As I get older, I finally am starting to form opinions of my own.
After a horrible, tragic divorce between my parents, my dad went to the church his mother attended to help heal his family. I was 9 years old when we started going and I went every single week (with the exception of sick days) for the next 14 years. This is the church where my dad met my step mom, where I met my husband, and where my family’s entire foundation of faith formed.
My dad was and still is an incredible man. After the divorce, he took up his responsibility of a single dad and forever changed my life because of that. I look to him for everything. Always have and always will.
As I was growing in the youth group at this church, I was fed a cookie cutter version of Christianity. I was fortunate to have one of the best youth leaders in the world, but in a very rough time for the church. We lost our senior pastor to a scandal that I didn’t hear about until several years later, and a new pastor was voted in. Whenever there is a new pastor, there is a church split. A church split leads to losing money. Losing money leads to layoffs. Layoffs leads to yet another church split. We started to see the congregation dwindle and I saw my favorite people leave the church. Not only leave, but straight up cut off communication. There were people I considered to be another parent, people who invested their time into my life so that I could grow and heal from the tragic loss my family experienced when I was only 9 years old. It devastated me. To this day, I am hardly Facebook friends with the people I held so dear. I thought that I had done something wrong to upset them or abused their love for me and they felt smothered.
All I knew was that in my hardest years as a late teenager, I as completely alone. I found my attention in boys and alcohol. But it’s ok – I was still attending church every single time the doors were open.
I can’t tell you how many times I had my “coming to God” moments where I would fall on my face and beg for forgiveness for leaving Him behind as I sought attention from idols. I was taught that if you prayed, God would hear, and redeem. I became a robot to it. I would party on Friday, be hungover on Saturday, repent on Sunday. No one knew. No one asked.
By the time my husband and I found each other on Facebook (if you haven’t read the story, find my earlier blog post about how I met my soulmate), I had my last party experience. It was a bad one. I had just been dumped by the boy I had my entire identity wrapped up in and turned to the other thing that I loved – alcohol. It was one of those nights where I woke up not knowing what happened the night before. I was 20 years old and desperate for anything in my life to change. I woke up with that hangover and that was it. I was done. I knew that my life was a mess and I was over it. I had my last “coming to God” face fall and begged to be transformed by His grace. I felt loved and noticed in that moment and knew that I would never turn back to the partying and boys addiction. Within 24 hours, Clint called me for the first time in 4 years and in six months, we were engaged. I knew that God was waiting for me to truly give up that lifestyle before He gave me my wonderful husband. I still believe this today.
Now I am married and my husband has depression. Something I thought one could simply pray away. He was seeking hope and grace in me and all I would say was a simple, “I’m praying for you” or “I know it will be ok – God said so.” or “Just read the Bible more, Clint. God will answer our prayers.”
After time and time again seeing things not pan out, I lost that hope I was taught to fervently depend on. I saw my husband’s depression get worse and our bills constantly turned in late. We were drowning and no one could hear us.
Clint was a part time employee for a church we were attending at the time and he was in the process of being hired full time. He wanted to make himself available for a raise in his hours, so getting a second job was not what we wanted. I was trying to work to make up the difference while he busted his butt to make a difference in his hours. He even was at the point where he would be working on a project for the church, get up and clock out, then go back to his desk and work a full day off the clock. They knew he was doing this and it was not shown to us their appreciation. We knew that some day they would bump him up to full time – they said all they were waiting on was a few green lights from the Elders. After Christmas, when our first baby was only 3 months old, they brought him into the meeting where we thought he would be offered full time, only to be told that his hours are now needing to be reduced to 15 hours a week. Desperate and hurt, he began looking for any job that would take him. Home Depot, Buckle, Starbucks…. only to be turned down by every single one of them. He was too experienced.
I would come back with my Christian reflexes and say something like, “Well God doesn’t want you to have one of those simple jobs.” “God wants you to be available for a different full time job at a church” “God will not let us fail.”
Finally a break happened. After constantly looking on Craigslist for job openings, he found a church in Alabama looking for a live video producer. It was perfect. He went through a few Skype interviews and after waiting a couple of weeks, they finally offered him the position. They even paid for the move. Which was needed – on the day he was hired, we had $6 in our account and wasn’t expecting anything coming in any time soon.
We packed the essentials and drove to Alabama to start our lives in a new community. I was so ecstatic and felt provided for for the first time in at least a year.
When he was first hired – we were promised to be taken care of as a family. We told them a little of the dark time we had gone through to get where we were and they were sympathetic and anxious to help us through. They gave me a job as well (which to this day was one of the best jobs I have ever had), but Clint and I had two very different experiences.
