It’s kind of strange how this post came about. I was so shy as a child and lived in a few different places that I got used to fading in the background. I realized recently that most people know me now – outgoing, social worker, big time Jesus lover, event planner, kid lover, and pretty friendly (I think). Recently I realized many people don’t know my testimony or why I am so close to Jesus now. I’m always careful to tell my testimony at a church because I sometimes feel it’s not one you want to necessarily share at church. However, someone recently told me that there are people who need to hear my story and how I grew out of it.
I am a PK (preacher’s kid). My parents started seminary when I was 3. At 6 years old we moved from Washington state to St. Louis. My Kentucky parents moved with their daughter (and had another one not long after) to the city of St. Louis to be lay pastors. I got a lot of compliments for being a “good pastor’s kid”. In the church I grew up in that meant I was the little girl who always had appropriate length skirts, helped with the kids, didn’t wear make-up, was at church the seven times a week, did not watch television, at one point in time didn’t braid my hair, didn’t wear nail polish, didn’t play cards, was quiet, and did whatever I was told. When describing my childhood church I pretty much would say it’s very similar to the Duggar’s church. We were one group of churches and pretty much kept to ourselves. Everyone helped each other out and spent most of their time together.
I have a lot of fond memories of meeting the most unique people who we would take to church. We took one young man from Afghanistan to church and he made us authentic middle eastern food. I remember stories from tons of missionaries coming to our church from all over the world. I remember us taking people to church with many different mental illnesses. Growing up in St. Louis gave me an appreciation for diversity that is huge because of these experiences and growing up in a predominantly African American and poor neighborhood. The many things I saw as a PK are part of the reason I ended up in social work.
I do have many fond memories of the diversity of my life and the fun times I had with family and friends. My parents are great and were great so I have always been very close to them. My memories of legalism – not so much. I was not that fond of God as a child. Whether or not it was intended I was taught of a God who demanded perfection. I always felt the pressure to do everything right and hide any feelings. People would ask me why I wore skirts and I would even say because my parents made me. All of the things I was required to do I did not do out of love for God, I did them because I did not have a choice. In many ways, I despised God for requiring me to do so much. I was especially not happy with Him when I had to move up to Milwaukee at 15 years old so my dad could be a pastor. I ended up being homeschooled for the next year and doing online school for the rest of my high school years. I was mad those years because our church was really small and only had people way younger or older than me. The only opportunity I had to see people my age was pretty much when I started working and I mostly worked with older people because I worked during the day. This made me resent God even more.
Then came the time for me to go to college. The other major problem I had was a resentment towards men. Growing up in this church there was what always appeared to me a favoritism towards men. They never looked different from anyone else because they could wear whatever they wanted. They could also do whatever they want. There was always an unspoken expectation that I felt that I would go to seminary and find someone to marry. In a way, that made me not want to get married just to do the opposite (I do want to get married one day now though and do not resent men anymore). Women were not allowed to be leaders and were not encouraged to work either. I have no problem with stay at home mothers and love that my mom was one. However, I believe God gives women different dreams for each one. I was a pretty strong willed, independent child and was told I was smart by almost all of my teachers. I did not want to fit into this box. Thankfully, my parents were very supportive of me and helped me figure out how to get into college and everything. A couple years into college my parents realized that they did not agree with all of the doctrines they had lived under and we all left that church.
A little while after that I moved to Kentucky for graduate school and to explore who I was for myself. I would say in that point in my life there was a big part of me that hated God. Why would I want someone in my life who never wanted me to have fun, didn’t love me for me, and always demanded perfection? Maybe it sounds bad to say hated but that is always better than apathy. When you reach apathy that means you just no longer care. In order to hate something or someone you have to have loved them at some point. This is something I realize now. I did not go to church most of graduate school (but was in a Christian school) and did not really want to. However, towards the end of graduate school my professor who lived down the street from me invited me to join her weekly women’s bible study. I remember going and loving that we were not told what is right and wrong. Instead we read Scriptures together and explored what we got out of it. This was a new concept for me. Instead of indoctrination, it was exploring for myself. I liked that. I ended up going to a local church at the end of graduate school sometimes and decided I would start going to church again.
Shortly after that I moved back to Wisconsin for a job with my degree. My dad says that is a God thing because everyone knew I did not want to ever come back to Wisconsin. The funny thing is I’ve kind of fell in love with Wisconsin and Jesus. When I came back here I decided to go to a church with a young adult’s group. I was still very suspicious and struggled to go consistently because I was still a little leery of the church. I remember the moment things changed for me because we were listening to my pastor teach and he said that we should not just listen to him but read the Scriptures for ourselves and fact check it. That was exactly what I needed to hear. Ever since then I have studied the Scriptures for myself and become a very active member of my church. My best friend is still amazed at the fact that I actually attend a church consistently and am so involved. I watched the pastor for a long time before I trusted that he was genuine. Through this church and graduate school, I discovered that Jesus is not about demanding perfection. He is about demanding love. I love Jesus now and out of that love comes a desire to do things for Him and others. I also learned He does not require an excessive amount of things for us – He loves to see us happy and succeeding. He is with us when we are in pain and in joy. Now He is my everything. I do the things I have seen in the Bible that He requires of me and I do them with joy. Jesus in return is my best friend. Do not let others just tell you of Jesus and who He is – pick up a Bible and discover for yourself. Listen for His voice and find wise counsel that directs you back to the Bible.