The earliest memory I have is of my mother reading the Holy Bible to me. My mother was adamant that I have an understanding that God was real and every glorious creation was His to claim. I remember my fascination and awe of God; My mind often wandering of how wonderful this Paradise must be and my mind filled with the imagination of its beauty. I envisioned the golden gates and being surrounded by graceful Angels, as I would enter into an eternal life of everlasting love. I have read many fascinating stories of the Bible with my mother, however there was nothing loving or beautiful living up to the expectations of its teachings. Fear, detachment, and falling short of my own identity I owe to religion.
My mother was a devout Jehovah’s Witness, and thereafter 2 or 3 other faiths. Yes, I was ringing your doorbells helping my mother spread the good news about Jesus from home to home, one pamphlet at a time. It was all I knew. I was 4 years old and clueless. I was taught at the age of 4 to believe this is how to get into Heaven. Ridiculous isn’t it? Here is where detachment comes in.
My life consisted of my parents and church, that’s it. I had 3 older siblings of 15 years in age difference that my parents distanced me from because they were “sinners”. I never had a normal sibling relationship because in order to please God and my parents, I could not associate with sinners. I grew up extremely lonely and with the inability of forming solid relationships because no one was ever considered an “ideal” friend and my siblings were bad influences. My desire for a connection was disintegrated which unbeknownst to me -would then cause a handful of emotional damage later on in life.
The fear of God! My mother would tell me stories of the rapture, the coming of Jesus. The battle of Good vs Evil and how God would prevail to bring his people to His kingdom had me scared to death!! My mother would tell me that Jesus would leave me behind if I did not abide the Bible and I needed to repent every day for my sins! I WAS 4 YEARS OLD! At this age all I cared about was Mc Donald’s, toys and cartoons. I had no real control over my behavior or understanding of what all of this religious tactic meant. What I did know is that I had fear. I had feared to misbehave or conduct in such a manner that was displeasing to my mother. I feared the lesson that had to be taught to me when I misbehaved because according to my mother, God gave her the authority to do so and do as she saw fit.
My first encounter with fear was when my mother beat me, tied me up with a neck-tie and gagged my mouth with paper to stop me from screaming because I did not sit still during service. She locked me in a closet of an empty office in church. I was left there, in the dark, screaming and crying uncontrollably. It was common practice for Jehovah’s Witnesses to rule with an iron hand so that the children would obey the Word of God. At least this is how they interpreted the “Word of God”. A church member heard me and was mortified to see me there in the closet crying hysterically. He untied me quickly and calmed me down and gave me a drink of water. I remember sitting down and this man telling my mother that this is no way to treat a child even though this is what they preached to the congregation. I believe whole-heartedly this man saw first hand the power of words and how they can be misinterpreted. I can tell in his eyes that he felt both responsible and disgusted at the same time. At that young age I knew that this is not what God intended and if he existed, why was this happening to me?
I was often bullied at school and allowed my so-called friends to manipulate me just so that I can be accepted. Fear damaged me from a perspective that would make me feel defenseless when my back was to the wall. I had no voice because I was trained to fear. I allowed myself to be bullied into silence and my hunger for acceptance made me lose sight of my own identity. Religion made me a crutch to fear until I became Reborn Again Christian at age 15. A weight was finally lifted from me because I felt like I belonged. I was involved in many ministry activities and I enjoyed being part of a group that accepted me. I was inspired by our leaders and felt love that was unconditional. When I turned 17, I graduated from High School and had to make educational decisions for my future. Once again, I was manipulated to believe that the world was not for me. I was restricted from participating in activities because I had to make a decision between a life with God or with the world. Nevertheless, I chose the world. I was rejected by my Christian family and basically out casted because I wanted to experience life as God intended. To expand and meet different cultures, beliefs and people that would impact my life tremendously. I wanted to learn, fail, achieve and become part of something much bigger than I could ever imagine. I had faith, but apparently they had no faith in me. At the most critical stage in my life, I was abandoned by the very faith where I felt secure. I learned that even those who follow the Christian faith and claim to walk as Jesus did can turn their backs on you and fall short of empathy and understanding. Although Jesus embraced the sinner, my so-called friends of faith rejected me. The path they pre-decided for me limited me within the church walls. Something inside of me that was much bigger than those church walls was calling me and for once I took a stand against fear and listened to my heart.
I guess what I am trying to say is this; what I learned in life is to stay true to yourself even when the odds are against you. Life has many twists and turns that unexpectedly take you through a roller coaster of inevitable emotion. Let go and do not hold onto oppressors who hold you down because there will come a point in time where you will have to choose between staying down or rising to the occasion – Everyone – and I mean EVERYONE – in this life has their moment of reconciliation and whether or not they choose to make things right, there is a higher power that justifies it all. You are not responsible for actions beyond your control. Trust me when I say that life always has a way of divine intervention that gives us the lesson that has to be learned and always settles the score. What you are taught, your heart may not always follow and that is definitely okay. Failing is a part of living! It also brings you closer to success and triumph and the only way to know for sure is when you follow your calling! Religion did not “save” me – but because I had faith it allowed me the freedom to move forward and break free from fear. Living in fear bullies you into silence and it is incomprehensible to me how we can be judged or dictated by imperfect people. Staying true to yourself is by far the biggest battle you will ever have to fight but is the epitome of all that matters.