Updated: Aug 30, 2019
I believe in Jesus Christ.
Even further, I read The Bible every day. I talk to Him whenever I'm alone. I mention Him in most of my conversations. I'm careful to do what's pleasing in His sight.
This is something you will never understand until you have learned my testimony. While my newest published book, "How I Fell in Love with Myself", is often mistaken for an autobiography, I have never written about or truly expounded on the history behind that title. I have never shared the fullness of all the trials and tribulations that led me to Jesus, and therefore, led me back to myself. But today, I've decided, is the day I do. I want to share how I became the bible-loving Jesus-freak I am today.
Let's start all the way back in the year 2000 on August 7 at approximately 9 PM. I was born into the most faith-filled, kind-hearted, Jesus-loving family you will ever meet, and from the day I was born until the rest of my life, I was taught the gospel of Jesus Christ.
A private Christian school until second grade? I was there. Sunday school? You bet. Vacation bible school in the summer? Never missed a year. Bible study? Every Wednesday night for seven years straight.
I grew up in one of the strongest, healthiest churches in my region, and therefore was first baptized when I was just nine years old. I received my prayer language in 6th grade, courtesy to the presence of Holy Spirit ushered in by one of the best youth pastors in the world. I began talking to God, even got competitive when it came to bible studies as I wanted to be the student who read the most chapters and memorized the most verses. I found delight in the stories in my little pink bible, which little did I know at the time was shaping me into the storyteller I am today. Overall, it became clear to me very quickly that Jesus was legit. I did have a lot of questions, but because I was surrounded by a Christian environment and knew that this was the God my parents raised me to believe in, I let myself fall in love with Him. And it was my fire for Jesus, my caution to obey Him, and my desire to listen for His voice that absolutely intimidated the enemy, which is why I became his target the moment I turned twelve and entered 7th grade.
Before then, depression was just a few black and white pictures on Tumblr to me. I considered sadness a trend, an accessory to growing up, having nothing to do with real demons gnawing away at a person's mental health. I was rudely awakened when little by little, day by day, I was running out of reasons to live at just twelve years old. It was true that I never even thought about White vs. Black until I went from a predominantly black school to a predominantly white school when I was eight years old, but it was during my seventh grade year when I started to make many false comparisons.
Here was the truth: I had darker skin. My hair was short and stayed short. (I could never get it to grow.) My parents were neither the richest or the poorest, but were smack in the middle, (as I assumed every family I knew was too.) And lastly, my body image was my own, which meant no one else had it but me.
That was the truth.
Here was the lie: My dark skin was ugly. My hair needed to be long and straight, the way the white girls in my class had, if I ever wanted to be as pretty as them. If I couldn't afford the newest phone and the nicest outfits like my classmates could, then my family was poor. And lastly, I was fat. I needed to be skinnier. I needed to lose weight.
And the more the enemy whispered that in my ear, his grip began to control my life.
And so it began.
When mom announced that dinner was ready, I didn't come. I exercised in my sleep. I demanded a perm for my hair. I pressed on to get extensions. I didn't spend my Christmas money the way I wanted. I bought a one-hundred dollar Northface to fit in, Sperrys that I didn't even like, Miss Me jeans that the rest of the girls wore. Anything to be beautiful.
Instead of memorizing bible verses, I memorized nutrition labels. Before I held up anything to my lips, I researched how many calories it would be. Before I was even fully awake, I would do 100 hundred squats. When brushing my teeth, I did wall-sits. I would get nervous whenever my parents asked if I wanted pizza that night and would feel righteous whenever I denied. Before birthday parties, I researched the food that would be served to decide what I could and could not eat. I ignored the bald spots that I began to notice that aligned the sides of my head, the symptoms of an eating disorder. I ignored my doctor who warned me that I was underweight. I dismissed my counselor's diagnosis of an adjustment disorder, her caution that if I don't stop, a stronger disorder will become irreversible. My headaches lasted days and weeks at a time. I was always hungry, but always conflicted. There were times I wanted to end my life. Those lies that I listened to replaced the truth that I learned as a kid and inevitably caused me to see God in a whole other way.
First of all, I was suffering. If you love me, God, why am I suffering? was what I thought. Second, I was deceived. Why can't I lose weight? I would ask despite the many people that told me I didn't need to. And then I took the next step to distance myself from my parents as they stood firm in their faith in the God who I felt took pleasure in my depression. And then it worsened to hating God Himself. Then finally, as I felt lied to all along, I decided that God wasn't real at all.
