Good Christian Girl
Two decades of stained glass and steeples, pastors and preachers but never a therapist. Surrounded by Bibles and hymnals; prayer requests welcome, but never a “negative” emotion.
A Good Christian girl counts her blessings and remembers God has a plan. She always practices etiquette and good manners; she only says nice things, she’s never a downer.
Christian mothers wagged their fingers at my furrowed brow, “You really would look so much prettier if you smiled more”.
Sunday School classes centered on seeking the joy of the Lord, having a good attitude and never complaining. Questions were allowed if they had “easy” answers; anything else was backsliding. A Good Christian Girl doesn’t rock the boat.
“You’ll feel better if you look on the bright side.” “You should volunteer, you’ll see others have it much worse than you.” “Follow God and you’ll be blessed.” “Everything happens for a reason” “God works in mysterious ways.”
Church leaders promised if I trusted God I would be okay. After all, I was a Good Christian Girl and God was on my side. So I trusted and prayed, volunteered and obeyed, but the truth is, their promises turned up empty.
With a cheery face and a scream trapped in my lungs, I was drowning. For far too long I was silenced with a smile.
Living in a box too small for me, there comes a breaking point. So much was stolen from me in the name of Goodness, but I’m surviving and finding my strength.
Now on the other side, I don’t need to find a silver lining. I’ve been learning a few lessons of my own. My innocence, my health, my happiness weren’t obstacles to my virtue. Suffering isn’t always refining.
There doesn’t have to be a greater purpose to a loved one’s death, or abuse, or a diagnosis. Hardships don’t have to be lessons and trials aren’t signs I need my faith tested.
Not everything is worked out for my good. I wonder where I would be if trauma hadn’t held me down? Sometimes evil injustice wins, and it’s not because of my hidden sins.
I don’t have to be okay with it and I don’t have to get over it. I don’t have to believe this was all part of the plan. I can be angry, I can doubt, I can wrestle. And it’s not a crisis of faith.
Now I let my experiences shape my beliefs and not the other way around. There is no magic wand waving in the sky. I choose to trust myself.
Gone are the days of silent submission, fake smiles and shallow answers, and to hell with linear religious narratives!
I’ve found love in all the wrong places,and encountered peace where it wasn’t supposed to be.
I’ve discovered a sense of purpose in what I was told would be meaningless,experienced joy in situations I was warned would bring pain.
Healing has come from the very things I was taught would damage me, I even felt the safest from decisions that were supposedly dangerous.
The truth I was looking for turned out to be unorthodox and the saints I’ve met have all been sinners.
I’ve encountered God among the ungodly and I have come face to face with goodness in perhaps the most surprising of places – I have found it in myself.
Now I really have to wonder – what exactly did they try so hard to keep me from?
I’m learning to find my voice again and the more I unravel the indoctrination, the more sacredness I find.
Sometimes when I let myself sit in the darkness, I see the Light inside of me and I realize that maybe God is more like me than I was taught…
Maybe She is angry too.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
This is a version of a piece I wrote for the deconstruction magazine Hyssop & Laurel. For those of you who have been following for a while, you might recognize it as a reimagination of two of my past works “Silenced with a Smile” and “Finding Love in all the Wrong Places”. It also includes brand new content. This piece I’m sharing now is very similar to my published version, with a few edits.
This writing was an attempt at describing my mental health journey while living through religion and coming out the other side. There is a lot of darkness, but also so much light and healing to be found.