My Story: The Long Version

"If I told you my story
You would hear victory over the enemy 
And if I told you my story 
You would hear freedom that was won for me... 
Oh, to tell you my story is to tell of Him."
—My Story by Big Daddy Weave

My Story: the long version

Though I have no memory of it, I asked Jesus into my heart at the age of three. By five, I stood on the street corner reciting bible verses like John 3:16 to the passing cars hoping to bring others to Christ. As a child, I would sit for hours immersing myself in books on Bible lands and cultures. My father was a pastor, and thus knew many pastors, all of whom loved me, were impressed by my biblical knowledge, and even used me in sermon illustrations.

Behind closed doors, my father had a temper. His anger was always unexpected and unpredictable. He would scream at me, often backing me up against the wall, his face two inches from mine. This was almost daily, and I think I must have started blocking out the words, but I could tell you about the red patches of skin showing through his beard. And the way his eyes bulged. Sometimes he would pound the wall beside my head with his fist. I do remember him constantly telling me I was a rebellious child, and quoting Bible verses at me, such as God couldn’t hear my prayers because of my sin. God couldn’t see me because he can’t look at sin.

It wasn't hard to be rebellious. Examples of disobedience included listening to non-Christian music, listening to Christian rock (praise was okay), or wearing makeup (despite severe acne). Having neighborhood (non-Christian) friends were not allowed, because the Bible says children are fools, and another verse says we are not to associate with fools. I wasn't allowed to have a best friend, unless she was also a christian, because that would be "unequally yoked."

My father’s “church office” was downstairs in the finished basement. The ground floor was barely used except for the kitchen, and had to be in perfect, spotless order in case a parishioner dropped by unexpectedly. One day, my father came in and went on one of his rages. I have no idea what it was over other than “the house was a disaster” which pretty much meant lunch dishes were on the counter instead of in the dishwasher. He started yelling and screaming, knocked over the trashcan and kicked trash all over the floor, then screamed for the house to be cleaned up, and ended this little tirade by saying, “Thanks for getting me all riled when I have to go downstairs and do the work of God.”

One time, I was told not only was I rebellious but that the “Bible says that to God, rebellion is as bad as witchcraft and God hates witchcraft.” If the point was to convince me the Bible said God hated me, it worked.

I tried to commit suicide three times. One time was by slashing my wrist. The cut ran from my wrist to my elbow. The knife was so dull I hadn’t gotten deep enough to hit the artery when I was interrupted. I tried to pawn it off as a cat scratch, but confided in someone else what it really was. That someone told my father. He was livid, and grounded me for nearly 5 months. I remember being told, “What if someone from the church found out…what would they think of my father, the pastor?”

I left home at 17 believing I was going to heaven only because I said the sinner’s prayer. God had to begrudgingly let me in, but He didn’t really want me there. I was in a very dark place, and several years later hit rock bottom seeking all sorts of ways to stop the pain. Displeased with the mess I had made of my life, my father used church discipline verses as justification convince my family to disown me.

At one point, I started reading New Age books (stuff like how to bring true love into your life), and even read a few light witchcraft books. But after exhausting that section of the bookstore of everything “light,” the only books left were those with pentagrams and I just couldn’t cross that line. I remember thinking, “what do I do now…there is nothing left for me.” I walked around the corner in dismay and came face-to-face with a bookcase full of Bibles. But I never read the Bible, because it was a book full of verses that told me how much God hated me.

For whatever reason, a Bible handbook like those I loved as a kid caught my attention. I read from Genesis to Judges when I realized that it was impossible that God hated me since even after the Israelites witnessed the plagues and crossed the Red Sea, they turned around and worshiped a golden calf, but He still loved them. I stopped reading that handbook and bought a Bible. I was so desperate to experience God’s love that I read that Bible in six months straight.

Reading through the Bible in only six months really highlighted to me that it was only one story – not a collection of stories, and that that one story was a love story. Immediately, the Bible became my absolute favorite book. I wanted everyone to know of the love story, but knew I couldn’t convince people, particularly young people, to not only read the Bible cover-to-cover, but read it twice as fast as a yearly reading plan. Thus I spent the next 15 years working on a fictional series that covers God’s plan of redemption from Creation through Revelation. During that time, I studied not only the Bible, but history, Middle Eastern cultures, the original languages, and other ancient texts such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, all to ensure that I write about God accurately and never take a verse out-of-context as was constantly done to me.

People say your earthly father is how you look at God, which makes me a poster child for seeing God as a God of wrath, not a God of love. And yet I discovered the God of love in the pages of the Old Testament, where He supposedly can’t be found. God not only healed me, but He brought me back to who I once was—the little girl who loved books on Bible cultures and wanted to reach others with His love and draw them to Christ.