Thank you for your patience! When I promised this post two weeks ago I somehow didn’t think to consider that we were planning to move and how that might disrupt my posting.
The following is actually an excerpt from my book Tasting Dirt: When You’re Disappointed With God (Coming Soon!!) I’m both excited and anxious about sharing some of my story so publicly, but I know God wants to use my experiences to help others live free of shame, depression, past trauma, and suicide.
I grew up in church, and that’s not a negative thing. I’m glad I knew about Jesus my whole childhood. I loved going to church. It was a great place for my extroverted self to be around other kids and get attention from adults. I was great at memorizing Bible verses and answering Sunday School questions. Still, shame was my primary religious experience. I could say the right things like, “We are saved by faith not by works” and “Jesus forgives all our sins and his grace covers us,” but I was only six years old the first time I wished I had never been born. I knew that I was a sinner, and despite my best efforts I couldn’t be the good girl I wanted to be. I believed God required perfection from me because I had been saved and wasn’t supposed to sin anymore, and I believed that God expected deep shame and self-loathing when I didn’t measure up. It was Satan working through shame and lies to keep me tied up in fear and striving to be good enough on my own, but I didn’t know that at the time. I started to believe I was worthless.Tasting Dirt, Chapter 5 “Expectations: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”
Puberty is difficult for everyone, so I’m sure you’re not surprised when I tell you it sucked for me too. Shame grew as I grew, especially with the transition to middle school. There was suddenly so much emphasis on sexual purity at youth group meetings. It felt like, as soon as I started sixth grade, the only thing God cared about was my virginity. After I finished high school he might move on to “calling” me to ministry or something, but, basically, staying a virgin was supposed to be my primary concern until I got married. Church camp in the summer, youth retreats and conferences, Wednesday night Bible study — it was all about saying no to sex. I had never had a crush, I wasn’t even interested in dating, and at thirteen, I planned to never get married, so no problems for me! I could finally do something right for God. I could stay a virgin.
That same year, while I was in eighth grade, through a combination of shame, guilt, lack of healthy physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries, and several other factors I won’t detail for you here, I ended up in a sexually abusive relationship with a young woman who was about to graduate high school. I didn’t know it was abuse, though. All I knew was that I was failing at the one thing I was supposed to be doing (or not doing) as a Christian teen, and this was way worse than regular premarital sex — you know, like, with a guy, not a girl. I tried several times to end the relationship, without success. I felt trapped. The depth of my shame convinced me I was worthless and led me into depression. I couldn’t cope with any of it, and I stopped eating for a while, started cutting myself, and eventually attempted suicide. I was convinced God was disgusted with me, that he didn’t want anything to do with me. I didn’t expect him to help me, and I had no reason to believe my suffering would ever end. I had no hope.
Thankfully, my attempt to kill myself was unsuccessful. Trying to talk to someone about it landed me in the adolescent psychiatric ward for ten days. I was discharged with medication and sent home, while no one — not the doctor or the nurses or my parents — knew about the abusive relationship yet. Sitting silently in the minivan during the long ride home, knowing I was going right back to hell with no way out, was terrifying. She’ll be angry I tried to leave her, I thought. I started planning my next suicide attempt less than an hour after leaving the hospital. I was desperate. I didn’t believe God loved me anymore, but I silently told him anyway, If you have any reason for me to stay alive, you had better show it to me quick because the first chance I get… I’m out of here.
Thank you for letting me share my story with you! I’m open to any questions, comments, or feedback.
And I’d love to hear your story! Feel free to share your story with me through email – firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ll see you next weekend for Part 2!