Broken Child Mended Man is filled with eyebrow-raising antics, but nothing will likely irk both sides of the contentious religious debate more than my experience with religion. If your faith is strong, then you should have no worries to my story shaking your foundation. If you're not a believer, please be understanding of my upbringing. As for me, my faith has never been steadfast. My spirituality remains in a constant struggle between my good and wrongdoings. In short, I’ve had a somewhat contentious relationship with God. I grew up with the Southern Baptist interpretation of Christianity. I was also saved and baptized twice, but it rarely curtailed my inner demons that consumed most of my life during my formative years.
My first memorable introduction to religion was the song Jesus Loves Me. The tune carries like a lullaby and my mother (in her sober state of mind) used to sing it trying to console me when she would carry my sickly body throughout our home. I had multiple bouts with pneumonia during my first three years in Woodville, Virginia, so I knew the song better than I knew my ABCs. Mom would also read bible stories to me from a blue book with a broken spine. However, we never attended church during our time in California or Virginia.
I didn’t begin attending church until living with my first foster family, and the Sunday tradition continued with my second foster family. Again, largely segregated by race, sermons were performed differently, but the pastors provided similar messaging. I had a vivid imagination as a child, but I was also quite the literalist. They couldn’t tell me I was drinking and eating the blood and flesh of Jesus without sparking my curiosity. At eight years old I convinced myself that, this is definitely grape juice and crackers, but reluctantly went along with it. They couldn’t convince me that theirs was only one faith worthy of the Kingdom of God without me observing the Presbyterian Church sign during our drive home and wondering what they’re like. However, it wasn’t my place to question the church, and I eventually just learned to go with the flow. I didn’t really have a choice in the matter.
Prayer was the one aspect of Christianity that I practiced continually, even when I didn’t believe anything would come of it. In my chapter, Swift Awakening, I attribute prayer to helping my finally begin turning my life around. I also turned to prayer during my college years to help me forgive all the people I felt betrayed by throughout my life. The heavy resentment was hindering everything I wanted to become, and I had to find a medium to help me release it.
My relationship with organized religion is complicated. With God, it’s even more complicated than that. I presented my experience in the most respectful way possible, but I understand believers and non-believers alike may question my logic. That’s perfectly reasonable. I welcome discussion on the matter but can’t promise that I’ll have a definitive answer for every aspect of my faith.
Every journey is different. As humans, we naturally form into groups to identify with one community or another. That bond can be powerful and positive in nature. However, it’s important to refrain from judgment of someone else’s chosen path and instead reach out in times of need. If God indeed exists within this chaotic world of ours, then I safely believe we have been empowered to respect one another by affording everyone the dignity to walk their own journey home.
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