I never attended church growing up…I never lived with religion, or even knew what religion was. I had a very vague opinion of churchgoers, thinking they were all “goody” judgmental people, who had money of course. We were poor, my mother was a teen mom, and people looked down on her. She honestly wasn’t a very responsible mother, she was more responsible than other moms in the neighborhood, but that wasn’t saying much. Growing up in trailer park, after trailer park, after trailer park, I was looked down on as well. I was programmed to hate people who believe in the Lord, and was influenced by so many people that there was NO God… I mean, how can there be, he’s supposed to be good, and we were stuck in a hell hole. What I didn’t realize, was that it was my choice to be stuck in that hell hole.
Yes, it obviously wasn’t my fault for being born to a teen mom with no religion…but when I think about it, what if she had instilled religion in me as a child…or better yet, what if her mother instilled religion upon her as a child? I think that if I had a sense of who the Lord was, I wouldn’t have felt alone for so long as a kid.
My younger sister and I experienced so much “life” as children. We knew first hand about evictions, as we were constantly pulling notices off of the front door. We knew all too well the feeling of coming home to no power, because the bill wasn’t paid. We had friends who we thought were true friends, and they were all drug dealers and thieves, but we thought nothing of it… that was normal to us, in our neighborhood. I remember as a kid, a church bus coming into the neighborhood and trying to hand out mini-bibles, and when they approached me I made fun and laughed at them. I thought nothing of it, and was NOT interested in “learning about the Lord our savior”. I hated my life, I thought nothing would change…I was self consumed, and unhappy…and that was normal to me. That was normal for everyone like me.
It was June, I had just finished my Sophomore year of High-School and word was…we were being evicted yet again. We were being evicted from the house I had been in the longest growing up (3 years…not much I know..but we moved constantly) and I was pretty upset. I hated packing, I hated moving to a new place, and most of all I was worried because we had 2 weeks to move, and nowhere to go. I could tell my mom was tense, she was stressed…non-working, bad credit, multiple evictions…we had already been living in Flint, but it was the outskirts which was a little nicer. This eviction meant moving to the BAD part of Flint.
My sister and I, being extremely stressed as well, decided there wasn’t much left to do…the thought came to mind, “Maybe we should try praying”. We didn’t really understand praying, but that’s what we’ve seen people do in dire situations in the movies. So we prayed (or at least tried to…we didn’t really know what we were doing) We asked that God (or whoever was up there) watch over us and help mom get a place that wasn’t in a BAD area. We asked to make the move easy, and that we still have some friends wherever we move.
Literally 2 days before we had to be moved out, we got a call from a place who was willing to let us rent from them. It was a small place, only 2 bedrooms for the 5 of us, no washer and dryer, it was a duplex… but it was in a nice town…and better yet, it was the same school district as our cousins! The place was out in the woods, which was quiet and peaceful. Our neighbors were my aunt and uncle, and a few other kids, who soon grew to be friends of ours. It was a nice, slow country setting and I loved it! I didn’t know it then, but the Lord had answered our prayers, and was starting to show me who he was and what he can do if I believe in him.
A year later, and I was a Senior in school. My sister and I were both older now, and in high school…and my little brother was a toddler. It soon became that my sister and I were no longer a part of the family. We had constant arguments with our step-dad (this was nothing new). We were left to make our own food, buy our own clothes, figure out how to get to and from school etc…We were not a part of “their” family anymore, and it was made known that we should probably be looking to move out on our own.
Now that we were in a better area, I found myself adapting. I met real friends, ones who went to church, ones who were givers, who made everything fun and exciting. Friends who were honest, who worked so hard at school, and outside of school. Friends who earned what they had, and shared everything. Friends that didn’t judge my little house, or the fact that my mom was the same age as some of their older sisters. It made me feel warm inside, made me feel like there was possibility in life.
I soon met a guy (yes, the dreaded “guy” who probably wasn’t the best choice in life). We started dating and, although my good friends disagreed, I decided to get a place with him. I finished high school, got a job and started college. I soon found that he, on the other hand, had no ambition, no need or want to make his life better. Soon, I was the only one working, only one going to school, and we were falling into a cycle I grew up in, the eviction cycle.
We had the notice on the door, I read it, realized we owed a few months of rent…and also realized I had no clue where I could come up with the money. I remember clear as day…I was driving home in my beat up 92 Saturn, I turned the radio off, I was driving down a lonely, bumpy road…and I just started to pray out of nowhere, asking “Lord, please help me, I’m at a loss, I don’t know what to do, I do NOT want to go down this path, I trust you to help me, please help me!” Tears filled my eyes, I was so upset, shaking, and just plain exhausted with worry.
The next day, sitting in class, my mind filled with worry….I overheard some people saying their tuition refunds had been deposited into their bank accounts. I asked what that was about, and was told they were getting refunds on tuition because their student aid more than covered the expense of tuition. Since I had done well in high school, and was completely covered with Grants and Scholarships, I decided to check my account. I had to call twice… I couldn’t believe it, there in my account sat well over $1,500! Enough to cover my past-due rent and other things I needed for school (laptop, supplies, etc…) All I could think was “Wow, my prayers were answered”.
