That first boyfriend of mine dumped me shortly after my 17th birthday. Looking back, I can laugh about how it all went down, but at the time it was devastating. I was naive enough to think that we’d get married one day. I believed him when he said we would.
I also believed him when he told me I was slutty and placed all the blame on me for our physical transgressions. Already an over-responsible person, I took that as truth.
Truth. It’s always been important to me. If only I had understood then that truth comes from God alone and anything that doesn’t square with what He says is to be rejected.
My friends were exceptionally supportive. I remember two or three of the guys (I had far more guy friends than girl friends) taking me out on the town frequently for the rest of that summer. We had no money, and so mostly drove around or ate incredibly cheap and disgusting food, but I appreciated them. I appreciated my family rallying around me. But the ache didn’t go away.
I made a crucial decision at that moment, though I wouldn’t have articulated it as such. I would be accepted. I would be loved. No matter what I had to endure or what it took.
Enter boyfriend two, the abuser. I wrote about him already, so won’t waste anymore space on an unworthy topic. I had to deal with the nastiness to get what I thought I wanted, and that was it. I wasn’t worth a good relationship, anyway. My school was disintegrating, I was down to 104 pounds on a 5’7″ frame, college loomed. As the stress mounted, I noticed handfuls of hair falling out each morning in the shower. I was cold all the time.
The worst part of it was the self-imposed silence. Having never been emotionally demonstrative, I had no tools in my belt to express what I was feeling. All I knew to do was soldier on. I grew increasingly cynical about people who called themselves Christians, never realizing that my own claimed beliefs clashed wildly with the life I was living. If you were to ask, I would have given you all the right answers about Christianity. If you were to watch, I would have shown you that I was, in fact, among the biggest of the hypocrites.
My family had moved away from church. I didn’t blame them. I embraced it. On rare Sundays I would feel compelled to go, only to be disappointed at what I regarded as intellectually shallow and emotionally manipulative. Occasionally that disappointment would be eclipsed by a growing unease. What did I really think, really believe? As my interest in social justice grew, this question became increasingly important. Why was justice important to me? Why was I fixated on truth and angered by those who would twist it?
Graduation came. I made my speech, threw my cap, gave lots of hugs. I couldn’t wait to be done with the academy. I wanted away from those people and their platitudes. I was eager to enter college, excited about academic challenges and meeting new people.
Securing a reporter’s slot on the college paper, I roamed the little campus in my baggy green pants, Converse All Stars and sweatshirts, waist-length hair billowing behind me. I loved covering stories that were important to the students; things like rising tuition and the parking situation were sure to raise my righteous indignation. I dove into art history, political science, journalism and literature.
Busy with classes, new friendships and work at the library, I was surprised when the nagging questions remained. They intensified during the required logic and critical thinking course, a few weeks into which I finally gathered up the courage to dump the abuser, thanks to the encouragement of a good friend. I wish that it hadn’t taken me over a year to realize that A+B did not equal C when it came to him and me. I also wish I could tell you that I emerged from the experience confident and able to make better relationship decisions, but I was still desperate to silence the “not good enough” reverberating in my soul.
It was those relationships, with friends and significant others, that would lead me to finally tackle the questions.
For all posts in the How I Came to Faith series, go here.