[Preface: This post will make much more sense if you read THIS post first that I wrote a couple days ago]
Lexia replied to the post I had made in reply to her expression of frustrations with certain habits in Christianity. Then, she decided in order to fully explain where she was coming from, she needed to share a back story of her past. Once again, because it is a private blog she’s posting on and I don’t have permission to link you straight there, I am going to copy paste her story here because I would love to also open up my heart and share a confession story I too have been sitting on for years:
i was 12 years old and sitting in my home economics class in the small town we had recently moved to a year before. i was sitting at a table, the long square rectangle table, facing the door, with my best friends, Kelly, Rebecca, Kayla, Jesse, and Ashley. I think we were sewing pillows, although i cant quite remember now.
I’m not sure how it started. i dont know if i mentioned something about my brothers, if the topic of Christianity was brought up, or going to church, or what. but i do remember the moment my skin became flushed, i became hot, my heart started pounding and my legs started to shake. i do remember Rebecca standing up from her chair and telling me that i was going to go to hell. i do remember looking at the rest of the class and seeing that they were sitting in their chairs quietly watching this happen. i remember my home economics teacher sitting in her chair intently watching without interfering as the most pivotal point of my life was occurring.
she just watched it happen. never.said.a.word.
Rebecca and kayla said that because my brothers choose to be gay, they are going to burn in hell. i simply stated that of course they didnt CHOOSE to be gay, they just are. have always been. i didnt know any different… and was actually confused why anyone would say they had CHOSEN to be the way they are.
Ashley and kelly chimed in, saying that it was because my mom was a terrible mother, her parenting skills lacking for not taking us to church, to exposing us to the word of god. and for that, we’d all burn in hell.
They stood up, they started yelling at me…. i shook in my chair. they said they wouldnt associate with the devil, and evil like me. they said that they were on God’s side, and that they would no longer be friends with me because i didnt go to church.
they told me that i would be an alcoholic and pregnant by the time i was 15.
Jesse finally said something, told them they were being ridiculous, how could they do this to me?
she was the only.person. who said anything in my defense.
i left the room, i was shaking so hard i couldnt drink from the water fountain. i was sick… i left school and walked up to the dance studio where my mom was.
i was 12, i had no reference points. i asked her why my brothers were going to hell if they were gay? what in the world? i was so confused! everyone said they CHOSE to be gay? my world was literally flipped over, i had no idea how christianity viewed homosexuals. in my house we were immediately taught acceptance and that everyone is different and that my brothers attraction to men was no different than my attraction to men. people are attracted to different types of people. thats it, no big deal, no discussion, no confusion…. it was just as simple as you liking the color red and me the color blue. so to be thrown in this pit of fire all the sudden, by my best friends in one of the most impressionable years of my life, absolutely ROCKED.MY.WORLD. to hear someone say that my mother was a horrible parent, the mother that i absolutely adored and loved…. it shook me to the core.
this was the first time i had experienced what Christianity had to offer. on occassion, i had been to church with one of my friends, and the entire time i had felt scared and totally out of the loop. they were chanting these things of words i didnt know, talking in weird sentences using phrases and words that were unfamiliar, and there was all this business about kneeling and then sitting, and then standing, and then going up for communion…. which i did…. because i only knew to follow whatever they were doing. i felt on edge and alert the whole time, and felt so excluded because it seemed everyone knew what to do except me.
so, my two experiences with christianity up until that point had been….. terrifying. soul shaking, mind altering, gut sinking.
