When I was four years old, a preacher-lady heard God tell her to call me out to the front of the Church at a small Bible study group. "Little girl," she knelt down to my level and looked me directly in the eye with a soft, gentle smile on her face, "Do you want Jesus to come into your heart?"
"Oh no!" I responded, "I want him to stay right up there in that sky!" Everyone in the church laughed at what they supposed was a misunderstanding on my behalf. Apparently, I was protected by the innocence of my youth until I finally did get baptized and accepted Jesus as my lord and savior about a year or two later. Yet, now that I look back, I was wiser as a four-year-old than I was as a teenager and young adult. I knew exactly what I was talking about. However, by eight years old I had accepted the Holy Spirit and begun speaking in tongues.
Any time my natural teenage sexual curiosity would surface, God would test me by sending a charming boy my way who would compliment my physical beauty and arouse in me feelings of evil lustful desire. I cleverly succumbed nearly every single time by engaging in every sexual act except intercourse. I rationalized that as long as there was no penetration, I could still consider myself a virgin but the guilt of giving in to the sinful desires of my flesh would drive me to fast until I felt I had sufficiently killed my earthly body and allowed the Holy Ghost to regain control. Every time I failed to resist temptation, I reinforced the idea that I was unworthy of God's love but by his grace and mercy. I'd beg and plead with God to remove these desires from me. I asked him repeatedly why he would create me to be so vile and weak. I was a dirty, disgusting, sinner who deserved to burn in hell forever, but because of my special relationship with Jesus I would instead be forgiven and spend eternity in Heaven. This was my fantasy world and Jesus was my imaginary friend.
The cycle of sinning and forgiveness was mentally exhausting emotional abuse by any psychology textbook definition, but it would take years for me to realize this. Lucky for me, I went away to college on the other side of the country --- far, far away from everything I knew growing up. Being exposed to people with different backgrounds from all over the world was thrilling and refreshing. I couldn't explain to myself why I felt my connection to god dissipating at the time, but now I know its because I had found something real to replace him with --- a boyfriend.
I was afraid to make my own decisions and take responsibility for the consequences of said decisions [...] God had a grand design for my life and the Bible was God's road map which would detail exactly the path I was to take. As long as I prayed to God and kept his words in my heart, the Holy Spirit would continue to guide and show me "the way." Surely, I was still a most special "child of God" whose mission it was to become a virtuous woman. God had sent me a man who loved me and promised to take care of everything for me. He was rich and would fly me cross-country from DC, where I went to school, to Berkeley where he went to school. Eventually, he convinced me to leave Howard University and transfer to Berkeley so we could be closer together. I planned on marrying him. Again, I rationalized that since we were going to get married, having sex with him was okay because God doesn't need a marriage license to recognize a soul tie**. It would take me a while to admit that, while I was a Christian, I basically did anything I wanted and justified it with a scripture (since I was one of few Christians I knew who had actually read the entire Bible, it was easy to find a scripture to support any view I held for justification of my cause).
After moving in with him, he had me right where he wanted me --- I was stuck in his clutches. Our relationship was terribly abusive mentally, emotionally, and physically. I had never had one reference to a healthy relationship given the fact that my parents' marriage was a total disaster that pushed me "closer to God" in the first place. That time of my life was so painful and bewildering, that I am amazed I survived it. It truly is another story altogether, but the experience was a complete parallel to my so-called relationship with my "Heavenly father." I gave myself entirely to an idea that was all in my head. The wonderful man I imagined my ex to be was really an insecure, psychopathic, controlling, conniving, and manipulative manchild --- just like the God of the Bible.
I moved back to D.C. and re-enrolled in school. I had wonderful friends who helped me pick-up where I left off. Leaving that relationship sent me into a period of deep introspection and rebellion. For about a year after we broke up, I fucked any guy I wanted and literally tested the boundaries of life. I smoked pot, partied, and actually enjoyed myself for a change without feeling guilty. I challenged every faith-based theory I was made to believe growing up and took courses in Greek mythology, philosophy, humanities, and history. My mind had outgrown my faith, yet I was reluctant to denounce Christianity altogether. I still wanted to believe that there was a magical genie in my pocket who loved me, protected me, and guided me even while I was sinning and backsliding. I thought I would eventually get back on track with God.
It wasn't until recently that it dawned upon me --- the reason I was so desperate for the "Holy Ghost" to guide my life as a teenager was because I was afraid to make my own decisions and take responsibility for the consequences of said decisions. I had been a Christian basically my entire life and had learned over the years that I was incapable of being in charge of my own destiny. After all, God had a grand design for my life and the Bible was God's road map which would detail exactly the path I was to take. As long as I prayed to God and kept his words in my heart, the Holy Spirit would continue to guide and show me "the way." For a while, I felt a great solace in knowing that God had the keys and I was merely a passenger.
My intellectual awakening, however, was an undeniable harbinger of my future godlessness. I felt a fresh sense of freedom from the emotional drudgery of the constant repenting and committing of "sins." I let go of my need to judge people. I began to engage myself in charitable activities for the sheer joy of feeling good about helping people. I learned to laugh at and love myself without conditions. I gained a healthier sense of my sexuality and a definition of womanhood that is empowering rather than shameful. I reconnected with nature and now I appreciate the beauty in the world just as it is. I wonder and marvel at the creature I am and feel completely comfortable with not knowing everything.
Life is good and I no longer need some all-knowing sky-god's permission to enjoy it. I'm free and happy to be me!
**A "soul tie" is the condition that arises from two unmarried people having sex that results in their souls being tied together forever. It is an attempt for Christians to explain why monogamy is God's way of protecting us from ourselves and our sinful nature. it was preached that soul ties were especially difficult for women who felt tied more easily given the fact that she was the one who had to let a man enter her. It's basically some pretty creepy and disgusting theological theory some misogynist preacher came up with to further defame women in the name of God.**
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