. I was also able to get back into counseling. It wasn't like typical counseling. It seemed like the counselor really invested (as did I) and it didn't feel scrutinized (which was very important to me). I got married (which was probably one of my biggest mistakes) and then divorced (probably one of my smarter decisions). I married not because of love, but because of social pressure. For some reason, people believe that if you date for so long, then you must get married. So, I did. The man I married changed. He was controlling before, but became unbearably so after marriage. He did things behind closed doors that are not uncommon in marriage (although I do not see how the women can handle such pain), but detrimental given my past. He probably hurt me more than anyone I've ever met. So, we divorced. Now I struggle with feeling like a failure to be so young and already divorced. I have no desire to marry another man and never will. I am afraid to go back to church, afraid of their judging and condemning . . . when we all sin. We all fall short of God's glory. Yet many Christians put on a facade, pretending that their lives are perfect; they are perfect. I am not perfect enough to be one of these lucky people. I struggle with calling myself a Christian because I feel nauseous when I think about what the church has done in the name of God. How can I associate myself with a group of people who have caused me and countless others so much pain, a group of people who post on their church signs that everyone is welcomed but blatantly discriminates against and condemns certain groups of people, people they are called to love? No, I cannot--I will not be one of these people. I choose to be forgiving. I choose to love. I am called to echo grace to all of God's children, not just the ones like me. Ekou Eleos.