What happened to cause all my bitterness and disgust… Before the age of 12, my life seemed rather normal and happy to me. Sure there were issues, but I was surrounded by good people, seemingly loving people, and felt pretty secure in my place in the world. Over the next few years, though, some really terrible things happened in my family and one by one I started to find out that many of the people I looked up to most were actually really not so wonderful on the inside. Within a few short years people in my close family that I loved and respected and who were pillars of Christianity to me were revealed to be, among other things, thieves, smokers and drinkers (don’t laugh! that was a big deal the way I was raised), adulterers, drug-doers, and worst of all, a beloved grandparent was revealed to be a long-time and active child molester who had victimized many people that I loved.
These things (along with biological propensity I’m sure) triggered a serious depression in me which led to a lot of self-destructive behavior and a period of time where I reached out to God and felt like he wasn’t answering me at all. That along with the things that were happening in my life at the time – my parents’ messy divorce and my mom’s downward spiral – brought up a real anger towards God, and especially Christianity whose people had so let me down. Because of the real experiences I had had with God, I never was able to say that I didn’t believe in God. But it was clear to me that he was pretty much useless, if not worse. And I certainly didn’t believe that Christianity had the God thing right for many reasons.
I turned to drugs to make myself feel better during that time, and about the time I turned 18, I joined a twelve step program and became actively involved. It took several months of trying and failing to get my act together and work the steps, the first of which is “We admitted we were powerless over our addiction and that our lives had become unmanageable.” That was easy, and got exponentially easier each time I relapsed and things got ridiculously worse than I had previously been able to imagine. The second and third steps, though, are a bit harder: “We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity;” and “We turned our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand him.”
After a particularly bad set of decisions led to me fleeing a terrible situation with a guy in Anaheim, putting everything I owned into my little Datsun and trying to drive home with no money, no gas, and nearly passing out from not having eaten for several days, I discovered that there was no home to go to and ended up in the care of some recovery people in Thousand Oaks. I got to a point where I really was able to work those three steps in a real and powerful way and was even starting to lean slightly back in towards a personal God. While I was in Thousand Oaks and clean for a couple of months I found out I was pregnant and moved back to this area. Still with no home to go to, I found help from both the government and the crisis pregnancy center in Santa Maria who actually gave me a home for several months during my pregnancy. At some point during my early pregnancy, I was at a 12-step meeting when a mentally ill friend of mine was acting a bit strange in the other room. Police were called (although he wasn’t being a nuisance or bothering anybody) and the police had a long altercation with him in the club where the meetings were held before finally getting him outside and into their car. He was dead before he got to the jail.
This made me incredibly angry. I was angry with the 12-step program and club where it started, I was angry with the police, I was angry with God. It wasn’t fair, none of it was fair. This threw a big wrench in my return to a personal God. The “God of my understanding” became a very impersonal and abstract concept. Even so, by turning my will and life over to this impersonal and abstract higher power, he was still able to restore me to sanity despite all my anger, fear and uncertainty. I worked through the rest of the steps before my baby was born, and felt like a new person. I definitely had a spiritual life, I prayed, I talked about God and God was definitely empowering me as I had tried over and over to empower myself and proved to be a complete idiot over and over again. But I kept him at a distance, I was afraid of him not being there when I needed him, and I felt like if I couldn’t trust him to be there for me or to prevent injustice then I couldn’t really trust him at all.
When I started dating Will, he was active in a local church and really liked it. I went with him for while, but didn’t really participate, didn’t take communion, etc. I felt like it would be disrespectful as I wasn’t Christian. After a while, I convinced Will to give my dad’s church try – if I was going to church every week I wanted to go to my dad’s church (he was a pastor). So we alternated back and forth for a while every other week but eventually just kept going there. I felt like God was pushing me towards being a Christian, but I couldn’t go there. I just didn’t trust him enough.
My life had really been transformed by this point, I was in school, transferred to Cal Poly, living with an amazing man, raising his kid and my kid together, working part time, longterm clean and sober. I went to a women’s retreat that the church was having (not a sleeping one, just a day or something, don’t remember the details). There was a prayer time afterwards at which my step-mom and another lady were praying for me. I was really feeling the urge to open myself up a bit more to this personal God, and my step-mom prayed just the words I needed to hear to allow me to do it. I don’t remember the exact phrasing, but she prayed something encouraging me to take that leap of faith into God’s arms and let him show me that he wouldn’t let me fall, or let me down.
At that point I considered myself a Christian again, and I did open myself up more to God. I’d love to say it was all smooth sailing from there but that couldn’t be further from the truth.