After the episode in home economics, i became a different person. i no longer had any friends (although Jesse was still nice to me, but from a distance), and my locker was broken into and stuff thrown about the hall. Kelly started a rumor that i fingered myself (i didnt know what masturbation even was at that point), and when i walked into the gym during a basketball game she got the entire bleachers – at least half the student body- to wave their fingers at me, and yelled out “HEY FINGERS! YOU CAN GO SIT OVER THERE!” humiliation was her weapon, and she absolutely used it to perfection.
we had to move. we left the state, and i never looked back.
i know i’m supposed to forgive and forget, and i understand why kayla and rebecca said the things they did. they were using the teachings of their church to try and better themselves, mistakenly putting someone else down in the process. they must have just gotten done with the chapter on homosexuals when they turned it on me.
but i have never been able to get over my anxiety around churches or christianity. it is something i will likely never be able to be comfortable around, or in. my defenses go up, and the 12 year old me wants to run in the other direction, away from the ‘mean girls’. Logically, i KNOW that churches arent like that (at least most) and the people aren’t like that (at least most) but i can not help how i feel. it is what it is. i literally feel more comfortable in a muslim moque or a jewish synagogue than in a christian church. When i’m in a church, i feel like someone is going to quickly figure me out, be able to ‘see’ that i am not a christian, and see that i dont belong. they’re going to see that i have homosexuals in my family, and that my kids dont know who Jesus is. i’m going to answer a question incorrectly, someone will point and shout “TRAITOR!” and i will have to run for my life.
panic panic panic. that is how i feel.
a friend of mine posted the article i wrote below, about Should Christian Women Wear Bikinis, on her blog to further the discussion. many people posted lots of amazing and well put comments, but one really got to me. i’m going to share it anonymously:
I do believe as Christians we live to a standard set apart from what the general population (those who have not chosen, or choose not to call on Jesus as Lord). If there is no difference, we aren’t following God’s command to be set apart. We DO speak differently, act differently, dress differently, think differently, because CHRIST is our standard and not the world.
Oh my. maybe she didnt think i would read it. or maybe she didnt think there was anything wrong with how she said that. i’m going to seriously ruffle some feathers here… ready? i’m going to just change the word “christians” to “white” and “the general population” to black, to utilize my same color analogy that i did in my previous article. see if it reads slightly more different to you now:
I do believe as Whites we live to a standard set apart from what the Blacks (those who have not chosen, or choose not to call on Jesus as Lord). If there is no difference we aren’t following God’s command to be set apart. We DO speak differently, act differently, dress differently, think differently, because CHRIST is our standard and not the world.
do you catch my drift? does it read………. slightly more…. segregated now? slightly more …. elitist?
If she means she speaks differently because she uses phrases from the bible in her daily speech then YES, she is different from me. if she means she thinks differently than me because she is thinking about God and Jesus during the day, then yes, she is different from me.
but ACT differently?! in what way? please, go into further explanation. I follow ‘christian’ morals, just like christians do. i teach my children to follow them too. we hold kindness and compassion above all else.
And DRESS DIFFERENTLY?! is there a Christian clothing store i am not aware of? am i shopping at the Agnostic clothing store without realizing it? From what i know, non-believers and believers alike shop at Target….
BY THE FREAKING WAY….. I WEAR A ONE PIECE BATHING SUIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
phew. there i said it. i do… because i LIKE being modest. not because Jesus tells me to, but because, ITS COMFORTABLE. because i am a mother. because i already have a husband and dont need to be parading around in front of other guys in a bikini. because i’m a mom, and i dress appropriately for a woman of my age. but if i feel like wearing a bikini, i damn well do it because i want to.
So please… do not evangelize while at the same time use terminology and phrases that exclude more than they include. that is all that i ask.
we are all the same, we are all…. “God’s children”
Lexia, can I just repeat once again how much I absolutely love you. I like to live my life like an open book and really don’t have any secrets hidden away. The one story that’s been a secret for a long time I’m about to share with you.
Thank you so much for opening up your heart and your past in sharing that. I happened to be at Esther’s house when you posted it and we read it together. We were both choked up and honestly speechless (and considering the fact that you know how big of chatterboxes Esther and I are, that’s saying a lot). My heart breaks for your 12 year old self when I read this. I want so badly to give her a hug and tell her it’s all going to be okay.