Now this didn’t convince me to be a churchgoer, or to even learn more about the Lord. I honestly didn’t recognize how powerful the answers to my prayers were…I truly took advantage of the fact that when I asked for help, and acknowledged God, I got the help I needed. I thought it was just “luck” and that I, being the selfish person I am, accomplished everything on my own. So I went about life as normal, no religion, no God, and only calling for him when I needed help, EXPECTING him to always be there to bail me out….and when I didn’t get the help I wanted, I would turn on him, I would be anxiously upset, and curse his existence.
The cycle of life went on, there were ups and downs…and soon mostly downs. I found myself a single mother in my early 20’s, no concrete relationship, living in my aunt’s basement, working part-time at Home Depot. I had bad credit, a broken down vehicle, a bad reputation, and a horrible child custody case going on that took every bit of extra money I had…and I was losing….in everything.
I met LM, who was also in as dark of a place as me. He had loud and rowdy friends that were just like him. He loved his booze and cigarettes too. He lived at his parents house, and was a very “full of himself” kind of guy. He liked the ladies and was brutally honest about it (the Lord must have been guiding me here, because looking back, LM was not a good choice at the time). We eventually started a relationship together, which had it’s ups and downs, we were both having problems…we were both distant from everything. We had such a negative outlook on life.
It was our 2nd year as a couple, it was the 4th of July…his family was having a party up north for the weekend, and we decided to attend. That weekend was full of booze and fireworks, bonfires and jokes… LM took it as an opportunity to get as wild as he could, he took it to the extreme. He completely embarrassed me, his dad, and the rest of the family. I was fed up, I came to the conclusion we were not good for each other. When he sobered up, I told him I couldn’t take it any longer….we were done, his drinking was too much for me. Right then and there, he gave up drinking and smoking. I think the Lord was answering my prayer, a prayer that I hadn’t even thought to pray at the time.
LM started to go to church, his family has always been believers in the Lord and they were happy to have LM back in church. His family established a quaint little country church house, off a dirt road years and years back. His grandfather was a Pastor, and now that he had passed away, his uncle stepped up as the Pastor. LM would come home with testimony to share with me, but I didn’t want anything to do with it. My life was still hectic, I was having a hard time seeing any joy, or any peace. I saw LM moving toward God, and I didn’t like it. It wasn’t because I didn’t like God, heck…I didn’t even know who the Lord was at that point. It was because he was following a path that I was not on, that I didn’t know how to join….that I was afraid to join….I thought that I would never be accepted, I was nervous to even try to attend church for fear of being rejected, because I had never learned the cute little Bible stories everyone knows. I didn’t grow up with Noah and the Ark, or David and Goliath. I didn’t even know the difference between who God was and who Jesus was. I didn’t know one thing about the Bible, and quite frankly it scared me.
I decided to take a leap (of faith as you will) and agree to go to church with LM. The first time I attended church I was a nervous wreck. I cried a lot during testimonies and the sermon…I thought I was a crazy person and that I looked stupid. I didn’t realize how much emotion I had bottled up inside, and for some reason…just being in the church made it all come pouring out. I also got completely lost on a lot of parts…readings from the Bible made no sense to me. I felt very discouraged at that point. My daughter came up from Sunday School (it was her first time at church too) and she was gleaming with joy. She and the other kids sang some precious songs about Jesus to all of us, and I could see the love she had for the Lord. That gave me encouragement to come back again…to learn more about Jesus, this person who was making my daughter smile from ear to ear, who helped LM quit two life consuming vices in a matter of minutes (for almost 2 years now).
As I continued to go to church, to invest time in reading my Bible, and to talk to others with the same beliefs, I have noticed such a change in the way I perceive life. I’ve learned to be a “cheerful giver” and that “loving thy neighbor” means all of your neighbors, every person around you, even those you might not like. I’ve learned to always have faith that the Lord will guide you where you are supposed to go. I’ve learned to take everything, even the smallest things as blessings. If I’m handed something bad in life, I’ve learned to point out the good in it and focus on that.
I am far from someone who knows everything about the Bible and the Lord. I am someone who goes to church each Sunday to learn. I’ve learned that churchgoers are not judgmental people (or at least shouldn’t be) we sin just like everyone else, and we come to church to learn how to be saved from that sin. We come to church because we are NOT perfect. We understand that the people out there who are negative, living a hard life, addicted to whatever sin they have….are just like we were before we found the Lord, and we can easily go right back to that place as well. We can’t judge because that’s not what we are meant to do, we are meant to love.
When we were created, we were created with free-will. We are solely responsible to make our choice to believe in the Lord, and follow his path, or we can choose not to believe.
I chose the Lord….because it was my time to….because I want him to be in my daughter’s life….because I want him in my life….because he sets the foundation to have a fulfilling existence, full of love, and that’s the kind of life I’m going to lead.