The shift in and out of Christianity has brought me back!
Why can't I fit in?
From the start, I knew I was different from the rest of my believing family. I was the kid in the classroom, secretly, eyeing everyone as they closed their eyes for prayer. Mischievous, perhaps. Whatever the title, I had questions with this thing called Christianity from the get go. I was never allowed to ask questions, when I was younger. If I spoke out of turn or said the wrong thing, risked embarrassing, my family. When you where coke-bottled glasses and don't fully understand matching, there really isn't room for embarrassing your family. Showing up is enough to put you over the edge, much less asking questions about faith.
I watched as the townsfolk gathered in a robot like trance through the lord's prayer. "Our father...." You know the rest. What the heck were they doing? My immaturity wanted to burst out in laughter every time this chanting began. And, let's not begin to talk about the services and the songs sang at the top of the lungs by all who attended. I barely had time to understand where we were, let alone belch out a tune from my gut and carry that note intuned with the congregation. No, I preferred the coloring in with pencil of all the O's from the sunday program, more than getting the message for the day.
Begrudgingly, I showed up to every Sunday and Wednesday service as I was expected too. I was a regular of the establishment and it's obligations throughout my childhood. I never missed a beat for fear of falling out of the group. I was a Christian, after all; and, that is what Christians do. Right? Dare I even attempt to do something differently, not in my small town governed by the elders; also know as the rents, guardians, parents even. Whatever they were, they were not going to allow me to make my own decisions or ask questions that could lead me into my own line of thinking.
The Shift In Footing
The shift for me, came sometime around my 18th year of life. I had long since given up on making weekly appearances at the church. I was too good for that obligation. Plus, what could the church teach me I had not already been taught throughout my childhood of forced spoonfeeding of their Christianity. No, I was my own keeper now. I prayed regularly and kept my focus on being a good person; but that was all I could commit myself too. There were many other things I need to do, like go shopping or talking on the phone, or getting a boyfriend. Oh, those were the sweet days of carefree and holding the world in the palm of my hands. Freedom tasted so sweet to my thirsting for life tastebuds.
The absolute abandonment came all of a suddenly for me. It was after my brother died. See two years prior, my sister died from a tragic swimming pool accident. We prayed and pleaded, but it was her time. You think dealing with one tragic death, would be enough to put you over the edge. Try two! or Three even! Death is so final. I cannot think of a moment where it is not tragic. But, I did believe I was given a "get out of jail" pass when my sister died. This meant, for my family and me, we went through our tragic moment, which made us void of having to do it again. Boy were we wrong. When my brother got into his car accident and I was faced with repeating the daily visits to the hospital and seeing the wires attached to my brother keeping him alive again, it was an earth shattering moment. I was stopped in my tracks. Not my brother too. I thought we were good on this experience. We had this checked off our bucket lists two years prior. Why then, are we back experiencing it?
I prayed hard. I pleaded with God to save him. This was my brother. We were so close. I prayed for my sister, but she was only 20 months. That was not the same as spending your entire childhood, teenage-hood, and beginning your adult life with someone besides you the whole way. I prayed hard. I prayed often. I cried and prayed some more. I broke out in hives. I shut down. I needed my brother.
I walked into the ICU and saw the same look of death on his face as my sister. They always say there is a look and you just know when you see it. The rumor is, you don't even need to have ever seen it before and you will still come to know what it is when you see it. Maybe it is not a look. Maybe its a feeling. Maybe it is a combination. Either way, I knew it. I knew my brother was not ever going to recover from his accident. But, I prayed anyway. I pulled deep from within and cried out for mercy. I remembered the teachings in the word, to ask and it would be given. So I asked.
"Please save my brother. God, I need him. He's my brother. He is the only person who understands my life and where I come from," I pleaded.
Three days later, he called my brother home. My brother died never knowing what it was like to walk across the stage and graduate from high school. He was only two months away. His accident - he hit a school bus full of children. He was not drunk. He was distracted. He took his seat belt off to bend over to pick up a CD that had fallen on the passenger side of his truck. He moved the steering wheel as he did it into oncoming traffic. He never knew what hit him. He was cut out of his truck and flown into the local hospital. That was Valentine's day. On March 5, 2003, we said our goodbyes and watched as the world lost another life to distracted driving. That was 10 years ago. And, that was when I gave up on God.
Why the hell would I believe and honor something I can't see and he doesn't help you when you need him the most? I was angry! How dare you take my brother from me! He was my best friend. We were only 13 months apart. I did everything he asked of me and it was not good enough to save my brother's life. I couldn't help him when my brother needed me the most. Why would I continue to follow something when it was not there for me when I called upon it to help? I couldn't and I wouldn't.
Crossroads to another path
I dove head first in the study of religions. Everything, except Christianity, peaked my interest during this time. I learned about Jainism, Buddhism, Confucism, Pagan, Wiccan, New Age, you name it and I studied it. I sought to find a new home. I spoke with various heads of different organizations. I watched how each religion portrayed themselves. It was fascinating to witness these different cultures with my sheltered eyes. I was rejecting everything I had known before, and the other religions held hope for me.
But, they all left me empty. Debating the ignorant became a passion of mine inspite of the empty pit in my stomach. I held on to every world just hoping to hear the trigger words so I could enter into a debate with a Christian:
"Your religion is based on pagan rituals."
"Why do you laugh at witches as if they are your enemy? You mock their beliefs by dressing up as them for halloween and teaching your children to fear their cooky spells."
"If you believe in nothing, then you can't have an opinion now."