I wish I could say this never happens and is a fluke of an incident regarding Christianity, but I know it’s not. You’re not the first person to tell me they won’t have anything to do with evangelical Christians because they were once told they were going to burn in hell as a child. Rather than elaborate on how I disagree with this, I will provide you this link to a post I wrote in April that explains very well my thoughts on this type of behavior and theology.
I agree with you that we can’t help the way we feel. It’s out of our control. I was recently filling up my gas tank and somehow got a whiff of something that sent my mind to the streets of New York and for several seconds my brain relived dozens of small memories walking the sidewalks of the busy streets with cars racing by. Of course New York smells like gasoline, and I cannot control my brain to disassociate these thoughts. So for you to say that walking into a church (which considering you’re a wedding photographer, happens on a fairly regular basis) or meeting someone who says they’re a Christian makes you relive those emotions in your past, is completely understandable.
You said yourself you know you need to forgive them, and that is the point I wanted to touch on. As mentioned before, it’s so important to separate God/Jesus from people/religion. SUCH, SUCH, SUCH different things. They are the product of religion, and unfortunately the adults in their life didn’t educate them enough on loving others. They were trying to manipulate them into “good behavior” by scaring them with the consequences of “bad behavior.” But I would imagine that somewhere out there, the adult version of Kelly is sick to her stomach with regret knowing how wrong what she did was.
I know it’s not on as grand of a scale as what you experienced but I spent FIVE years reliving an emotion of guilt and regret EVERY SINGLE DAY until I confessed what I had done to a friend and she helped walk me through the emotions I was feeling and helped me to forgive myself. In the “Christian language” you will hear people say that we are not to judge “the world” for their actions and behaviors because they don’t know any better because they’re not Christians and God will be their judge. But Christian-to-Christian we are supposed to hold each other accountable and point out to our fellow-Christian when they are doing something wrong. (Please don’t misunderstand me, I do believe that if we are a loving friend and we care about them and see them walking down a dangerous path or making a mistake it is our responsibility to talk to them about it, but there are good and bad ways to approach these situations)
Another rule in the Christian religion is that Christians are not to date non-Christians. There is a verse about being “unequally yolked” that you will hear them talk about to explain why they teach this. In high school I held very steadfast to this rule and would not even allow myself to have a crush on a guy who wasn’t a Christian, which made my options very, very limited. There was one “Christian” guy at my school that everyone knew Sophia had a crush on for four years. But what’s really bad is that I really only had a crush on him freshman and some of sophomore year. Then because he didn’t go to the same kind of church I did and wasn’t being taught these crazy restrictions I was, he started to change. The next three years weren’t really a crush. They were an infatuation Sophia had with trying to make this “Christian” person realize the error of his ways and become more “Christian” like me so his life could be straight. (Side note: he was a super nice, great guy who was a completely normal teenager and had a good, solid head on his shoulders and really didn’t need changing)
My obsession with trying to fix him peeked towards the end of senior year when he was in a relationship with a girl who wasn’t Christian and I just saw sin all over this situation. By this time I actually had my eyes on a guy in my youth group and wasn’t even trying to date this guy because he wasn’t Christian enough for me anymore. But wanting him to realize the error of his ways, I created an anonymous email address and sent him an email telling him all the things I wanted to say about how sinful his relationship was. AHHHH!!! I get so mad at myself every single time I think about this! His reply was directed right at me because obviously he knew there was no one else in the world who would do this and he made it very clear that I was not welcome in his life anymore, there was no friendship to speak of, and he had no intentions of every acknowledging my presence in a room again because after years of him tolerating this attitude of mine I had gone way too far. I deserved every word in the email. I cried for hours that night. I knew what I had done was so wrong that I wouldn’t even tell anyone what happened. I was so embarrassed.
