I submitted this post to Prodigal Magazine, but they rejected it. Which is fine, because it actually had an embarrassing number of typos when I sent it. Sometimes I decide that I need to submit to everything right now and then I don’t proofread as much as I should. It’s a problem. A fairly resolvable one, though. Anyway, on we go.
When I was a teenager, I decided I didn’t need God.
I lost faith in him in middle school when I gradually realized that when Jesus says whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life, he didn’t just mean some sort of mental agreement.
I wasn’t sure what he did mean, but I knew I didn’t have it, nor did I particularly want it. God had never spoken to me—never seemed to be there in any real way for me at all.
I went through years thinking it was my fault. There was some sort of defect in me that wouldn’t allow access to God. I prayed the sinner’s prayer over and over hoping this time I’d get it right.
But within a day or two, I always went back to apathy.
My inability to make myself care about God led to a spiral of depression. I kept a façade of religion for my parents, dragging myself to Sunday school classes I hated, mutely nodding when my mom asked me to pray for something, swallowing communion bread with a pit in my stomach, knowing I’d go to hell for this hypocrisy.
Soon I hated myself just as much as the church I went to, and I started toying with self harm.
One day I sat in the corner of my bathroom and scraped a razor down my forearm. I couldn’t make it cut the skin, so after a few minutes I put it back. I was too scared to use anything more dangerous, so eventually I settled on scratching my fingernails down my wrists, watching little red lines appear and turn white. Once I used a pair of scissors and actually broke the skin on my thumb, drawing a line of beaded blood.
That was when I stopped and remembered how queasy blood made me, how afraid I was of needles, and how little pain tolerance I actually had. I was angry at myself for that. If I couldn’t believe in God, I wanted to be strong enough to hurt myself. But I couldn’t do it.
As I moved on through my teenage years, I gradually stopped daydreaming about destroying myself, and I started to take pride in that. If I could dance with self harm and come away unscathed, why would I need God? I could handle my issues on my own.
When I finally did come back to God, it was slowly and with reluctance. I started praying again mainly because my mom wanted me to. For a long time I harbored the idea that even if God was real and good like I was supposed to believe, I still made it through the hardest part of my life without him.
In way it seemed anticlimactic to me—and cruel even. God didn’t meet me at my lowest point, and I never felt welcomed into his arms with tears and confessions. I came to him as a brittle arm-crossed girl, still skeptical to the core. I didn’t understand why God ignored me all those years and let me go through so much misery on my own.
Now that I’m actually learning what it means to believe in Jesus, I’ve realized that sometimes you only see God in hindsight.
Looking back now, I don’t see myself alone in my bathroom, crying to a far off God who wouldn’t speak to me.
Instead, I see Jesus sitting beside me, wiping away all those tears and listening to each and every prayer.
I don’t fully understand why he felt so far away then and why I still sometimes feel like I don’t experience God with all the fireworks some people seem to, but I choose to believe he never left me—and that he was my savior through it all.
The thing is, God created me the way I am, with all my personality quirks, which means that he gave me the queasy stomach and fear of blood that stopped me from developing an addiction to hurting myself.
It sort of gives new meaning to Paul’s words in 2nd Corinthians: “for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
I thought I was weak then, too weak to even hurt myself. But in reality, God made me lethal against my greatest danger, myself.
I might have felt alone then but God’s grace gave me strength to overcome my darkest thoughts. He was and always will be my savior.