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A glimpse at my past: Christianity, Charismatic Churches, Missionary Work and God's Calling; Part 1

Updated on January 6, 2014

What my life and I were once like.

A friend took me to a wonderful conference on reincarnation this weekend. In the midst of a sea of new information, I couldn't help but remember my seven years as a Charismatic Christian and my life as a missionary to Hong Kong.

In 1992, I was studying at University of Florida when I had a mental break---a Bipolar Disorder manic episode. It was a shattering experience in more ways than one! I came away from it confused and devastated.

I had grown up in a spiritual family---at least my mother was Lutheran. My dad just seemed to "go along to get along." So, I went through an infancy christening, communion and confirmation in the Lutheran church. I believed very deeply in my personal relationship with the Christ. I came to know the Living Jesus at about six years old. I was singing "Go tell it on the mountain" in Sunday school when God became multidimensional in my mind, spirit and heart.

Enjoying Spirituality

I enjoyed my spirituality and learning about the Lutheran church. But at the age of adolescence I began to have inner and outer turmoil about God the Father and my life. Moreover, I don't think I really got the Holy Ghost/Spirit until much later in life.

My parents had significant challenges with one another and eventually split right before I entered seventh grade. This crept into every avenue of my young world. Spirituality was no exception, and perhaps it should have been an even more obvious battleground for my soul than the rest of the causeways. In addition, a best friend of six years almost died of viral encephalitis when I was in eighth grade.

Jody had been a spiritual cornerstone for me throughout my elementary school days. We used to discuss our different denominations (she was a Methodist) and the Bible. Some nights we would have slumber parties where we stayed up all night reading the book of Revelation. We found the Apocalyptic Scripture quite magical. Our minds' eyes awakened with great creativity. Furthermore, I loved her parents and older sister dearly. They were a very faith-oriented family. It was nice and stabilizing. Plus, the feminine factor was strong. Mr. Pettle was the only male in the group. Coming from a primarily male family, I found the contrast and solidarity soothing.

I didn't find another island to house my soul in until I was a senior in high school. My best friend in Gulf Breeze was not just like Jody but she was a sympathetic spirit in a big way.

The Crazy Years

By my junior year of high school, my personal world was ricocheting. I was living in angst and pain nearly every day. I had developed two psychologies. I showed one to the world. It was a girl who perfected herself like a consummate actress. She was the ideal Joan. And then there was the Beast called Joan that only her inner sanctum and/or family would witness. As an archetype, I would describe myself during that period as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide.

So by the time I moved to Florida the next year to live with my father I was a little more than lost. I began partying a lot which was a new found freedom that I enjoyed greatly. I felt alive. Then I graduated and moved again to Gainesville. I was six hours away from almost anyone I knew. The real freedom began. It didn't end for three more wild and crazy years. And when it ended, it ended monumentally.

That was 1992.

My road to Extremism

I pinpoint this date because it transformed me into an extreme version of myself: A Charismatic Christian. My initiatory illness outbreak did not mold me overnight but it changed me nevertheless. I felt strongly that my insanity was due to my sin. "What else could it be?" I thought. "God was punishing me for my drunken debauchery and general wildness. He was punishing me for my rebellion."

I met with many ministers---of many Christian denominations---on my way to extremism. I wanted the Grace of God again. I wanted the sweet spirituality of my younger years. I would seek high and low to find it! One day I connected with a Lutheran minister who gave me a small devotional book. Finally! Water in a desert. I was so grateful for each word in that manual. Every reading brought me new found courage and sustenance

Casting Crowns: Praise You in the Storm

A New Church Home

Eventually I would forgive myself, but not without a commitment to my Holy Father.

I graduated from UF and I looked for employment all over the state. A job offer teetered on the brink. I prayed to God, "Not my will but Yours be done." That prayer erased the offer. I found out years later (through a knowledgeable friend) that the school's budget got cut at the last minute and the art program was dropped. I moved to Virginia to live with an aunt.

Within six months I found a new church home. It was the perfect blend of Lutheran teaching, Presbyterian government, Evangelical demeanor and Charismatic fire. A woman I worked with invited me to her Christmas Eve service. The soft candlelight, the beautiful, resonant music and the story of the Babe in the manger won me over straight away. I wouldn't know for another week that the church was like no other one I had ever experienced.


Early Spiritual Connections


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    • JoanEB1970 profile image

      Joan Elizabeth 5 years ago from Virginia Beach, VA

      Well it has been a wild ride. You can't usually define things until you have time to reflect about them. 20-20 is a beautiful connection.

    • violetheaven profile image

      Jessica Ellen Holbrook 5 years ago from Newark, DE, USA

      I love that you recognize it as an extreme version of yourself and give it the title of extremism. It makes it very concise.