I was raised in the Church of God in Christ and in Pentecostal environments. For a while, I was the girl who only wore skirts and dresses because pants were masculine and against the principles of Deuteronomy 22:5. Women couldn’t wear make-up, open toed shoes, or sleeveless shirts either. We weren’t allowed to do anything that caused others to “stumble”.
While many of the rules we lived by were more religious dogma than scripture, I am thankful that I was raised in a time where prayer and thanksgiving were taught as fundamentals of a daily walk with God. Because people prayed they expected their prayers to be answered. This prompted Testimony Service. During this time the microphone would be handed around so that members of the church could testify. You know, tell how God had committed works and wonders in their lives.
“I thank God for being saved and in my right mind,” was a common phrase said by the older testifiers as they prepared the rest of the congregations to hear about what God had done.
In. My. Right. Mind.
When I was younger, I would mouth the words every time Mother Zuber, God bless her soul, said it. I didn’t understand why she said it every time she testified but she did.
Every. Single. Time.
My parents eventually changed congregations. We still had testimony service. And, the members still thanked God for keeping them saved and in their right minds.
One day, I grew up and found myself on a Greyhound headed to Providence, Rhode Island to attend college. I was saved but I wasn’t in my right mind. I was functioning and achieving but something wasn’t right inside me. For the next few years, I secretly went to a school counselor and a therapist. My parents didn’t know. My friends didn’t know. My roommate didn’t know.
For most of my life, I’d lived carrying the worst kind of secret. I’d been sexually abused and told no one. The knowledge of it stayed at the forefront of my mind, taunting me, convincing me that I’d never be good enough. Never be worthy of anything good. Only to be used for one thing… to please a man.
That is what my abuser told me. That is what I believed.
No matter how much I accomplished, I was already used up. Already… Broken.
I dropped out of college and moved to Atlanta. Still broken.
One night, close to Christmas holidays, I had an outright panic attack at church. Facing Christmas had always been a challenge because that’s when my abuse started… when the stockings were hung by the chimney with care. Counseling made me more aware of it.
A pastor, who didn’t know my history, said, “It is okay. Sometimes, you have to take the pill while you heal. And, you need to heal.” That night he gave me the information to a counselor who happened to be a Christian. For the next year, I went to Christian counseling.
I had to be honest. I could no longer hide behind success or achievement. I had dropped out of college after all. In that tiny office I dealt with the things that had been chipping away at my happiness, my soul.
I had to tell the truth.
I had to own my feelings.
I had to forgive people who wouldn’t apologize or who couldn’t apologize whether they wanted to or not because they were dead.
I had to forgive my false beliefs of who I created God to be in my head and in my heart.
I had to own the pain. All of it.
I had to own every bad deed that I committed because of my pain.
I could no longer hide behind the abuse.
I had to come out of hiding.
I had to come out of protecting.
We tell lies when we protect others. The biggest lie is that the protection of their reputation and their feelings is more important than our own sanity.
I had to gain control over my mind by facing the dark corners and by asking God, the one who I thought abandoned me, for help. And, he did.
He did. He changed me.
When He changed me, my behavior changed. I was living in a way that didn’t torment my mind.
We’ve moved so deep into the prosperity ministry that we have started to accept all of the lies of the enemy. We’ve focused more on praying to get things rather than praying to be whole.
I like my creature comforts but I LOVE being saved and in my right mind.
Forgiving God (and people) has allowed me to live in a way that peace finds me. I am no longer driven by what other people do or what people think. I live in a way that allows me to get sweet sleep at night (Proverbs 3:24).
Ask God to show you how to live so that you don’t have to be tortured by your past or mistakes. Seek medical help and, by all means, if you need medication, take it. Don’t be afraid to get better because you are embarrassed about what others will think.
You can live right if you choose to. You can accomplish things if you choose to. You can get things if you choose to. You can have a healthy mind IF you choose to.
The mind really is a “terrible thing to waste”. It is even more terrible to lose.