To be honest, I don’t even remember what happened in the months to follow, it’s all so cloudy. I remember writing a long apologetic email, but I don’t even remember if he read or replied to it. I remember a month or so after that writing up an apology letter again and printing it out and handing it to him one of the last couple days of high school. I don’t remember a word of what was in either one. Then I remember that when I went up to visit friends at his university he came and hung out with us, which means I guess we became friends again? And then I remember that I invited him to my wedding and he came.
But can I confess something else? On my wedding video there is footage of us dancing together and I remember that very clearly. I remember that I was still so uncomfortable with how much I hated myself and the four years of things I said and did that I dreaded dancing with him. I remember it lasted about 30 seconds and then I saw a friend’s 6 year old little boy and used him as my scapegoat to get out of this awkward moment for me. Then, even though we remained Facebook friends, we haven’t seen each other in person in over five years and until last month because of a random Facebook thread, had not even had a conversation. I intentionally ran away–no idea whether he did or not.
As I matured and realized how small of a box my brain lived in, how big and beautiful the world was, and how amazing all people of all walks of life were, I hated so much about who I once was. I was a Bible-thumping teenager. My friends from high school tell me that yes I was the “Christian-girl” in high school but I was very nice and overall pretty well liked and needed to stop worrying about what I said or did. I guess the reason it’s so much worse in my mind is that they don’t know what went through my brain at all times. They don’t know that on the first day of freshman year I wore a Christian t-shirt about Jesus being a lifeguard here to rescue us from hell and that I took my first step off the bus seeing the school as my mission field and that I was going to “save” everyone. And that for four years I saw the world as “them” and “us.” Christians who “got it” and everyone else who was sinful and needed to be taught the right way of living.
Please understand that my brain doesn’t operate this way anymore. Years ago I started praying that God would help me to see all people the way he sees them, and I still pray this very regularly. I see only beauty in every person I meet. I truly believe everyone is good because we were all created in the image of God, but in this world of good vs evil we are all constantly battling internally. Some good people make really, really bad decisions that hurt lots of people because somehow in their mind they convinced themselves they were doing the right thing. In the story I shared with you, I honestly believed I was doing the right thing, even though it may be the most judgmental decision I have ever made.
I shared this story with you for two reasons. One, you opened up a painful part of your past. I have held this story inside for a very,very long time so felt inspired to also open up a painful part of my past. And two, even though what they did was on such a grander scale, and much more public, the mentality behind it wasn’t that much different. “I know the right way of living and you don’t.” I thought maybe if I opened up and gave you a glimpse into what was possibly going through their mind, it may help you in the process of forgiving them. And something tells me that the adult versions of these girls probably feel the same guilt I did. I wish I was exaggerating when I tell you that I thought about that incident every. single. day. for five years. But I’m not. That means I felt the emotion of remorse at least 1,825 times. It was a weight on my shoulders every day until I finally opened up and told the story to someone who knew us both and she walked me through my emotions. Just letting it out of the closet (even though I cried the entire time I was telling the story) brought so much healing. You have obviously moved on, but maybe they haven’t. So we should pray for them that they will see how painful their actions were and find a way to forgive themselves knowing that you moved on and turned out pretty damn awesome.
There is only one step left, and probably the hardest. You need to come to a place where you are genuinely thankful for that experience. As hard as it was to live through, it made you who you are. No matter how painful our pasts are, they develop our character. And much more growth comes from the hard times than the good. I believe you will have fully arrived when you can look at that memory and feel gratitude that it happened to you, you overcame it, and it taught you something. Even though it created fear in your life, I bet it taught you to never treat others like that. I bet it taught you the harm in being close-minded. I have no idea what you learned from it, but it certainly impacted your character.
Lexia, you very well may be the only person to read this 3,809 word post, but that’s okay. I wrote it only to share my experience with you like you did with me, and to get something off my chest that sat there way too long. A year ago I was able to finally move on. I pray that you too will figure out how to fully heal from the experience and be able to move on so it is no longer a weight you are carrying on your shoulders.
Love you girlie. And totally loving this conversation we’re having.