Two things happened when I became a teenager: First, I became acutely aware of guys and second, my family started attending a new church. Let's start with this shift in religion. This church, like the previous one, was very small. However, from the first Sunday service, I realized that this church was a completely different atmosphere. The congregation was amazingly welcoming and friendly. The first Sunday we attended, a family invited us over for lunch, and we had a wonderful afternoon with them.
We became regular attendees of this congregation, and even though the church was small, a small group of teenagers my own age attended. We all became good friends which presented some new experiences. One of the girls, Emily, who attended, became a life-long friend. One of the toughest people I know, she was adventurous, loved to experience everything life had to offer, and was as tough as any guy out there. In contrast to my shy and timid ways, Emily was bold. Through spending time with her, I grew bolder, more confident in my opinions and myself. She knew what she wanted and didn't take no for an answer. While I still remain a quieter person than Emily, her vivacity for life changed my own.
And then there were the guys. As I turned 13, I began noticing guys and attraction. The guys at this church were interesting. They treated me like I was an equal. They would constantly do the silly and even bizarre things that young teen boys do to get a girl's attention. One guy in particular, Tim, caught my eye. He was in a band and had a bizarre sense of humor. We weren't evenly matched. I was still stuck in my straight-laced past and painfully shy. But, I loved his boldness and wanted to be near him, to know how he had come to be.
While I'd like to say that I began changing because of Emily and this new church environment, it would be a lie. What truly brought about my first change was this boy, Tim. It wasn't just that I was attracted to him. he also seemed fascinated in me. Even though we barely shared more than a few words and awkward pauses each Sunday, we continued to find ways to be together, as difficult as it was.
Through these experiences, I began changing. He was like a moth drawn to the flame, and I burned brightly, just for him. As corny as a metaphor, there is an accuracy in that statement which I can't put any other way. I'd like to think that I came out of my shell on my own, but in reality, it was my surroundings that brought about these changes.
In addition to this awakening, my feelings towards God changed. I began looking forward to Sundays. I also began to try and understand more about religion. I was at best, a reluctant participant, but still, these years saw the first voluntary involvement in both church and my personal faith.
What Happened To You?
Of course, with any action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. My parents weren't quite sure what to do with their new teenager. Although my older sister had paved the way, she had shown no interest in guys and was much more career focused. Suddenly, almost overnight, I had changed from a tomboy to a "girl." Someone who wanted to understand fashion, wear makeup, and have a boyfriend. You could almost hear my parents wondering what went wrong.
And, as many parents do when their children grow up, they didn't see the positives of my changes. Instead of supporting my foray into womanhood, my parents reacted by trying to keep me as close as possible. I remember the battle over downloading instant messaging on the home computer and how terrified my parents were that I would be able to talk to my friends online without any supervision. Similar battles erupted over seemingly harmless events like going to the mall, watching certain movies, and wearing certain clothes.
I'd like to say that I tried to work with my parents around these issues, but that's simply not the case. This was my time. I didn't care who I had to alienate and what I had to do in order to get even a few precious moments with my friends. I had seen freedom and how wonderful it was. Nothing could take that away from me now. My benign relationship with my parents turned into a constant battle. I let them know I hated being homeschooled, wanted nothing to do with them, and was being forced to live my life as an outcast.
I'm not proud to say that these were extremely damaging years to my family relationships. I frequently told my parents that I hated them, especially when they tried to prevent any social activity. Even though I was extremely eager to participate in Church events, ones where Tim was present anyways, it was ultimately an act.
Nothing Lasts Forever
But, all things come to an end, both good and bad. At the age of 14, I managed to have a group of semi-normal friends and a boyfriend. Things were looking up. My relationship with my parents was in shambles and my participation in church events was a complete act for the sake of looking holy, but it was still a period of positive change.
But, when you're a teenager, your life changes in a blink of an eye. And, this brief period in my life didn't last for long, but that's another story for another day. However, if I could leave you with one last thought I will. Teenagers have a sense of urgency which so many adults lack. If you don't get to meet that boy or go to that movie, it seems like the end of the world. I don't miss the hormones or the angst of those teenage years. But, there is never a time when you feel more alive than when you're a teenager. And, if you can hold onto that passion throughout your adult life, then your life will truly be an amazing experience. I've just now begun realizing that.
So, here we end. At the age of 14, I've been a teenager with all the drama and struggles that come along with it. No longer an enemy of the Church, I've instead become a reluctant ally, realizing that through church, I have access to a new social arena. But, yet, there is no faith, no believe. Simply using this world for my own devices.
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.
Something I have started to realize since I've began going back to church again is that God has a way. A little while ago I didn't care nothing about being at a church. I saw everyone as hypocrites. My thoughts were also if you were going to tell me who I can and can't be friends with and who I can and can't date, then I have no preference to go to church.
Well on May 4th, before mother's day I visited a wonderful church with a close friend of mine. God had a plan that day. I had been wanting to find a church that approached a certain issue. The issue was unconditional Love. One of the things that was talked about was not point out people's sins. I couldn't tell you everything about that lecture now. But I will tell you the issue that had been on my mind was no longer on my mind. The sermon was not as great as I would have liked it to be. But for once I had heard a sermon I'd been craving to hear. Something I needed to hear.
One of the things that I found to be important is that it wasn't about pointing out everyone else's sins.
This was the first time I attended church since I almost walked out of the church I had been going to since I was seven. The reason I had almost walked out had a lot to do with I sat through the WORST sermon I think I've ever heard in my life. The preacher had so much anger in his eyes when he looked at me. The preachers eyes hardly ever left my eyes or the persons I was with. The sermon went from one of those "typical sermons you have around the holidays" to being about you should not date someone of a different faith. It started pointing out all the flaws in dating someone of a different faith. But we didn't bring Buddhism, Hinduism, Jewism, or any of that into the lecture. Instead we focused on what the person who was there with me was. The sermon outraged me. The sermon outraged the individual who was with me as well. I almost did leave. The only thing was I knew if I left, he was following me, and I didn't know if the preacher would have more hatred in his eyes, if he would call out something that would start a reaction from either of us or what would happen. So we sat. And we sat. We sat through what was the longest sermon I've ever sat through, with him pointing out all the flaws in dating someone who was Pagan or Wiccan. We sat through hearing how we really shouldn't even be friends. As a Christian I should show grace and love but keep myself separated from the individual. Worst sermon I've sat through.
We left church that day. Snuck out the back. Knowing that the pastor had either been watching my Facebook or saw someone commented on it or someone in the church said something. Cuz otherwise you really wouldn't have known. The guy I was with had nothing on him that said what faith he was. The pastor just picked up on it somewhere because I hadn't advertised it either. Just had what was on my facebook and that was that. I smoked my first puff off a cigarette that day. I was that UPSET about it.