Now comes the hard part. Confession time. So, here’s how it went down.
I grew up loving Jesus. In my first elementary school scrawlings I wrote it everywhere: “I Heart Jesus.” In high school, when I was determined to get straight A’s, I prayed before every exam, “God, help me to remember …” If memory serves, my brain went blank on only one exam in all that time, and that was in Home Economics, so no great loss.
Then came college. I loved college. For the first time, my brain was being challenged. Wonderfully refreshing. But the choices I made during those years were not so great. It may have been my sophomore year when, overloaded with work and having too little time to manage everything, I forgot to pray before an exam. I passed anyway. That’s when I made the conscious decision, “What a stupid thing to pray. I’ve been doing this on my own all these years.” So I stopped praying before tests. I stopped involving God in most aspects of my existence. This marks the beginning of the downward spiral, one I couldn’t see until it was too late. When all is going well, and one is flying high on success after success, one has the feeling of being charmed or greatly blessed. The world was at my fingertips, and I would take it by storm.
Someone told me that going to college was entering the real world. I must disagree. One doesn’t enter the real world until one enters the real world. None of my job applications panned out, not even clerking at a bookstore. I was a newly wed learning how to live with a male for the first time. I was writing a novel. Then I wrote another one. Aaaand another one. The affliction that most amateur writers suffer is believing that their work is a work of genius, and that people will gasp in awe when they clap eyes on it and come knocking down their doors with contracts and movie deals. I was no exception.
I began using God as my genie. Believe, believe, believe, ask, and you shall receive. Also, there’s this one: faith without action is dead, so I wrote, and I submitted what I wrote to editors, in full faith that someone would snatch up my novel and make me a sensation. Instead, I opened one rejection letter after another. My “faith” isn’t paying off here, God. What’s up? Helloooo?
In short order, disillusionment (another word for “reality check”) set in. Taking the world by storm? Ha! This felt more like falling flat on my face. I got frustrated, then I got angry, and I stayed angry. For six years. In the novel I had written, a character says something to the effect that ‘he will make his dreams come true, no matter what.’ That’s where I was. And thus began my war with God.
He was saying, “No, wait.” I was saying, “No, now. And my way. Now.” I kept punching, to the point that I came to resent him for resisting me. Depression set in. Every rebellious thought under the sun, I indulged in. I was a basket case. Crying at the drop of a hat, drinking to feel happy and relaxed.
When things were at their worst, I remember hating God. Hating Jesus. It was so bad that I could not speak the name ‘Jesus’ without feeling myself cringe inside, so I avoided that name at all cost. I felt myself dying inside, shriveling up until there was nothing left. No joy, no peace, no creativity. Though I kept writing, even that became a struggle, and I stopped submitting my work to editors. Why bother? Of course, suicidal thoughts became common, though I stopped short of ever trying them out. “How can I get my hands on some sleeping pills?” I remember thinking. “To die, to sleep,” Hamlet said in his famous ‘To be, or not to be’ monologue, “to sleep: perchance to dream.” To have an hour’s peace, to float away from the chaos tearing me up inside. How attractive that sounded.
So at last, I hit the bottom of that downward spiral and there was nothing but darkness and despair. That might sound terribly cliché, but it’s the truth, and what better way to describe it? At that point, I was so far from the fold, the wolves looked more attractive than my shepherd. And the other sheep? Ha! I shuddered to be among them. They looked and talked as foreign as aliens from the moon. My enemy was beautiful to me. I remember saying so, aloud, when I was so shamefully drunk that I could not repress the truth of my situation from spilling from my mouth. Imagine how triumphant our enemy felt to learn from my own lips that he’d won me from my God.
But my shepherd came after this little lost sheep. Let me describe it this way, too, ‘cause this is every little girl’s dream: my prince on a white destrier came looking for me, brandishing his sword, which is the word of his mouth, and rescued me from the dragon’s jaws.
But that’s for next time…
(to be continued)