I’m seventeen years old. The first place I go to when I get my driver’s license is church. I’m hungry for Jesus. I’m dating a boy who loves Him very imperfectly but his family embodies Grace and Love in a way I have never experienced. I want what this family has. I need it. I go and I get baptized. I don’t tell anyone, but I want Light.
I’m twenty eight years old. I walk into a new church in a new city holding the hands of people I love and trust. I take my babies to their classrooms and quickly find a seat. I gaze over at the faces of the men and women I want to be when I grow up. I want to trust Jesus like they do. I want to know what they know. I want their Jesus. The way Christianity plays itself out in their lives is undeniable and irresistible and I will spend my life in awe of their authentic, grace-filled lives. I will follow them wherever they go, and I will certainly attend their church. I want Light.
I’m seven years old. I’m writing the worst words I know on my brothers spelling sheet. Hell and demon have made their way across the page in bold letters. I write big and sloppy and scary and scribbly. I was hoping to trick him. I was hoping to get him in trouble. I was in second grade and I was bored.
I’m two years old. The congregation brings my brother up front to stand on stage. People are speaking in tongues and waving their arms. Hundreds of hands are placed on his head and everyone is shouting at once. They pray for divine healing. They ask for a miracle over my brother’s eye. Church is finished and my beloved brother walks down from the stage still holding the hole in his head. You didn’t have enough faith, they whispered as we walked through the hallways. We didn’t have enough faith.
I’m nineteen years old. I’m living in a Christian house connected to our college ministry. I’m in recovery for faking every part of my life. I’m trying not to be so two-faced. I’m sick of the emptiness that follows my lies and my cheats and my sex and my games. I’m gonna be better. I want Light. I want Jesus. I want to have enough Faith to be healed. A twenty four hour worship team begins to gather in our basement. Soon the room is filled up with people who are speaking in God’s name. The spirit is there. The people are prophesying and speaking words over me. I’m told that I am clean and that I am made new and I am dancing in front of God who sees me through the screen of Jesus and His blood. When my Beloved looks upon me, I’m pure. I am walking down the aisle. I am in a white cathedral, in a white dress and He lifts my veil. I hold onto this image of myself. I believe. Most of my roommates are scared of these people in our basement. They eventually ask them to leave. I feel grateful and hopeful and forgiven. And also, glad they are gone.
I’m twenty eight years old and I’ve been in church for almost two hours. We have now danced and shouted and prayed. We have called down God’s spirit and prophesied in His name. We have asked for His healing and His anointing and His goodness. We have cried out against divisiveness and claimed our future and our hope in Christ. I agree. I agree. I’ve experienced this style of Church before. This is not how I choose to worship, but I still know its true. I can hold onto who Jesus is with the shouting and the dancing and the charismatic preaching. I can also hold onto who Jesus is in the silence and reverence and stillness of the Catholic Church. I can also hold onto who Jesus is at the dinner table discussing theology and brokenness and injustice and truth and motherhood and marriage with my best friends. That’s called Light.
I’m seven years old. The scribbling on pages has become a hot topic at the kitchen table. Who did it? Who wrote hell on the spelling test? Who was scribbling on the edge of the paper? Who would write these horrific words? When no one fessed up, they decided it was something satanic. The church came over to perform an exorcism. They told us there was a demon in my parent’s room. We stood together and prayed it away. The ritual went on for hours. I was scared and stopped scribbling. I was terrified that a demon was making me write those scary words, or worse, I was the demon writing scary words.
I’m nine years old. Church is happening upstairs. They are worshiping and singing and the kids eventually get to go down and play. We play Barbie and ball games and jump on the bed. They teach me how to draw and paint. We hold their puppies and guinea pigs and put on puppet shows. We play ballerina and doctor and watch movies. They take off my clothes, tell me what to do, and touch me how they please. I’m at church surrounded by people. I am desperately alone.
I’m twenty eight years old and I’m blindsided with anger and pain. My heart begins to pound and my mind races. It’s been two hours. The kids are not okay, the kids are not okay. My mind won’t shut off. I flash back to a church too busy healing eyes and calling out demons that they forgot me. I was left behind. And now I’m hysterical. It starts slow, the kids are not okay, the kids are not okay, and it moves faster, thekidsarenotokaythekidsarenotokay. My head is pounding and my stomach is lurching in an attempt to get out of my body. I get tunnel vision. I am going to pass out. The kids are not okay, the kids are not okay. I’m ready to plow down the people I was admiring earlier and army craw under these pews.I’m ravenous and irrational and ready to do anything to get to my babies.
I’m twenty eight years old and I am trying to be an adult and cope. Be an adult and cope. I need to cope. Get a grip, self. Be a grown up. Don’t have a panic attack. My mind screams. The kids are not okay, the kids are not okay. At this point, I’m a sobbing/hysterical person. People are rubbing my back and giving me affirming looks. I’m running in circles in my mind. I’m going to break out. Does anyone have any idea what is going on? Is anyone paying attention? THE KIDS ARE NOT OKAY. I’m going to race out of here, kick down the door, grab my kids and never look back. This church will not hurt them the way it hurt me.
I’m two years old, sorry, not enough faith, not healed. I’m seven years old, get the demon out, get the demon out. I’m nine years old, lift up your shirt, pull down your pants. I’m twenty eight years old, the flashbacks are too heavy to hold and I collapse under their weight. The kids are fine. Hungry maybe, but fine. The kids are fine. I am the one who is broken. I am the one who has been wrecked by this. I am the one who is not okay and did not feel safe. I am the one who cannot enter back into that dark space. I want Light. I want Light. I want Light.
I am twenty eight years old and I am holding onto a promise. I have a future. I am love, made in love, created for love, called to love. I am clean and I am made new and I am dancing in front of my God who sees me through the screen of Jesus and His blood. When my Beloved looks upon me, I’m pure. I am walking down the aisle towards Him. I am in a white cathedral, in a white dress and He lifts my veil. I am walking into healing. I am kneeling before the cross. I am still and I am reverent. I am at the beginning of this love story that calls me into eternity. I am pure and unblemished. I am His bride. I am His Church. I am reconciled again and again and again to my calling of love.
I have Light. I hold Light. I know Light. I taste Light. I trust Light.
I am twenty eight years old and I will not let anyone preach or shame or chase this truth out of me.