Following my camp conversion at ten, I was thirsty to know more about Christ and discover how to walk with him. But where to turn? Following another hard conversation with my parents at the dinner table, in which my request to start attending church as a family was gently but firmly denied, I was feeling a little hopeless in regard to really pursuing my newfound faith. I made friends with girls at school who I knew went to church, and I would often spend the night with them on Saturday nights so I could go with them the following morning.
While I gleaned quite a bit from “big church,” picking up some good information here and there from the sermons and gaining insights from the hymn lyrics, I found the Sunday School lessons at the middle school level both confusing and not very helpful for learning more about a relationship with Jesus. They were focused primarily around dressing modestly, not gossiping, and preparing ourselves to become submissive wives. To that last point, I was still quite young for any real feminist notions, but there was something off-putting about the way the teacher, well into her 60’s, repeatedly admonished us, revealing she had little real hope that any of us would ever endeavor to take seriously this Biblical command. She saw a lack of wifely submission as the reason families were on the decline and cited divorce statistics that had us all worrying if marriage was a good choice at all.
By high school, my walk with Christ had developed into little more than my continued late night prayers, which were more like chats with an old buddy, and some half-hearted attempts at reading the Teen Study Bible a friend had given me. I felt lost trying to study the Bible on my own, so I was really excited and hopeful when my older brother’s church-going, old-enough-to-drive friends offered to start taking me along to youth group. But I soon discovered that, amidst the chaos of a packed room full of teenagers desiring only to socialize, blaring music, and events that mirrored the Field Days of elementary school, the main messages being relayed from the stage were 15-minute segments (because that was about how long the youth pastor could hold everyone’s attention) always geared around one of two topics: honoring your parents or abstaining from sex.
There’s got to be more to faith than this! I thought as I listened. Surely it can’t all be reduced to a couple of rules that must be followed. My time in that group was brief, but looking back, I wish I had stuck it out for awhile longer. Adolescence and wounds from my past were about to collide, and my journey could have used a few rules to guide me along the way.
Although as a kid my path of seeking started out as a sincere desire to know more of the God I had experienced early on, once the pressures of high school and the teenage years really hit, my searching became more of the prodigal type; I flailed about haphazardly with the wrong crowd, wasted much of my inheritance, and had a good, long, muddy wallow with the pigs before my eventual return home.
After a very humiliating and painful first dating experience, which I was much too young for, I began to fear that it was not just my degenerate great-grandfather who so greedily desired to use the female as little more than a plaything. It might just be all men.
With that alarming possibility, my hope of that beautiful future most girls dream of—a loving husband and family of my own—quickly began to fade. If I was to be an object, unloved and uncherished, I reasoned, then why not do so on my own terms? I felt an urgent need to be in full control of my life by any means necessary, and I would start with dating relationships. While I was not yet fully aware of my deep-seated motivations, this is about the time I began to understand that I had not escaped the abuse entirely unscathed. My response to the pain was to use guys to the same degree as they would use me if given the chance. I moved through relationship after relationship, pursuing the high of capturing a boy’s attention, exacting whatever pleasures could be found there, then immediately going onto the next.
Things went downhill fast, and I soon found myself in a pit so deep I couldn’t imagine the possibility of finding my way out again. As unwise and debased as my descent into worldliness was, it was still, in a very real sense, a last-ditch effort at seeking the Lord. Will you save me from this? You found me once before. Can you find me even here, when it is by my own doing that I am lost? The answer, I would soon discover to my great relief, was a glorious and resounding “YES!” It would be the most undeserved of rescues… the Lord’s favorite type.
“I waited patiently for the Lord;Psalm 40:1-2
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of destruction;
out of the mud and mire;
He set my feet on a rock
And gave me a firm place to stand.”