If you came to this blog hoping to read a “feel good” story of a woman who didn’t know Christ and then God came to her one day and her whole life changed for the better, I highly suggest closing the tab and going about your day. I will not take offense, but I know that my story isn’t that cookie cutter and is, quite frankly, still being written.
*** My mother made sure I went to church:
“Train up a child in the way she should go and when she is old she will not depart,” Proverbs 22:6. She wanted to make sure she met all her Christian parent responsibilities. So I have always known God. I have always had some kind of relationship with Him. I always knew better, I just didn’t always do better (because who really wants to stand out in their adolescent and young adult years).
I come from a two-parent home. My parents are two hard-working individuals and I pretty much wanted for nothing (you’ll see why this is important later). I wasn’t given everything I wanted, but I was raised that if you work for what you want, it will happen for you. As a student, if I studied hard, I made good grades. As an athlete, if I worked hard in the pool, I would see the results and win. Everything for me was pretty much black and white. I didn’t understand the concept of gray (and quite frankly still learning). The idea of staying in my own lane was cool, so long as my lane looked like everyone around me (successful and flourishing).
Most folks around me had money. My family was middle class and my parents have done well for themselves, but transitioning to private education for middle school, I quickly realized there were levels to this class thing. While some considered me a rich girl, my tax bracket paled in comparison to my friends and classmates. I grew to be ashamed of my blessed lane because it wasn’t as blessed as the others I saw around me (my comparison demon was planted).
As I went to undergraduate and graduate school, the comparison demon grew. I was the first African American female to swim at my university. When it involved swimming, I was familiar with being the only one, but that didn’t make it easy. The idea that I had no one to share my direct struggles with quickly became problematic because I was finding refuge in all the wrong places. I thought no one understood me. I kept looking at others and how “well” their lives were going and secretly mine was miserable despite my front of perfection. Because I felt I couldn’t talk to anyone, especially God, I turned to unhealthy outlets: drinking and dating relationships.
Now most would think, typical college girl going through her phases, but I was not your average party girl. If I was going to go out, I went ALL out. I wanted to be a good time. I was so fixated on everyone around me having fun so that they couldn’t see my pain. The first guy I fell in love with in college saw past the facade and was the first person to see me (when in reality it was my demons playing mind tricks on my loneliness and low self-esteem).
He was verbally and sometimes physically abusive, but because he saw me, I felt as if he loved me. He saw my imperfections and stuck around so obviously that meant he loved me more than anyone else could (even God). I spent many nights having my inner voice yelling at me “walk away you’re so much better than this girl you’re portraying”, but the idea of being loved by any man outweighed the love I felt God was giving me. I was still going to Bible study. I was still going to church, but I wasn’t really applying any of the teachings. The pastor would be speaking on my situation, but I would let it go in one ear and out the other.
There were so many red flags and times that God was screaming “run and come back to me” but I didn’t listen. I knew what I needed to do, but I didn’t want to say no to my flesh. I was different enough, but adding on a “Christian woman standing by her convictions” was a label I wasn’t interested in having. I wanted to be like everyone else. One time, I specifically remember telling my ex that I wanted to recommit my life to Christ and be a born again virgin. He understood, however, he told me that he couldn’t be faithful to me. So instead of seeing that as my way out, I stayed with him. The love from my ex was greater than being an outsider to the college norm.
The relationship didn’t get any healthier. I would “fall back in love” then my inner voice would get annoyed and try to break up with him and fail (The never ending, unhealthy cycle). I was damaging the both of us because I was holding my own feet to the fire. I didn’t want to be set apart. He would tell me things like “the only thing you’re good for is being on your back” and I believed him. I mean I talked a good game, but I clearly didn’t walk the walk. Every time I threatened to leave, my demons would convince me I wasn’t going to get better than him.
When we finally broke up, you would think I would be free and happier because I had broken free from him (completely opposite because this isn’t the cookie cutter story). I went buckwild. I wanted love so badly I was getting it from almost anywhere. If a guy said just the right trigger words, he’d have me hooked. Now mind you, I was still going to church, still mentoring young women, still putting on this idea of perfection.
My “perfect” lane came to a crashing halt one night as I sat at the dinner table one night with a mentee I realized I was living a lie. I was trying to convince her to leave her boyfriend because he was treating her so poorly. I was telling her to come to church with me. The irony of it all was me knowing I wasn’t living what I was preaching. I was telling her to not be “that girl” when in reality EYE was THAT girl.
From that day forward, I knew I could no longer live a lie. I couldn’t just share the highlights of my life and not the low moments. I couldn’t preach to someone to do the right thing knowing full well that I was going to do the opposite. It was in that moment I realized that sharing my testimony meant sharing the ugly truths. I couldn’t preach, but rather I decided I would share what EYE felt in moments of doubt, loneliness, and comparison. I would lend advice but never judgment. My lane is one that lends grace because I’ve needed God’s grace and mercy more times than I’d like to count.
I would like to say I’m a beautiful work in progress. My relationship with God has become the closest relationship in my life. Without Him, I know that I am nothing and no one can sustain me the way He does. Do I have bad days? Absolutely. Do I know that trouble don’t last always? Absolutely. Do I still have moments where I peak into other folks’ lanes? Definitely. I’m learning that all I can really do and encourage others to do is stay in your own blessed lane. If you are meant to be different, be different however that may look. It’s hard to stand out, even if it’s for good reason, but when you’re made by God, standing out is a given and the sooner you embrace it the more peace you will feel as you try to best navigate life.