“It’s a wonder either of us still believe in God,” I said into the phone, softly, hesitantly, as if speaking them were releasing a terrible truth.
How dare we, after all? Yes, Jacob wrestled with God, but we weren’t allowed to. We’d grown up in the same subculture, drinking batch after batch of Kool-Aid, trying not to let it influence us but knowing that it was slowly poisoning us anyway.
He didn’t say anything for a while. When he did, it was soft and reluctant and surprised and awed. “Yeah.”
I never thought the way I grew up was any different than anyone else. Sure, I knew we wore skirts and homeschooled, but that was the majority of my friends, so I didn’t feel too much like a fish out of water.
It wasn’t until I got out, took a dozen steps back, and put my hands on my hips as I analyzed the situation that I realized… wow, that was interesting.
Over the last year, I’ve been doing a crap ton of research, studying the influences that were so prevalent during my formative years – Joshua Harris, Bill Gothard, the Botkin Sisters. I knew them, sure, but only from years of blindly following them in a haze, too confused to question but too understanding of my place to rebel in the slightest.
It was easiest to just go with the flow. To wear the skirts. To go to the purity book studies. To agree to sign the purity pact with my dad. But I knew it wasn’t what I truly believed. What I believed needed to make sense, and everything I’d heard made about as much sense as wearing a skirt to play football with the guys after church. So I wore shorts under my skirt. I questioned the courtship mindset. I took home the paper that I was told I should sign that would essentially put my heart (my purity) into my father’s hands for safe keeping until the man I would marry would approach him for his approval… but I never signed it.
Looking back, I can see the cracks in the glass – the places where the truth was twisted so intensely that it barely resembled the original intent.
That’s the crazy thing about lies. Cornelia Funke says in her novel Reckless that “the best lies stay close to the truth,” and I completely agree. The poison goes down much easier with a glassful of Kool-Aid, after all.
I’m still trying to piece together that original intent, by the way. I’d been fed so many lies over the last decade that the truth was barely visible anymore – and what I knew of the truth, I didn’t want. If God was as vindictive and conditional and demanding as I’d always been told He was, I didn’t want anything to do with Him. So I went back to the basics of what I knew, reading the Gospels and trying to figure out Who Jesus was completely on my own, with no outside influence. I needed to figure out what I believed and if it looked like everything I’d always said I believed.
Instrumental in this was the fact that after my family left the church that had hurt us so badly, I spent a while just cycling through the Psalms. I read them over and over and over until I could almost recite them. It felt as if David’s struggle with God echoed mine, constantly asking “Why?” but always coming back to merely accepting and leaving the rest up to Him. I also started reading through the entire Bible for the first time. I’d read through the majority of the books before, but this was my first time going through the whole thing for myself.
Doing all of this changed my perspective completely, and I began to realize that exactly what Jesus told the Pharisees was right – it all boils down to love. If you didn’t have love, you had nothing. (No wonder I always felt so ostracized in my old church.) I started trying to just love God and love people, and, so far, it’s worked pretty well. (This song also impacted me like an anvil to the head and I might’ve played it loudly in my car towards a member of that old church in a weak attempt to get him to listen.)
All that to say, I’m working out my salvation. I’m a bad Christian. I cuss sometimes, I don’t go to church every week, and I’ve fallen asleep during almost every single video in a Francis Chan devotional that I’m going through. But if God truly loves me and thinks I’m worth it, trying is the best that I can do. And He’s okay with that.