My name doesn't really matter, that's not really the point of this blog. I could be any of the thousands of youth who grew up in the 90's as a part of the church. And, I'm sure my story mirrors at least parts of your own. But, to give you a brief overview of my origins, read on.
I'm originally from the South, although I've lived in several places during my lifetime. I grew up attending church every week. My family would drive an hour to church and back for both morning and evening services as well as Wednesday evening prayer meetings.
Being homeschooled made church an even more important part of my life. Most of my friends growing up were girls I knew from my church. It was a very conservative atmosphere. A lot of blue jean dresses and a lot of Keds sneakers. And that's just the tip of the iceberg, but that will be a later topic for a later date.
Upon graduating from high school, I attended a college in the Midwest. It was a small, conservative Christian school where I thought I could truly learn what it meant to be a Christian person.
I was wrong.
My four years there were some of the hardest in my life. Now, I don't mean to imply that it was a completely miserable experience, but it was truly a time in my life when innocence was lost. At this school, gossip was rampant, Sundays were spent either hiding in your room or flaunting your religious practice, relationships and the road to marriage were an obsession, and your private thoughts, desires, and feelings were best kept to yourself.
I went to this school hoping to find an education and an awakening. I found an education and a disillusionment with my entire lifestyle. So, I stopped attending church. I knew the Christian "dance" enough to do it in my sleep. I left school with my faith shattered, hoping to leave every semblence of the Christian lifestyle in the past.
After this time, I began a graduate degree at a secular, state school. I was the only person in my class who was a Protestant. No one really cared. I began having these open friendships with the students in my life. It was amazing. I stopped hiding who I was. And, somehow, being in that atmosphere made me realize that I needed something more.
So, I went back to church. I was no longer the wide-eyed child, the niave teenager who believed in every word out of a pastor's mouth. But, I began looking for God in the church again. It wasn't easy. I railed against Him in every way, I made a complete nuisance out of myself at prayer meetings, thought up clever retorts to every sermon point, and avoided spending time with the other church members.
But, I stayed. And, I've come to the realization that while I am not good, and neither is anyone here, God always is. He exists in the Church, and that is where both I and you are commanded to find Him. This is not an easy task, nor one that I always enjoy.
I'm still trying.
So, these are not polished words or eloquent speeches. They're the musics of someone who, like thousands of others, is simply trying.
In the following weeks and months, I'll be starting with my early years and going up until the present day. Come hear about my story and share your own.
"Let's start at the beginning. A very good place to start." Well, folks, my childhood is not as idyllic as "The Sound of Music," but I can't complain too much. So, to start down this rabbit hole, it seems best to begin at, well, the beginning.
I grew up in the southeast as one of three children. My siblings and I were a few years apart, and I was a middle child. I grew up in a Christian home and some of my earliest memories are of going to church with my parents. And, to be honest, they're not particularly happy memories. Sundays, we would wake up early and go to an hour-long Sunday School lesson only to sit through an hour and a half of a worship service, most of which was over my head. Then, that evening, we would return to church once again for another hour and a half service. At three, five, and even eight years of age, it was a little much.
Now, don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with parents bringing their children to church. But, I grew to dread Sundays. Having to sit on an uncomfortable wooden pew for hours on end learning about epistomology was not the ideal way to encourage a child to develop a relationship with her Savior. Nor was it the way to encourage a love of being in community with other believers.
Do you remember the movie Mean Girls?
Cady's a little out of place at her new high school, and naturally becomes friends with a guy and a girl who are a little fringe themselves. Eventually, she starts hanging out with the Plastics, who are basically a bunch of judgey and superficial b-words. And Cady feels caught between two worlds, being two completely different people. You catch glimpses of her shame.
Enter my shame.
That story where Peter denies knowing Jesus used to tick me off. I would think, "C'mon, Pete. Get a hold of yourself, you traitor. Judas is better off!" Before today, I don't think I would have ever compared myself to him. Maybe Mary, sitting at Jesus' feet, or the beloved disciple reclining on Christ's chest at the dinner table. Not today. Today, I finally came to grips with the fact that I am straight up embarrassed to say stuff like, "I'm a Christian." Why? Because way too often the word Christian is synonymous with stupid.