Welcome to my story. I’m so glad you’re here! There are 13 posts in this series, and I will update the links as I post them:
- Memories of Divine Light
- Remembering: El Shaddai
- Descent into Darkness
- Brush with Death
- Visions of Glory and Bliss
- Miraculous Healings
- Chasing Supernatural Experiences
- When my World Caved In
- Understanding: It’s All About Love
- Rebirth Into Divine Love
- You Are Eternally Loved
I invite you to come along with me as I share my memories of brilliant light and unbelievable love, my descent into darkness and depression, and my reconnection and rebirth into Glorious Love. Mine is a story of supernatural experience intermingled with beautiful and broken humanity, the story of a spiritual awakening, of finding and reconnecting with a love I forgot existed, the story of an explosive, incomprehensible light that fills, awakens, heals, connects, animates, empowers, and spills out of every crevice of your being. This is part 3 of my story.
My story is not what I would call a “great testimony.” When people ask me to share, I often don’t really know what to say. I didn’t have a dramatic conversion. I don’t have a before-and-after-Jesus-story, because frankly, I can’t remember a time I didn’t know and love Jesus with all my heart. As a child, I did my fair share of wrongs and made my fair share of mistakes, but my heart’s desire was always to do right and please God. I am well aware of how this sounds – incredibly arrogant and self-righteous – so I generally tweak my story to make myself sound wilder or more rebellious than I actually was.
This time, I’m not going to do that. This time, I’m going to tell the truth, exactly like it is. Because the truth is that I have struggled greatly with darkness in my life, and only now, in my third decade, have I found the answers I’ve been looking for. If I alter my story, all the beauty of what actually happened to me is lost.
So here goes.
My parents tell me I accepted Jesus as my savior at two years of age. They say we were sitting on the floor in front of my bed. Apparently, I asked to pray after we finished reading our nightly Bible story. I honestly don’t remember any of this. What I do remember is that I have always known Jesus. I knew him long before I prayed that 2-year-old prayer. As a young child, I felt as if I had known him from eternity past.
“Jesus loves me, this I know…”
The beautiful words of that simple song spoke to a place deep in my soul. I remembered a love that was too vast for words to convey, a pure and brilliant light shining with the intensity of a million suns, sweeping me up with the force of a million storms, and all of it was love – love for me.
When I was very young, from about infancy to five years of age, I accepted his love without question. But as I grew older that changed.
When I was five years old, my family made a huge transition. We began attending a new church. This move was good for us in some ways and negative in others. This church had many strengths, yet it will remain nameless in my story. For the purposes of my story, sadly, I must highlight its weaknesses.
This is the hardest part of my story to tell. I don’t wish to place blame on anyone for the things that occurred in my life. We are all responsible for ourselves – for how we respond to the people and situations that challenge us. Yet, I feel I must outline what happened to me. This is necessary if you are to understand how and why I sank into darkness, and how great was the light that found me there. I should also add that my parents know about and fully support me sharing this.
My childhood church focused heavily on fire-and-brimstone preaching about the wrath of God and his hatred for sinners. The atmosphere of the church was one of arrogance, fear, intolerance, and disgust with the surrounding world. Now the church was not all bad, of course. No church is. And to be fair, this church did give lip service to the love of God, and most of the pastors and teachers were sincere men who I still respect to this day. However, when your doctrine revolves around a God who predestined millions of people to hell, a God who hates sinners until they repent, a God who longs to pour out vengeance for sin, it is really hard to take you seriously when you say “God so loved the world.”
I withered spiritually. My memories of that heart-wrenchingly beautiful and glorious light faded as I accepted my new reality – fear of hell and judgment, and endless efforts to be worthy of the love of a distant, vindictive, and capricious God.
I fully understood the gospel, as it was presented to me by my church. I was totally depraved, a hopeless sinner. I was worthless and undeserving of God’s love. God was angry and his wrath was hanging over my head. Jesus had died to appease the wrath of God. I could be saved from Hell if only I would repent of my sins and “believe” in Jesus. In Jesus, God would view me as righteous, he would “close his nose to my stench” (yes this was really taught) and let me into Heaven. The reason he would do this was to show how merciful he was to filthy sinners. In Heaven all the saints would watch millions burn in Hell and praise God forever that they had been chosen for salvation.
So repent of my sins I did. Over and over and over, thousands of times every day and night. “Forgive me, forgive me!” were the words that ran through my head. “I believe in you Jesus! Please save me!” I wanted to go to Heaven and be with God and I was terrified of missing a single sin. I became incredibly focused on my flaws and failures and began to see myself as worthless and unloveable.
I’m not sure, again, where to place everything on a timeline. I grew painfully introverted, fearful, and depressed at an incredibly young age. I suffocated under an immense load of guilt, shame, and self-loathing. Any time I made a mistake I would spiral into anxiety and neurosis, terrified of the consequences or of repeating the mistake ever again. I dreamed the same dream over and over for years – that I was struggling, terrified, under a burden that was too heavy for me to lift.
I became desperate for love and attention, but bound by fears, intense shame, and a belief that I was filthy, rotten, and worthless, I developed severe social anxiety. I became the weird kid who no-one liked. The rejection from one person after the next began to pile onto the burden I was already carrying.
I descended into a deep darkness, one that choked me when I laid in bed. Voices screamed in my head that I was worthless and unlovable and that the world would be better off without me.
Some of my descent into darkness was due to my own hypersensitivity, negative thought patterns, and tendency toward fear, shame, and sadness. Some of it was the influence of the church, their tarnished view of a distant, angry, hateful, spiteful God, their focus on sin and guilt. Some of it was due to a cycle of rejection that began early in life, to feeling hated and being publicly humiliated by kids my age, to the ensuing loneliness and relational dysfunction, and to other personal trauma that occurred when I was young, which I will not speak the details of here. All of it added together to completely cripple me to life, love, relationships, and joy.
Within a few short years of my life, I had gone from lying in my crib, secure in the all-consuming love of God for me, to lying awake at night, begging God to forgive my sins, terrified of waking up in hell.
How can something so pure be adulterated? How can a Love so great be forgotten? And how can it be found again?
Through all the darkness of my childhood, a voice whispered to me in my heart, and I have always been able to hear it.
You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.
For many years I simply believed what I had been taught about God. I believed out of fear. I tried to twist what I had been told of God to make it look like the Love I knew deep in my heart of hearts existed.
This Love sang to me, even when I was too lost to listen. I dreamed of angels and hauntingly beautiful music descending to me out of the clouds. I dreamed of brilliant lights shining on the horizon that I was never quite fast enough to reach. I experienced vivid flashbacks at times, most often while reading the Bible.
“In your presence is fullness of joy; in your right hand there are pleasures forever…” [Psalm 16:11 NASB]
The connection to my creator that had always been there was still intact. My deepest desire was to know him again, but I was lost. Lost in depression, self-hatred, shame, and darkness.