The list of rebuttals continues. Yet, still I was left feeling empty inside. No matter the religion I would grow tired of it almost as quickly as I engaged in it. My heart wanted to belong; but, I could not commit to anything. It was all lacking something, something big. And so, I continued on without belonging to anything. My life went completely upside down during this time. I felt as if I was caught in a an undertow of chaos. Friends turn against me. Jobs never worked out (not that I was fired, but not fitting into them). It was like I did not fit in anywhere. I was out in the wilderness of life alone. And, I hated it.
At about 25, remember being drunk (because that was all I had to escape the emptiness) and I was laying out in the middle of my yard crying to be taken out of this world. Everything I believed to be one way, turned out to be another way entirely. My family were not the people I thought they were. I could not find a relationship. My finances were out of control. So, I did what any sane human would do who had been drinking would do: I sprawled out in the backyard and cried out, "I don't want to live. Take me away from this dreadful place. If this is what life is, I don't want it." Yep, that was me, in the grass, in the middle of the night, with the bugs and the stars. Or maybe I was just seeing stars from large amount of booze I had downed.
From the bottom to the road to recovery
After that night in the backyard, I don't know when or how I realized it. But, I did. I realized nothing was going to happen unless I made it happen. I picked my wimpy self up and got back on track to being a productive member of society. I never returned to that state of mind again. What changed? I can't really tell you. I didn't hear a magical voice come out of the sky; nor did a hand ever come to help me stand back up. The road has not been easy. But, I would not change a single thing now. I realized it had to be that way, all of it, for me to be here sharing this story now. For me to be happy now, it had to be exactly as it was before.
At some point along the way from then to now, I decided to read the bible. I had never done that before. I read as if I never knew anything about the book or the religion. My eyes were opened. I started with a clean slate, without a bias or preconceived notion. The stories were all brand new to me. I learned things I always believed to be in the book, were actually misquoted to me growing up. When you stop searching for mistakes and inconsistencies, you find it contains most of the things you need in life. When you stop judging it by your standards, you find it tells you all the ways you need to be happy.
Oh this is not the point in the story where I tell you, I won the lottery and my life has never been better. I have struggles. I have real human problems. In fact, the moment I started reading the bible, there was a passage about turning the other cheek. It was about that time, I found out I was the only person who was not invited to my cousin's wedding. For me, she was like my sister, talk about a test. It took everything inside me not to fly back to Louisiana and have a sit down with her. The reason? Points of view. She believes her point was right and I did not know mine was seen as the objection to hers. (Her brother named his son after my brother who past and did not believe it was something he needed to tell me. I found out through facebook. I merely told him I was shocked. That's why I was not allowed to come. Because I was upset over her brother naming his son after my brother and not telling me about it) The news of me being disinvited devastated me. I felt like I did nothing wrong. I tried to reach out. I tried to show them I was not an enemy. I was wounded. I was hurting over my brother. Something you never really get over, and they should have given me the chance to talk. But, the did not. They did the opposite, ignored me completely.
What does one do in this type of situation? Do you fly back, kick down their door, and demand a conversation? Do you tuck your tail and back out of the fire? According to the bible, you do nothing. Yep, boring, uneventful, good old nothing. You can't make people see anything they do not want to see. You cannot tell someone how you feel, when they do not care. You are powerless. You have to accept the situation as it was and turn your attentions back on things that matter. It is a test of humility.
My light at the end of the table comes from faith. This time during my trauma, I turned to God. I told him, I would listen to the word in spite of my pain and yearning desire to make them hear me out! I would let this situation pass and not focus on it without asking for his help to ease my human emotions over it. When my grandmother called to brag about how beautiful her wedding was, I turned to God. Of course, I cried. I was left out. But, I asked for help. I asked for healing. I prayed for the power to forgive them and to let this pass without dwelling on the pain it has created for me. My brother would have been honored to have a child named after him. I was fighting for my own human emotions and the right to possess my brother's name. Something, I did not own the rights too. He was their family member too. I had to let it go and with that being said, this time it felt different. This time I had a better understanding of God. I could trust him to bring me out of this pain. And, he did.
Just after I had my coming back to Jesus prayer with humbled hands opened and my head lowered. My life changed. The love of my life asked me to be his wife. A new job came around offering more money. My pain was gone from everything. Did God do it? I can't give you the confirmation you seek. I can only tell you what I know as truth. I know, I left him for a long time. And during that time, I felt nothing but pain and suffering. My life was miserable and I hated it. Since I changed, my life makes sense. I have answers for things I never had before. I have a guide to get through tough times and allow me to feel as if I am not alone anymore. My Louisiana family is still distant. But, I have learned to trust in the bigger picture. If they are not present in my life, it is because they are not supposed to be. I don't fight for their attention. I don't reach out for their connection. If they contact me, I'm here. If they don't, I'm still here. My life is good. I am finally able to say I understand trust in God. I pray for understanding and it comes. I ask for help and I receive it. If that is proof, then allow it to be so. If this offers you nothing to help you, I wish you well on your path of finding your own truth.
For me, I know God exist. I don't need to test him anymore.
Will I always be a believer? I hope so. I cannot say I am doubtless. I am still being tested. But, my life is good now. I have peace. Something I lacked for a very long time. I was lost, and truly, I am found in his light now. I spend my life focused on being happy. If something doesn't work easily, I trust his plan over my life. I work on myself in being a person I'd want to know. I'm kind even when I desire to be rude. I smile at people when they slam the door in my face. I don't take things as personally any more. And, I don't have something to prove to anyone. If you believe you believe, if you don't that's your choice too. I only know my story. And, that is something I can say proudly with any who come to read this.
Thank you for taking the time to hear my story. I am truly honored.