Story of Recovery: Anna

It started, for me, as a little girl, walking up to the altar after an inspiring puppet-show about Jesus Christ and his love for little, sinning, me. I was four years old. No one pushed me out of my seat, or told me I had to accept Jesus ?as my Savior?, but I knew that it would make my parents happy, and that would make God happy, and if I made God happy, then I was a good girl. So I did that, and that was good enough, to make God happy, for the next ten years.

When I got to youth group, I learned that this was no longer good enough. Not only did I need to please God, I also needed to commit my heart to him and make God (and Jesus and the Holy Spirit) the most important aspects of my life. I learned and was flooded with songs about how to fall in love with Jesus, be lost in his presence, and never want to spend a day away from his voice. As a musical person by nature, and a girl who always felt like she was on the outside of life, these songs impacted me to my very core, and I latched on fast and hard to the message and desire of a relationship with Jesus. I joined the worship team on the youth group and in the adult services, I wrote my own poetry and worship songs, I prayed at the altar every Wednesday night, pouring out my lonely teenage heart and became more and more dependent on what I thought was a godly encounter...but the only changes this extreme way of life were affecting me was creating an introverted, distrusting, grasping, lonely, and socially deprived individual.

My misunderstanding of and isolation from ?the real world? was aided by the fact that I was home-schooled. I never had a problem with it, while in school. I thought everything I was doing was great, at the time. I thought it was a good method, and allowed me a lot of independence. Except for the guilt, depression, and the burden of trying to constantly prove myself to an ever-increasingly cold-shouldered god.

In my effort to make god happy enough to help me be happy, I enrolled in the same small bible college in which my parents met. I was grasping at straws, trying to somehow find the small magic key of understanding I was missing. Turns out, it wasn?t at that college.

When I got there, I knew instantly I didn?t belong and didn?t want to be there. I declared a worship studies major anyway, and was going to sing with the worship team. On the way to the chapel, I jokingly asked the other girls I was walking with if my calf length skirt was long enough to stand on the stage in. To my surprise and frustration, they sweetly informed me it was...you guessed it...not good enough. They suggested I go back to the dorm and replace it with a completely floor length skirt. This was the first day I stopped apologizing for being myself. I started getting mad at the ridiculous level of disassociation with common sense and huge weights of responsibility we were asked to do in order to ?keep ?the world?? out of our lives. I didn't return to chapel that day, and I dropped a week later, much to the shame and disappointment of my parents.

It was not smooth sailing from there, though. Years I should have spent working, learning, and having fun with friends were still flooded with guilt and a strong effort to meld my former beliefs with new, more open-minded thought processes. They were slow years of making small changes inspired by friendships made, ideas planted, curious questions, and in general getting a better understanding of the world, and leaving home. Going to college. Going to college 500 miles away. And learning how to see the world for what it is and the beauty it can hold. And that journey is still going.

Now, I have a wonderful man sharing my life who I love more than anyone, and in that love realized that what I thought was god-love as a teenager was warped and self-abusive. I am happier and more at peace, and keep searching for more understanding from many corners of the human experience.

It hurts that my family has been aggressive, threatening, and hurtful to the man I love. While his family accepted me into their home with generous spirits, kindness, and love, my family greets this ?non-believer? with suspicion and thinly cloaked resentment, as they hold him partially responsible for my more open view points. While this is not the case, I have yet to tell my family in plain words that I do not believe like they do anymore, really at all. I have been trying to move slowly, with love, while letting them get used to the person I have become and am letting myself become. But I can?t let my husband-to-be bear the brunt of their hostility anymore either.

I?ve been searching for months for support and somehow just found this site. I am hoping that by sharing my story here, it will be easier for me to share the truth with my family. The people in my life who were once so close to me but have opposed this happy version of me with hurt, guilt, and religious pity. Thank you for creating this site.