Now that I’m contacting and being contacted by so many people from the past (via facebook), it occurs to me that I should probably write my “testimony.” I know that the changes in my life are a lot to take in, especially for those who used to know me, and I would like to explain it all to the best of my ability. I’m going pretty far back, for this isn’t something that happened overnight. It started many years ago and continues to this day. So please bear with me as I attempt to write my life story in ten-thousand words or less…
When I was 14, my mom and step-dad (who raised me) got divorced and we moved to a large city. I went to a school of the arts and loved it. But going from a small town in the south to the big city left me feeling uncertain of myself and vulnerable. In a desperate attempt to fill the void in my life, I began to diet. I’d always felt overweight and thought that the thinner I got the happier I would be. Dieting eventually turned into full-blown anorexia and I stopped eating. I would go for days without eating anything at all and then I would binge. I tried to throw up after these binges, but I never could get the knack of it so I started to take laxatives – sometimes entire boxes of them. Then the cycle would repeat itself over again.
I began to “act out,” in other ways, too. I was skipping school, smoking, and stealing from stores. I participated in and exposed myself to things that no 14 year old should ever be involved in. When my freshman year ended my mom, exasperated and overwhelmed, threatened to move me in with my dad, whom I hadn’t seen for years. Eventually, she did book plane tickets for a weeklong visit.
I came to visit my dad reluctantly and resentfully. But unexpectedly I found something with my dad that I’d been longing for. Something I’d missed desperately without even knowing it. I found a family.
Please don’t misunderstand me, I loved my mom and she was doing the best she could. But she was holding down three jobs just to “put food on the table” and we didn’t have a dad in the picture any longer. (At least, not permanently. My step-dad [who I’d always considered my “Dad”] had moved to another state and didn’t get to see us very often.) With my “real” dad, I saw someone who came home from work by 5pm. His family ate dinner together. They watched movies together. Dad taught high school and something about going to the high school my dad was teaching in really struck a chord with me. I desperately wanted to feel as if I belonged somewhere, and saw that there could be a place for me in this family.
I went back home and told my mom I wanted to move. I had no idea at the time how difficult it would be on my mom, or on my brother. I had no idea the pain I would cause. I only knew that I was searching for something, and was hoping to find it with my dad. I moved a few months later.
I had a relatively good life for the next three years. My dad laid down the law and I never crossed his boundaries. I made friends and did well in my classes. But during my senior year in High School, things began to fall apart and once again I began searching for something to fill the void. And just as before, I turned to anorexia.
For most of my senior year, my life followed a continuous routine. I would wake up sick and throwing up from taking too many laxatives the night before. I’d go to classes and spend lunchtime in the library. I’d come home and struggle to keep from eating. Sometimes I would succeed. Most of the time I wouldn’t. I’d binge eat and then force myself to throw up (I’d figured out how by then) and take handfuls of laxatives to rid myself of anything that might still be in my stomach. Usually, I’d go to bed early to keep from eating anything else that day. Most likely, I was just incredibly sick and my body needed the rest to compensate.
The people who knew me had no idea what was going on. They knew I was loosing weight, but they didn’t know how. I was able to hide it from everyone, including my parents. But what I couldn’t hide was my desperate need to find something – anything – that would fulfill me. I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for, but I knew something was missing in my life. For the first time, I turned to religion. I tried to embrace my catholic past, going to mass and saying my rosary, but it held no satisfaction for me. I asked my boyfriend to take me to his Protestant church but was completely turned off by the pastor screaming and yelling, and the congregation crying and weeping and sometimes shouting. Finally, one night in desperation I got down on my knees and I prayed. I told God that I wanted to know Him. I asked Him to show me who He was. Nothing happened in that moment. But God would eventually answer this prayer.
When I was in college, things got a little better. I was no longer participating in anorexia and although I didn’t eat much, I did eat and I wasn’t taking laxatives any longer. I enjoyed my classes and the people I met there, although I never really connected with anyone on a deep level. Until one day when I was introduced to a man named Patrick.
