The Life of a Christian
I did not grow up in a Christian home. My father was a functional weekend alcoholic, who became verbally abusive to my mother during his weekly binges. Their relationship was volatile and I was constantly fearful of when the “other shoe would drop.” I learned at an early age that I could divert attention from her if I kept him occupied by playing games like poker and Rook. So that’s what I did. That’s the job I gave myself even as young as 6 years old. I was extremely timid and eager to please. When I was the best version of me, I was praised by my dad and I felt most loved and accepted. This greatly shaped who I would be even in my walk as a Christian.
When I was almost 9 things were especially rough in my home. My parents seemed to always be fighting and, evidently, it trickled down to my brother and me. I was the youngest of four (including two much older half siblings) but only grew up with one brother who is four years older than me. We had a love/hate relationship just as most other siblings like us. One thing my parents did right was by having family dinner. We always gathered at the table as a family and were not permitted to watch TV or have music playing…it was supposed to be a time for catching up as a family. One night at dinner my brother and I were really at each other to the point that we were driving my mother crazy. I remember this because she reached her limit…which was made known by her slamming her hand down on the table with the exclamation, “THAT’S IT! WE’RE GOING TO CHURCH!!” So that’s what the three of us set out to do. We began the search for a church home.
Camellia Baptist Church in Prattville, AL is where I found Jesus…and where I found who I was meant to be. I’ve tried to thank my brother over the years for being such a turd…because without that squabbling during dinner that night…I don’t know if I would ever have met the One who saved me and loved me as I craved to be loved. The contrast of what my church family offered vs what my home life looked like was striking. I wanted what these people had. I wanted that peace…I wanted the LOVE…the unconditional LOVE that they kept talking about. Sounds good to me. So, in February of 1989 I looked up at my mom and said that I wanted to become a Christian. I went down front and talked to my incredible pastor and he led me in prayer to accept Jesus as my Savior. Jesus was my Savior from that point on. Even at 9 I knew that Jesus died for all the things I had done and would ever do that was less than perfect.
Eventually my mom and brother quit going to church. I did too during my preteen years. The Lord led me back to Camellia my freshman year of high school. Just in time. My brother had just graduated from this high school and had been extremely popular and was a big party guy. At this point in life, I ADORED him and just wanted him to like, love, and be proud of me. So I started getting to know some of the lower classmen he hung around. Looking back I can see God’s hand on me as I was drawn to the youth group at church more than these “friends” that would help me become like my brother. At the age of 16, I realized that Jesus couldn’t just be Savior…I needed to give Him more control. He was making better choices for me than I was for myself. So I decided that I needed to make Him Lord of my life. I decided to not just claim “fire insurance” as Baptists liked to say back in the day…I wanted to live a life that would make the Lord proud of me.
At that point on, for the most part, I was even more of a “good girl” than ever before. Everyone knew I loved Jesus and that I would always choose what was right. I was a rule follower and it was easy for me to walk the straight line. However, I allowed others to believe it was difficult and proudly stood on the pedestal they placed me on. The view was amazing from up there. I felt so loved and valued because of the person everyone believed me to be. I mean I was her..for the most part. I definitely wanted to BE her. People can’t be mad, disappointed, or negligent of someone who puts them first and always makes the best decisions for herself and others. Meanwhile, on the inside I struggled. In order to deal with my emotions growing up in my household I turned to food and became addicted. I tried to get comfort from anything other than Jesus…I wanted tangible comfort and it didn’t seem like He offered that. So food and the praise and attention of others is where I looked. It wasn’t there either. I struggled with depression as a child but even more so in college because after 20 years of marriage my parents divorced my freshman year. I know…this should not be shocking but it rocked my world. Even though they were dysfunctional my family offered some sense of security. Depression crept in and has camped out over the years…popping up from time to time…each time being more severe. The very fact that it is there makes me feel like a failure as a Christian because I KNOW the hope I have in Jesus.
Fast forward to the last couple of years. I am currently struggling with a bout of depression even to the point of suicidal thoughts. I finally gave in to being on medication for it even though that made me feel like a faithless Christian. However, I realized that sometimes we struggle through these earthly things because this is not our home and it is an extremely imperfect and dysfunctional place. There were many heroes of the faith that wrestled with a sin, ailment, or some other imperfection, so who am I to think my life would be any different. I also KNOW that the Lord is with me. I see it in His desire to not let me perish…in His pulling on my heart to KNOW His real and unconditional love that I still haven’t figured out how to accept really.
February of 2020 marks my 31st year as a Christian and I have these things to share with you.
It’s the best decision I have ever made. There are countless times when the Lord has literally saved me from myself. Countless times where He revealed Himself to be EXACTLY who the Bible says He is…Loving, Merciful, Forgiving, FAITHFUL, Compassionate, and Just. As a child of His, He will not let you sit in a place that is not good for you and knowing He is with me…makes life worth living.
I unknowingly viewed my relationship with God as I did with my earthly father. Even though I KNEW you cannot earn God’s love and acceptance…I still acted as if I could up until recently. For 39 years I was my best self as often as I could be so He would be most proud and love me more. So that I could be special. Turns out…He loves us all so immensely that He has no favorites. There is nothing that I can do better than anyone else that would make Him feel anything more for me than He would for you or anyone else. I am still working on sorting this out. I’m still wrapping my head around how He could have such love even when I’m my yucky…foul mouthed…and ill tempered self. I do strive to walk daily with Him so that I can become more and more like He is and less and less like my TRUE self. I do this not so that He will love me more but because I love Him and I know that His ways are the BEST WAYS.
I have learned that you truly do not have to “clean” yourself up before you say yes to following Him. He does that part…and He doesn’t do it all at once. I do not have it figured out at all even as a 31 year Christian. It will be something He will be working out in me until the day He brings me home with Him. Just as you don’t learn how to be the perfect human as a newborn…you don’t learn how to be the “perfect Christian” when you accept Him. In the hopes of relieving more pressure…you will never be the perfect Christian here…that’s why Jesus died for each of us. He was perfect because He knew we could never be. He loves us in our imperfections. Blows my mind.
Lastly, church people are ridiculous. We are all human and some of us are here just to wreck this relationship with Jesus for other people. Others of us are just treading water because life is hard. We will hurt you. We will disappoint you. We are just like you. The difference is that those of us who TRULY know Jesus…know that and won’t hold it over you. Please don’t let the stench of others keep you from the goodness of Jesus. He loves you.