Even though Satan is the enemy, he is incredibly clever. As soon as I began to identify as an atheist, he made me feel free. I ate like how I wanted after separating from my faith. I stopped exercising and comparing. If anything, the real liberty came from my decision to do what I want. It didn't matter what The Bible said what to do or don't do. The book to me was as hateful, homophobic, racist, and sexist as I started to believe the Author Himself to be. (It's true: I didn't believe in God, yet hated Him at the same time. It's the perfect way to describe how lost and confused I was). So, I began using different language, listening to different music, and wearing outfits with the intent to be rebellious at now thirteen years old. Whatever I wanted to do, I did it. I didn't care if it didn't align with my past beliefs, especially didn't care what my parents had to say about it. I felt free without God, free without faith, and all of the questions I had about God that I chose not to ask before, I answered them for myself with this: God isn't worth it.
However, it wasn't long before I grew exhausted. My personal decision as an atheist made me bitter, and hating everything and everyone, (especially myself), started to get a little bit tiring, especially because I was wearing a mask. Of course, being the person I am, I wasn't going to let anyone know that this life without God was kicking my butt. So, I pretended to be better and do better with the help of the freedom I did feel in my rebellion. I carried around this journal in school of all the things that made me happy. I posted pictures that made my life seem bright and desirable, as if to show everyone, including God, that I am doing better without Him. But little did I know that one night in July in the year of 2014, right before my freshmen year in high school, right before that's typically the time where students everywhere feel pressured to be liked and accepted the most, right before my depression would certainly get worse without God's intervention, I would run right back into His gracious arms.
I will never forget the way it went. I was in my living room, listening to this incredibly rotten song, the lyrics telling me about my body and what I should do with it and who I should do it for. The cover of the album itself pictured the singer nearly naked. And that's what I was feeding my spirit. I will never forget how paranoid I felt in that moment listening to it, even though I've heard it many times before then. I felt like I was at the edge, like I was about to cry. And it was when my father poked his head into the room and very innocently asked what I was listening to, just to check up on me, maybe to create small talk, when I quickly excused myself to go to the bathroom only to lock myself in my room and cry. I felt so gross and so disgusting in that moment with tears pouring down my face. Lifelessness and emptiness began to overwhelm me as I cried. I was in a season where I didn't care much about my life. Many suicide attempts were already under my belt at that point. But it was here where I realized that I cared about nothing more than coming back home to God. I was leaning over the edge of my bed when I whispered into God's ear that I missed talking to Him. I knew that He heard me when the devotional my dad gave me the Christmas before confirmed that He heard after I read God's letter from that day. The letter from God was so accurate and so specific to my prayer that it had to be God. I knew He was speaking to me. I knew He was present. And it's crazy how victorious I became in one single moment of surrender even after spending a year and a half in a depressing, exhausting defeat.
The happiness I faked before is still shaking in its grave at the real joy I have had ever since my encounter with Christ. While my years of growing up in church and being surrounded by faith-filled family members played a huge part in helping me grow as a Christian in terms of bible reading and prayer, those years are just my foundation in my walk with Christ. It no longer matters if my parents were the ones who wanted me to follow Jesus. I want to now, regardless if they continued in their faith or not. Even if all of the youth pastors I had growing up stopped believing in God, I wouldn't. They would be the fools. I have become so close with Him, so firm in the truth, that I simply do not care if I am the only one who follows Him. What I've been set free from was real darkness, real depression, and real death, and I owe it all to Jesus Christ, Lord of heaven and earth, Savior of the whole world, who loves me and who makes me laugh more than anyone else. It was by His grace that I am still here today, writing this to you in a blog post, publishing only a part of my story in my first novel.
So of course, it's kind of hard for me not to mention Him in most of my conversations. It's hard not to worship a God whose name alone holds power. And in the three, almost four, years that I've known God, He has proven Himself to be more than just a moment, but eternity. Every day after that night, for almost four years, He has saved me time and time again, showing me a love that goes deeper than anything else, a peace I will never be able to understand. So yes I am going to obey His word and worship Him and pray. Your girl has been set free for eternity! I owe my life to Christ, and He finds my written testimony to be precious. So forever, I will write to worship. To worship Him, I write.