I was immediately attracted to Patrick – he seemed like my kind of guy. His head was shaved; he was decked out in army fatigue and had a big tattoo on the back of his head along with several on his legs and arms. He was down to earth and easy to talk to, and we hit it off right away. The only problem was that he was a Christian. Due to some bad experiences in the past (including, but not limited to, the visit to church with my ex-boyfriend), I wasn’t interested in having anything to do with a Christian. And yet, Patrick puzzled me. I’d never seen a Christian who smoked, sported tattoos, and wasn’t afraid to curse. Nothing about him seemed “Christian” to me until he opened his mouth. And then, he was on fire. He would talk endlessly about God, and I tried in every way I could to prove my case against his. It was exhausting, frustrating, and exhilarating. He blew all of my arguments out of the water and I couldn’t find a chink in his armor anywhere. Until one day when I did.
There had been a fire drill early in the morning at the dorm we were staying in and we all got out of bed to gather on the front lawn. All of us, that is, except Patrick. After the drill, I came in with Ronnie, the Resident Assistant, who immediately confronted Patrick about his absence during the drill. I can’t remember exactly what he said in response, but I knew that he was lying. Something inside of me was incredibly disappointed as I thought, “he’s just like the rest.” I knew that I would continue to appreciate Patrick as a friend, but that I wouldn’t be willing to talk about religion with him any longer. If his concept of God was one that would allow him to lie to a friend, then his wasn’t a God I was interested in. At that time in my life, I was too interested in disproving religion, and Christianity in particular, to give him any grace.
But a few moments later, there was a knock at the door. Patrick came into Ronnie’s room, confessed that he’d lied to him, and asked forgiveness. I was floored. In my world, men didn’t admit that they were wrong. They especially didn’t admit to lying – particularly when they could get into trouble for it. My world was tilting. I knew in that moment that Patrick wasn’t following a system of beliefs – He was living a life that fascinated me (and, as I would later understand, loving and living for a Person who had changed his life.) For weeks I’d been trying to disprove his religion with no success and instead HE had been putting chinks in MY armor. And just when I thought I’d had him beaten, he’d destroyed my defenses without even knowing it. I was haunted by that moment.
A few weeks later, I was invited to go on a camping trip with Patrick and Ronnie. That night, as we were getting ready for bed, Ronnie – who was not a Christian at the time – asked Patrick to pray. (I believe that was a divine appointment. Ronnie would later come to know Jesus as well.) As Patrick spoke to God, I began to cry quietly. I’d never heard anyone pray that way before, as if he were talking with a friend. When he was finished, I ducked into my sleeping bag, too embarrassed to show my tears. But sleep would not come to me. I felt exposed somehow, as if God were peeling the layers from my heart and leaving me raw. I knew I had to do something, knew I wanted to reach out to this God somehow, but I couldn’t do it alone. After what seemed like a long time, I woke Patrick up and asked him to pray with me. As we sat there together, I spoke to Jesus for the very first time in my adult life and expressed my desire to have a relationship with Him. For the first time, God was real to me. God had answered my prayer and I knew that I’d finally found what I’d been searching for during the past four years. I couldn’t find fulfillment in a religion. Instead, I found it in a relationship with the person, Jesus Christ.
The next few years were a whirlwind of excitement, joy, sadness, mistakes, and triumphs. My life has changed drastically. If anything has marked my Christian journey it has been uncompromising consecration. I am not a Sunday Christian. If Jesus is going to be my God, then he’s going to be involved in every aspect of my life. From birth control, to recreation, to clothing, to politics… I’ve held it all under the microscope and examined it in the light of scripture. I’ve re-evaluated the books I read, the music I listen to, and the shows that I watch. I’ve changed the clothing I wear and the activities I participate in. There is not a single part of my life that has been left untouched. That doesn’t mean I’m perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. But it goes a long way in explaining why, if you knew me before, you might have to get to know me all over again.
And judging from who I used to be, I think that’s a good thing.