Clint was being over worked, yet again. This time at least he was being paid full time, only he was working nearly 60 hours a week and only being paid for 40. He was constantly driving between campuses when we didn’t have the gas money to do so. We also hadn’t sat together in a church service since arriving. According to this church, all staff must attend a Freedom class. A class where I thought Clint could benefit from immensely. Even though we had a little more money, his depression was only getting worse, this class could have potentially helped him in that area. I full heartedly believed that. But he wasn’t able to attend the class because he had to run it. He couldn’t attend the marriage seminar, worship nights, nights where the entire focus was on the staff and volunteers to thank them for all their time, even our daughter’s baby dedication. He had to run every single one of these events. I attended services alone every single weekend. I sat by myself every single service. Yes – I could have found friends to sit with and I do regret not putting myself out there more. But I felt completely alone and didn’t ever get that void filled. I made lots of friends, but none of those kind of friendships where you can call each other in the middle of the night for something. I still have yet to experience this. Let me stress again – I admit fault in this. I didn’t pursue that kind of friendship even though it was something I desperately needed and wanted. But coming from my background of being completely abandoned time and time again, this is something I still struggle with.
After living there for nearly a year and a half, things became dim. Clint was butting heads with the guy who hired him. Without going into unnecessary details, a few fights broke between them. Clint became a robot and it was showing in his videos. He didn’t see the heart and vision of the church anymore. He was being mistreated and disrespected constantly and his work was never good enough near the end. We felt lied to. We didn’t feel taken care of. We felt completely alone and away from all of our family even though we were told that we would find a new family here.
I will take a moment to acknowledge one woman in particular – if you’re reading this, you know who you are. Watching you serve in so many different capacities and take such good care of my family will never be forgotten. I never want you to think that it wasn’t enough – just at the end of the day, we were losing our family time. It was incredibly heart breaking to leave you and I miss you every single day. I wish our relationship stayed the same as it was when we were working together. I will always love and adore you and can’t ever thank you enough for all the things you did for us, little and huge – like sending us away to the beach for a day for our anniversary. That meant the world to us. Thank you.
Eventually Clint was fired from his job at this church and we had to sell most of our belonging and move back to Texas. It was heart breaking on so many levels. His boss wasn’t even the one who fired him – he sent someone else to do it in a meeting he did not attend. We were beyond angry and still are in a lot of ways.
When we returned to Dallas, we knew that we needed a break from church. A place where all we ended up knowing was loneliness and heart break after time and time again putting all of our trust and time into it.
While in Alabama though, we did find the most amazing therapist who we still talk to today. Clint is now able to recognize that his depression is an actual chemical imbalance in his brain and not just a result in his lack of trust in God. He has been taking a mild antidepressant and it has made a world of difference in his life and our marriage. Also what helps – I don’t sit there with blindfolds on telling him that everything is going to be ok anymore. I can finally look at him and agree that this sucks. I can tell him that what he is feeling is completely warranted and I truly understand. I no longer am waiting for a miracle.
As of right now, over a year of moving back to Dallas, we have finally found a church we can believe in. They’re mission is to simply LOVE. What a concept. No longer am I trained to read off scriptures to “sinners” and try to “save” them from ultimate damnation. I now can honestly say that I love so deeply. I love everyone who comes into my path. Hurt or healed. I have so much compassion for people hurting, I only ever want to show this love.
This is why I am completely for gay marriage and my fellow friends and family to finally be able to marry the person they are in love with – in case you were wondering on the day I decided to put a rainbow on my profile picture. (Which pissed off a ton of my friends and family)
I believe in sharing a meal with someone like Jesus did so many times.
I believe in going into the heat of the sin, meeting them where they are at.
I believe in being available for anyone in my life who wants to talk shit about someone and not be judged for it.
I believe in no longer pretending who I am but being who I want to be. Whoever that is, I want to be me.
I no longer refrain from letting an occasional cuss word slipping from my mouth in front of my Christian friends.
I still read an occasional devotional or scripture but with an open mind. Rob Bell has become one of my favorite people and most Christians in my life are ridiculously closed off to his teachings. I also don’t instagram a picture of my devotional and coffee mug anymore just to prove to others that I do it.
I want to be the realest me without compromising my beliefs or love for other people.
Jesus loved and I love. That’s what I’m sticking to.
All I know is that for the first time in my life, I have my own established beliefs and they weren’t forced on me by a guy behind a pulpit.
I am open minded and free to believe in what makes sense to me at the time and I am loving that.
I don’t feel like I need to explain anymore than what I have other than I have been abused by multiple people and churches who I put my entire heart into and I am still very hurt from it.
I’m turning 27 on Tuesday, and I can finally say that I am okay with who I am now and who I might become.
To my friends and family who took the time to read this entire post – I can’t thank you enough.