At the early age of 2, I began to show interest in something children my age found to be the most boring thing to do; attend church, I mean at that age it is hard to understand what church even is and why people attend every weekend. I, however, loved tagging along with my grandmother every time she went. My grandmother was and is a devoted Christian. After losing her 8-year-old son in a tragic accident, she found healing in a Christian Evangelical church. It was in this place where she found restoration and strength to live through every day without her son. My grandmother became one of the most devoted Christians I know. I had no idea that her devotion would pave the way for my lonely and beautiful uniqueness.
I can remember my grandma and I never missed a service. At this time, my parents were not devoted to anything, therefore, I was not obligated to go, I always chose to go. Now, I do not recall too much from when I started going, aside from remembering a small bus picking my grandmother and I up and me falling asleep on the way to church and back. To this day, 27 years later, my grandma reminds me how much I loved going to church with her and how the worship always got my little heart so pumped. My face would light up as soon as the worship started. As I became older, I never stopped my routine of attending church. Being in a church did not matter to me more than getting the moment to learn who Jesus was and how his existence correlated with my existence. At age 2, I cannot say what caused me to love church, maybe the music? I still do.
During my childhood years, I would get creative; I tagged along with whoever was willing to take me, sometimes it was family, other times I went with my childhood friends and their families. My mother and siblings attended on some occasions, but they were not as connected to this spiritual world as I was. I discovered God’s love for me at a very young age and nothing could really separate me from that fascination— even on hot summer days when most kids were in the neighborhood pool; missing church was a no-no for me. I was alone in my feelings, in my love for God. No one could really understand my connection with it and neither could I honestly, I just knew I wanted to be there, one way or another, it was my happy place. I loved knowing there was someone who loved me for who I was— weird that I even understood that while I was in Kindergarten.
A Bad Turn
As I got older, this love for God and the church started to turn into a burden. I could not help being different. I began to hate it; being the outcast brought to me a sense of concern. I tried hard to fight it; I wanted to act like kids my age. I began to feel depression and anxiety; I hated being me. It did not help that during this time my family attended a church where our thoughts, behaviors, and everything around us were placed under a magnifying glass and closely observed. Any fault found, meant a disciplinary action would soon come our way. Every weekend we got a lecture on holiness and purity. We received strict instructions not to hang out with whoever disagreed with our thinking to avoid “sinful contamination”. It was the most suffocating mentally my family and I had ever been under. We were to obey strict rules including no celebration of certain holidays, as well as, certain video games and toys had to be avoided at all cost to prevent demonic spirits from possessing our homes. Yes, it was excessive.
Those years were one of the toughest I ever experienced, but somehow we thought we were really happy (lol). We were blinded by fear. If we spoke up or rebelled against those teachings, we were to expect severe punishment from God. While this does sound quite extreme and harsh, its sad to say this is real and many churches still teach this way; minds get programmed to believe lies by injecting fear into people to facilitate the manipulation process. Unfortunately, after my family no longer “qualified” to be members and went off to another church, is when we realized we were actually in a dangerous place. I am not sure if that leadership is still as harsh as it used to be back then, but nothing is more precious than knowing my family and I are free from it. To clarify, I still appreciate a lot of the people in that church and I can even say that the leadership team had a strong conviction that they were doing the right thing and well it was not always a nightmare there for me, but I can only hope they have dug a little deeper in the Word and have learned a new way to lead a church.
Even though I had a good reputation at this church, I did not belong. The devoted church goers loved it and applauded my behavior. I, on the other hand, hated it. Why could I not be like teens my age? They were adventurous, fearless and rebellious, unafraid of consequences, but I found no interest in that, no matter how hard I tried to get into that mindset, something always stopped me from certain behaviors and although I behaved “Christian like”, I could not find my happiness. Two different worlds and a lost misfit. I despised every church rule, but never disobeyed it. My young brain held in bondage by people who failed everyday like me. Nothing really made sense to me, but no one understood my needs either. During this time, I began to rely on others to make decisions for me. Clearly, my own decisions seemed to be wrong and never mattered anyway, I gave full authority for others to speak for me, even if I disagreed. I suppressed my uniqueness to avoid confrontations and to feel welcomed. That did not go well, the more I hid my true self, the worse I felt. My breakthrough came after I got married, I had to reprogram my mind back to its original state.
A Road to Recovery
Several churches, friends and disappointing events later, I met a young boy in high school who would help me break free; my husband. When we got married, I was not only young, but I came into marriage with a backpack full of anxiety and loneliness, on top of some immaturity- to say the least, we were both only 21. I remember the night before our wedding; I prayed and made my formal invitation to God, I wholeheartedly believed he heard my prayer that night, I wanted his presence to not only be at the wedding, but to be the leader of our marriage, and He has been our stronghold since that day. All these abilities, talents, and potential I suppressed for so long, I could not function in the way I was designed to. I did not know how to be myself once again; I struggled to find myself or where I was going in life, but I had trust in God’s love for me, and he had a plan for me. Again, I never lost the love for my faith, what people perceived of me or had done to me had nothing to do with what God meant to me. The God that I discovered, I met through my own experiences, my own studies, my own journey throughout my lifetime, not necessarily through a church minister or others. This made me understand him in a completely different way than how many present him to be.
My faith did not cause my problems, I did. How much longer was I going hide my uniqueness? How could I reach success when I could not even make my own decisions and hated myself? To break free I needed to accept that I was not like everyone else, that my beauty actually relied on the uniqueness God created me with. My husband certainly gave me the support I needed. His encouragement and motivation every day elevated my self-esteem. My life began to change when I segregated myself from things and people that were toxic, even when the toxic people called themselves “Christians”. Did that affect my relationship with God? Of course not, God is God, they are imperfect humans like myself. They do not represent Jesus even when they proclaim to. Since then, I no longer like to categorize myself as part of a religion, when I do, I am labeling myself to be like others and I am not. I am a believer, living my own journey and have a unique relationship with God. I go to church and apply what is true based on what the Word says, not what others say.
My Personal Lesson
My journey has taught me how being unique is a lonely beauty and I love it. I love who I am today. I love my freedom. I love my past; it has made me appreciate who I am today. Maybe I needed to go through certain situations to not only grow, but help others grow. I have a different interpretation of what uniqueness is; our similarities do not make the world function, it is our differences that does. We will always feel a sense of loneliness because out of the billions there is only one of ourselves, that is what gives our lives incalculable value.
- You will have more friends being fake than when you are true to yourself, but it is better to have fewer friends and be free to be you.
- Never expect everyone to act, feel, and think like you, instead take their uniqueness and work together for a better tomorrow.
- The more you fight for the person you are becoming, the more people you will lose.
- Avoid suppressing your identity to please others, people will never be pleased.
- Never get tired of filtering your thoughts.
- Never think God has forgotten about you, he has not and never will and no matter what people say or think of you or Him, you will see his true identity when you walk your own journey of faith.
- Never believe what others say about you, their perception of you does not mean it is true.
- Do not hide your past, make it your testimony.
- You will need to get rid of toxic things/people to become who you were meant to be.
- Even if it hurts, let go of people who do not appreciate you for you.