Like many people I grew up in the church. My family started off as regular congregation members who never missed a Sunday. My father was very dedicated to the Lord and so was my mother. So dedicated that he became a reverend, then later on a pastor, and one day I woke up being the Bishop’s daughter.
As a little girl I knew my father was involved in the church but I had no idea what that would mean for my life. I always thought well that’s what he does, it does not have much to do with me. That is until the first time I was criticized by a congregation member for how I was dressed and was able to understand that they were degrading me. To be completely honest, I was twelve, I just grew mosquito bite boobs, and barely even had the slightest clue that a child could be over sexualized or what sexuality even was for that matter.
What stands out to me from that day is the feeling that the criticism left me with. It left a sour milk, bitter type of feeling in the pit of my stomach. I experienced my first dose of “church hurt” and I internalized it. Not knowing that criticism would be the altar for a lot of internal issues to manifest in my near future. From that day on, being criticized for my clothes, my hair, my attitude, and my abilities became a regular thing. It became so regular that I had developed an inner critic that reflected the ideals of the congregation. It also rooted a desire in me to find a way to escape the church.
There is only so far that you can go until you decide that enough is enough.
The day I was leaving for college became the best day of my life. I was finally going to be able to live freely without judgement… So I thought. I had actually packed all of the criticism and internalized church hurt with me and did not realize it. It was almost like I had the soundtrack of each criticism I received in my life would be playing in my ear buds off of my iPhone. It was disheartening I immediately wanted to shut out those voices. I would stop at nothing to fill the hole in my heart that my church hurt poked.
Fortunately enough for me I was able to for a little while. People were much friendlier on campus. I received kindness and compliments that I never received anywhere else. I felt so special to be shown the smallest bits of kindness that I never found in the house of God. This was so dangerous but I didn’t know it. You see, when you are deprived of something you end up settling for the smallest and weakest forms of it. In my defense, for me the house of God was not a place of forgiveness and acceptance, but instead a place for judgement and the breeding ground for my worst insecurities. Church made a people pleaser out of me, I would do and say anything to be accepted, so you can just imagine where this is going.
I was a low self esteem having, people pleaser, who had become her own worst enemy through my inner critic. Feeling accepted by the world made me feel better than I ever had in the church. I thought to myself I am finally accepted. This was when I took many steps away from my faith and broke off my relationship with God.
I felt that I finally found my place in society. They loved me here. I was HAVING FUN. Laughing, hanging out, hooking up, drinking, and partying all my troubles away. This lifestyle was so much easier than having to face the cruel judgement of the church. So, I decided to stop going to church all together. Keep in mind that my University was only half an hour away from my church. I was living THE LIFE, I was having so much fun that I forgot about God.
I forgot about Him but this does not mean HE ever forgot about me.
One day everything just changed. It was like I stepped into my worst nightmare all over again. The partying and the fun started to drain me instead of distract me. I overheard some people criticizing me behind my back and realized all of my new accepting friends were not as accepting as I thought. The people I surrounded myself with started to judge me instead of accepting me. This hurt me deep. I felt like I traded in one bad situation for another. I quickly started to become depressed.
Ashamed and discouraged I isolated myself from the world. I was upset at the church, my peers, and my own self for not accepting me for who I was. I thought to myself why doesn’t anyone love me just for being who I am?
The craziest part about it is that I didn’t even know who I was. I had become so much like the world that I did not recognize myself in the mirror. Identity was my goliath in college. Unfortunately, I only identified with rejection, pain, sorrow, and sadness. I did not do David’s name any justice for I made friends with my goliath instead of defeating him.
I FOUND myself in Christ again
It is true what they say, that you are who you attract because the wave of people that I dealt with in this time period truly drained what was left of me. I now was emptier than your stomach after a three day fast. I was broken. I was hurt. I was hungry for something that my new life in the world could not give me. I was not of the world so they rightfully rejected me. A big part of me felt that everyone knew there was something different about me. I was marked. Everything and everyone had to go. God was ready to lead me out of the wilderness back home, I just did not know it yet. One day while laying in bed I started to really reflect on how I got to where I was. I started reflecting on my church experience and hurt. I compared it to my college experience and all the damage that it caused. Then I started thinking to myself, you know, life in the church was nowhere near as bad as where I am right now.
Luke 11:17-20 says “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
The next Sunday I went to church. I never cried so much in one service. I felt like I was being bear hugged by the presence of God. I was so filled with the spirit that all I could do is praise, worship, smile and cry for days. I remember crying in church, but not because I was ashamed for leaving but because He accepted me so effortlessly. God took me back when I became the worst version of me and everyone else rejected me. I left Him for the world and He used that experience to teach me that there is no greater love or acceptance in this world than that which is from Him. HE IS LOVE.
He spoke to me that day about acceptance. Told me that He would only reject me if I reject Him. That I always had a place in His heart. He told me to open mine back up because He was going to replace the pain I felt with His love. So I obeyed and two years later here I am writing about mt story. From that day on I never rejected Him again. I never left church again. I was even given a prophecy over my life that explained exactly why the house of God was the place for me. After everything I had done, God still welcomed me and with open arms. I felt that His compassion and mercy towards me was undeserved. I soon learned that God grace is exactly that.
Luke 15:23-24 says ” Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”
As for the situation with the church folk, you know they were still at it with the criticism. In fact they had heard all about me in college and the judgement grew worse and worse. BUT, it was not the only thing growing. It was no longer my focus. My relationship with God grew more and more each day. That foundation that you have when God is the center of your life is just untouchable. No one can knock you down, you become like the house built on the rock, nice and sturdy. I quickly learned that God does not care for what others have to say about me. He already made up His mind to love me unconditionally. In my prodigal daughter experience I learned that the anointing will break the yoke.
Thank you for reading.
Meet our guest blogger Christella IIunga. Prayer is her passion and sharing the word of God through writing his her instrument. Keep up with at on instagram @fortheprayingwoman and her blog fortheprayingwoman.wordpress.com