This blog has been sitting on my hard-drive for longer than I’d like to admit. About a month ago, some friends suggested that I should share how I came to believe in Jesus. I know that as Christians, we’re supposed to share the things that God has done in our lives, but the thought terrified me. After some prayer and conviction, I decided to go ahead and write it out. I thought I’d tell the long story, to look back over my whole life and try to find where God was – because just telling the exciting part didn’t feel genuine to me. What I didn’t realize was how deep I was going to have to go to find him or the wounds I’d have to revisit. And as hard as it was to look back at some places, to discover the presence of God even in my some of my darker moments, has revealed a chance for me to grow in my own faith.
It’s long, it’s raw in some places, maybe even combative. Please don’t take it personally, but many times during writing this, it brought up dark, uneasy emotions. By the end of it, you should know way more about my life than I’ll probably ever know about yours. And as awkward as that is, I’ll do it. Mostly because of this verse:
“And they overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” Rev. 12:10-11
Part One – Childhood
In the first grade, God spoke through my mom. (He probably spoke through a lot of our moms actually!) I had told my mom about playing with a boy no one really liked when some of the more popular kids on the playground had asked me to play with them. However, they didn’t want to include the other boy. So, I ‘solved’ the issue by telling him to watch my coat while I left and played with the other kids. My mom looked very disappointed in me and I didn’t understand why. Then she asked, “How would you feel if no one wanted to play with you and you were left out and asked to watch somebody’s coat while they went and played and had fun?”
Her words cut me to the quick and I started bawling. From that point on I was very aware of kids that were left out, bullied or picked on. I truly believe that God spoke through my mom that day to prepare me for what was to come in Middle School. (Blatant foreshadowing!)
During or around this time, my parent’s marriage almost broke up and they separated for several months. That was a dark time for us. If you have ever heard your mom cry in the middle of the night from heartbreak, you know the darkness I’m talking about.
I remember praying every night as if it was a bedtime mantra for God to make my mom and dad love each other. Eventually, they sought counseling a few months later, renewed their vows and have been going strong ever since. (They will be married 40 years this May.)
After my parents got back together, I think they felt obligated to attend the church they had received counseling from and tried to go for a while – but it didn’t take long before my mom eventually gave up dragging me and my dad to church. I’d say I was probably around 8 years old at this time.
Despite not going to church, God still felt like he was there in the background of my life. Occasionally, I would crack open the Bible and try to read it. The red letters in the New Testament fascinated me, but most of my attention was on the book of Revelations. For an 8 or 9-year-old kid, I couldn’t help but be attracted to a book so full of angels and dragons, beasts and locusts, among other crazy monsters.
During my middle school years, I don’t remember thinking much about God, but in the process of writing this, I think I’ve found where he was. But if I’m going to be honest, most of what I remember was pain, humiliation, and a world that seemed to have turned against me.
I was picked on in the seventh grade. Without going into too many details, it was bad and it was relentless. At this age, clothes start becoming very important – especially brands. We were not wealthy enough to afford name brand clothes and shoes. I tried my best to just be nice and get along, and it worked fine in elementary school, but middle school was a whole other story. For whatever reason, white Keds shoes were really popular at the school I went to, and if you didn’t have that little authentic blue label on the back, it would invite insults. I would do my best to color one on my generic shoes with a blue ballpoint pen, but of course it didn’t work. (Why did I think it would work?! haha) But also, around this time, I was having a problem with one of my front teeth – one of my baby teeth wasn’t coming out on its own. When my parents could finally afford a dentist, I was twelve years old and the tooth was pulled. It was bad enough that I was missing a tooth and looked like I’d been punched in the mouth at that age, but when the adult tooth didn’t want to come down, I had to go into surgery and get some pulley contraption built into my mouth to force it to come down. Needless to say, I attracted a lot attention and all the cats decided to come out to play.
I was outnumbered, not strong enough to fight them all off, or clever enough to return the insults. Every Sunday night a dark dread would pull itself over me like a suffocating blanket at just the thought of having to go back to school. Soon, not even coming home was a refuge. How could I tell my parents that nobody liked me, that I wasn’t good enough or pretty enough just to be the ‘invisible’ kid at school? I tried, but I pulled back from telling them the whole truth. Deep down I just knew they couldn’t make it better, and I was too embarrassed to share my shame with them. One of my darker fears was that if they knew, then maybe they would catch on to how bad I was, and wouldn’t like me either.
But, I managed to make a friend, and she was a gift from God. She was hilarious, too. She could always make me laugh and she helped me find the gems within the (pardon my French) steaming pile of shit that was my life that year. She was also wickedly clever, and if she was around when I was being dog piled on with insults, she fired them right back and made everyone shut up for a while. She could shoot comebacks off her hip that would take me weeks to compose. God, I loved her!
Honestly, she probably saved my life.
The path I was headed down wasn’t a good one. I had already gotten myself suspended from school for bringing a knife. I wasn’t going to shank anyone in the hallway, but I was trying to get the wolf-pack to back off! (haha) I know, sweet little Rachel! Anyone, no matter how sweet or nice, pushed long enough and hard enough will eventually snap.
My stunt only partly worked. After coming off suspension, I had a new nickname. Blade Runner. It was much better than Rufeless Toofless! If you’re laughing, it’s okay. I’m laughing, too! And I credit that to my dear friend.
I’m reminded of the ending of Toy Story 3 where all the toys are headed for the incinerator and there’s no escape. All they can do at that point is grab each other’s hands and find solace in their friendships.
As a kid, seventh grade felt a lot like that for me. God didn’t come and pluck me out of the fire, but he gave me a friend to walk through it with and I survived. A little burnt, scarred and smelling like smoke, yes, but alive to see another day.
My friend also introduced me to The Beasty Boys. So, obviously, that’s how I know she was sent from God.
To be continued . . .
Author’s note – in an effort to make this a manageable read for a blog post – I left out a lot of details. If you have any questions – please feel free to ask in the comments. Thanks!