Before the guest post about wearing a HAZMAT suit to church, I had been thinking along similar lines. This subject makes me fighting mad. One night while working out in the garage, I became so furious and just broke down crying, wishing the whole time that we owned a punching bag. At first the question is always, why Lord, why do so many people turn their back on you? But we must stop looking at the symptom and find the disease. Obviously the bigger disease is sin that Adam let in in the garden, but what is the disease that so many people seem to grow up in a church environment and then flee? Why isn’t Jesus and the message of Him dying on the cross to save us, soaking into people’s hearts?
I am not claiming to know anything, but I’ve walked along the same journey, and at times I wanted to turn away from God completely. I hope my story doesn’t offend you, but it is my journey and in order for you to understand me I have to show you where I’m coming from.
To get a little background, I was born and raised going to a non-denominational church that was spirit filled. They called themselves non-denominational, but you could compare them to Pentecostals, which they themselves do. Just like Pentecostals they approved the same type of outward appearance and very strict rules on dress and numerous other outward things and certain activities that were forbidden, such as going to the movies. I didn’t actually go to a movie theater until the third grade, and that was for a classmate’s birthday party. Still not sure what all the fuss is about with that rule. If you don’t obey these man made rules and requirements then there are certain types of activities in the church that you will not be privilege too, even if God has put it in your heart.
My parents allowed me to wear pants to public school until the sixth grade. Then suddenly it was like my whole world came to an end. I either wore dresses or these horrible things called kulaks. A kulak is a Pentecostals idea of a “split skirt”, also what I call pants, big ugly gigantic pants that are “modest” because they swallow you whole. But you can’t just buy these at the store, so my mom would sew them for me. I was like a flashing neon sign at school, quite literally in my sunflower yellow pair with matching sunflower vest. I was picked on quite a bit by the older preppy girls and laughed at to my face. Just the thing a young girl going through puberty needs, like it isn’t hard enough. The kicker for me was that around the house we wore pants. I could play outside in pants or shorts and before the magical sixth grade I wore pants. None of this made sense, and neither did my mom telling me to change my clothes and put on a skirt before going to Wal-Mart because “somebody might see us”. Huh? Of course I froze to death outside on the playground in skirts, so sometime in seventh grade I started sneaking pants and shorts to school and then changing. Eventually, my parents gave in and started letting me wear them at least to school.
I wouldn’t say that we were hardcore churchgoers like some. My parents had personal conflicts with people at the church I was born in, so we drove all over the countryside attending various churches. We attended a church in Missouri, and then after more personal conflict back to 2 more churches in Illinois. Around this time of my life I ranged in age from 6 to about 13 years old, before my mom decided that we could all just stay home and my dad could make the one-hour trip one way every Sunday to church. The last church I attended with my family was in an old church building with a little old man and woman, and about two more old people. Those services I would sit and draw, or pick at split ends until it was finally time to go and eat and finally make our way back home. I wouldn’t say I was really getting Jesus in my heart.
I would secretly read my Bible at night in bed. I guess it was “secret” because I didn’t have a close relationship with my parents and reading my Bible was a personal thing. I usually never got past the first three books of the Bible before giving up. Still to this day I have never read the whole book from cover to cover. By age 13 or 14 I had attended church at least once a week my whole life but you could say I was clueless to having a relationship with Jesus. I was fully aware of God and would always feel completely convicted of being bad or “sin”. I would pray at night, but it wasn’t an emotional prayer, more of the Lord’s Prayer with a list at the end of people for God to help.
Around the age of 15, I knew of God and I was “filled with the Spirit” as they say, but you wouldn’t have known me from any other young unsaved teenager walking down the street. I had the same music, same sins, same habits, same clothing. I was in a constant battle, but church didn’t mean a thing to me, and until I left home and started attending on the weekends with my boyfriend I hadn’t even been to church in several years other than Campmeetings a few times a year, if we went at all.
I would sin but I still had this underlying desire to be “good”. I wanted to change but I guess I didn’t know how. You can say that maybe this is my own fault, but I would go to church and sit there and draw and doodle, “listening” to the services but as soon as I’d get up and leave go right back to doing things as I had before. I wasn’t getting it. The way things were taught to me, I had this underlying notion that as long as I showed up and making all the right people happy, I was doing good. I was taught that we were more special than any other group of Christians because we were in on the “truth” and we knew things others didn’t understand. I’m not saying they don’t have truth, but I’m saying that because of this idea and the way it was presented I figured I was being taught everything there was to know, so I’m good. No need to do anything else. It’s really hard to explain just how complacent I felt, with absolutely no urgency of my need for Jesus other than a few feel good services where I would leave with a “high” that quickly dissipated because I had nothing to fall back on.
One of my favorite parts of church was the music. Music speaks to me like nothing else, and I felt this desire down inside so strong to help sing or do what I could musically at church. The church allowed anyone to get up and testify and sing a song so at times I would sing, but I wanted to help more. Years went by and other people were offered things that I had always desired to do, such as play a few choruses at the beginning of church, or head the youth choir. I’d go home confused and disappointed wondering what was wrong with me and what I was doing wrong. For a long time I just figured it was me they didn’t like over other people that were picked and tried to cope. I took it very personally. I felt the desire to sing and play the piano so strong at times, and then wasn’t allowed, that I would beg and plead with God for him to take the desire away. I didn’t want to keep feeling it so strongly only to keep getting disappointed.
For my birthday in 2007 my Granny gave me my mom’s piano. It is a priceless heirloom to me and was better than any gift she could have given me. I’d sit down at the piano and play songs in our playroom. One day while playing a song, I suddenly stopped and just asked God yet again, “Why won’t they let me play?” and a voice so clear said, “It’s because you wear pants.” It was so real and so clear it took me by surprise and I knew that that was not my own thought, because up until that point I had never even considered that as the reason why. (I wore skirts to church, and outside of church I would wear pants.) It wasn’t until about a week later that the voice and what it said was confirmed. The main youth piano player left so another girl and I decided to ask if we could take turns helping. As I stood there being told that I could not play because of my clothing choices, I was suddenly reminded of the voice in the playroom barely a week before. It was a stunning revelation. God had prepared me for this let down, even though it was still hard to take and even harder to understand. So still yet I would plead with God for him to take the desire to sing and play away, and I would ask him why I felt it so strongly.
About six months after finding out that my clothing choices were the reason I could not participate actively in church I decided to give in and start wearing skirts all the time. Six months before I was told that if I decided to change my clothing choices to come back and inform them and their decision would change. Honestly that sickened me, so I changed my attire and decided not to inform anyone. I felt like if the real reason for wearing skirts was for Jesus, then why would I parade around in a skirt to make some person happy so they would let me into their “club”. Fear of man anyone? I wore skirts for about three months and no one but a few people knew that I did. During this time I wrote numerous songs at my piano late at night, but I was too scared to share them at church. You know, the one place I should feel safe……