• The other ‘C word’

    I had my identity stolen. We’re not talking credit card and Social Security numbers. No, we’re talking the actual characteristics that made up my identity as an individual… all the things that set me apart from those around me were completely stripped away.

    I’d love to offer some nugget of advice to protect you from the very same tragedy, but I’m afraid it’s impossible. I was the enemy. I was the one shedding every diversifying part of myself, willingly.

    It started in the spring of 2002. My parents’ marriage was stormy, to say the least. My sister was battling a lifelong medical condition and we weren’t quite sure who was winning. It was then that I found solace in the church. I called Jesus my Savior, and allowed myself to be swept up in the evangelical movement. I had a safe haven when the rest of my world was crashing down around me.

    The change wasn’t immediate. I spent a year in the church before I came face to face with the “C word”: conviction. Conviction is the church’s glorified way of saying that I felt guilty.

    It started with my wardrobe. I noticed that the other Christian girls did not sport shorts as short as mine. And fishnet stockings? Let’s just say they were a bit of a rarity at Thursday night Bible study. So I turned in my short plaid skirts for something more modest.

    Then the music became a problem. If it wasn’t praising the Lord, I had no right listening to it as a daughter of the Most High. So I did what I felt needed to be done. I broke all of my CDs.

    Even my old friends weren’t right. They weren’t encouraging me to pursue God.

    They were made up of atheists, agnostics and — say it ain’t so — a Wiccan. I slowly faded myself out of my own clique and made new Christian friends.

    In the end, after I said goodbye to everything I could relate to, express myself or identify with — I lost myself completely. The only thing I had left was the church. I was clay in the hands of the potter, and the potter was not the big guy in the sky. Not even close.

    When I finally came out of the trance, and thank God I did, it was devastating and disorienting. After spending four solid years allowing the church dictate my appearance, the music I liked, the friends I kept, and the politics I chose, I was forced to do a lot of soul-searching. It took me an entire year of turning the idea over in my head before I got the courage to admit out loud that I no longer believed in fundamentalist Christianity. And miracle of miracles, I wasn’t struck dead for doing so.

    Now when I’m seeking God, I listen to that quiet but persistent voice within myself. I know that’s Him (or Her). The truest, rawest, most real testament to God is to embrace ourselves exactly as God made us.

    I once was lost, but now am found… was blind but now I see.

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