THE WHOLE STORY
I would like to fully explain why I converted from atheism to Christianity. I have shared bits and pieces of my conversion story in previous articles, but I want to tie it all together in this two-part series. Here, I hope to clarify for people who may relate to my testimony just how powerful God truly is. Needless to say, Part 1 will be darker/heavier because of context that this took place before I understood what to make of my past, emotionally and spiritually. Part 2 will complete the story and bring us to the present where I can now see God working in my faith, and I will share more on that with you as well.
By writing this, I hope to bring clarity, hope, and direction to others who are in the position of searching for life’s answers without knowing which way to turn.
THE BETRAYAL OF TRUST THROUGH TRAUMA
My parents’ divorce left me reeling, drowning in questions and denial. Growing up, I’d grown extremely fond of the security of familiarity, of placing all of my trust in my family’s presence, the memories we made, and the traditions that made being a part of family so special. For example, we were told to wait upstairs on Christmas morning until our dad turned on the foyer Christmas tree lights in order to come downstairs and see the mountain of presents in the living room. They would dim the lights, and we would never think anything of my parents’ droopy eyes as they had been up an hour earlier preparing the eye-popping display.
In another example, my family was active—we would go outside and play ball after dinner as the sun went down. We did this frequently, and it fed me the passion for exercise, activity, adventure, and fun.
When my parents divorced, the very cheerful, optimistic, positive part of me became very serious, quiet, reserved, and exclusive. My thoughts burrowed inward, trying to grasp with profundity the depth of my own pain.
My dad would urge me to keep going to church, since we were raised Catholic—but I refused to attend over the course of two church invitations. The notion of any kind of God was not only unappealing, it was detestable. How could a God allow this suffering to take place? I was sure there was no God because no God would allow me or anyone to experience this excruciating emotional pain and familial division. But that was only the beginning of the pain.
SUICIDE AND PURPOSELESSNESS
When my questions following the divorce became unbearable and everything I’d believed seemed to be wrong, I felt myself imploding intolerably. This new reality where my mom slept in another house and everything was drastically different was utterly nightmarish and terrifying to me, emotionally. The rules had changed and life had become more about survival. Nothing I had believed about life seemed real anymore. I couldn’t find myself embracing this new reality with my family torn apart and unfamiliarity at every corner, and I also couldn’t wrest the old reality back from its grave. This realization birthed the deepest, darkest feeling I ever thought was possible: I wanted to kill myself.
For 11 years, this wasn’t even a thought. Suicide was not even a vocabulary word that I was capable of conjuring. But suddenly, out of absolute nothingness, death became a possibility; a desire. I’ll never forget, because wanting death was the most degrading feeling. I’ve learned there is nothing darker than wanting death, and that death’s invitation is consuming.
I was in my teens, 13-15, lying on the floor of my room with the door closed, crying until I could barely breathe through my nose. All I could think of was how nothing was the same anymore; there were no remnants left of my past reality, everything was over and there was no going back.
My mind tried to get creative about how to end my life, and I took myself to my bathtub. On more than one occasion, when the water pressure began choking me, my mind was screaming to find a reason to live to avoid the pain of air emptying from my lungs. My chest was growing tighter and I had to decide if I was going to die this way. I started seeing stars and I could hear my own heartbeat; time was drawing close and I didn’t want to let in—I wanted to die. Alone, my family outside somewhere, clueless to my intentions, I was merely moments away from breathing my last, when I came out of the water. I breathed, looked at the walls of the tub, and begged myself for justification as to why I had chosen against death. I didn’t have a good reason: I was afraid of the pain of losing air—my lungs screaming for me to save myself was horrifying. Living in a house full of people who didn’t know me or my pain was also horrifying. There was no escape. The misery drew anguish and bitterness.
No, there is no God. A God wouldn’t allow this suffering. God would be evil to allow this. These were my thoughts and I got out of the tub to continue living, although without certainty; wondering how else I could end my life.
My relationship to my mom was strained after the divorce. As soon as she left home to move to another house, I had to begin learning to pack bags for sleepovers. Every week I would pack necessities to take back and forth. There was more than one problem with this. The first was that right after the divorce, the presence of my mom was very different than from before the divorce; her new presence was something I did not like, nor did I want to be around. Because of her attitude and behavior, I did not want to see her often, and I felt guilty for not wanting to see her. After all, she was my mom. Not only did this seem contradictory, but it was causing me mountains of stress, guilt, anxiety, and racing thoughts. I would constantly analyze everything that was said and how it was said to pick up on anything I could in order to placate the disagreements we had. Mom had picked up on my lack of desire to spend more time with her and became angry and hurt. Her anger made me withdraw even further, and I quickly learned that our new relationship dynamic was terrifyingly different from the way it was growing up. This change haunted me—what was to become of my mom and me?
More confusing was the way my dad seemed so uninvolved with me. Our relationship seemed to have retreated, which lasted about a decade. Throughout all of my adolescence, I didn’t talk to my dad very much. In every sense of the word, my relationships with both of my parents were paralyzed. We weren’t moving forward, no one seemed to want to move back, and we were not on the same page. The horrors of the divorce crippled us and made everything that once was so beautiful into something unrecognizable, dilapidated, obsolete, disappointing. My heart was throbbing with fear, but there was no closure.
When I was 16, I found my first Korn album, “The Untouchables.” Upon playing the first song, “Here To Stay,” I was hooked. Never again would I find a band as interesting and addictive as Korn; their lyrical expression of rage, pain, depression, and self-mutilation were spot on with that of my own thoughts. I quickly learned that I not only related to Korn, but that they spoke into my experiences. Korn became my musical “Gospel,” in that I would listen to them for hours on end, embracing their anger, resistance, and ability to fight pain with rage and hate as my own. I soon believed that anger and hatred were ways to find strength in my darkness of despair and trauma. My desire for death was still present, but Korn was like a strong dose of morphine; they would speak into my darkest place and tell me my feelings were valid.
Along the way of finding myself tortured by the questions challenging my sanity, I found myself drawing closer to girls. Their attention gave me energy and I desired to impress them and earn their loyalty; their relationship. I ended up bringing my search for purpose to my girlfriend my senior year of high school; someone who I would learn later on could never have fulfilled that part of me. No girl ever could have, but I didn’t know where else to search for closure from all the pain. I didn’t know where else to search for purpose. I was living for me, and hating every second of it.
After all those years of heavily contemplating my life and its brokenness, topped off by resorting to lust and infatuation—I decided to pursue film studies in Florida when I was 21 to make something of my life while I continued my search for something beyond the pain. By moving to Florida to study film, I was intending to also leave behind all of my memories in Michigan. Like a placebo pill however, my mind wanted to make believe leaving Michigan would numb the pain (my past). But, after many years of being away, I’d learned that the kind of pain I experienced wasn’t solved by geography, but by the spirit. My spirit had been plagued by anger, bitterness, selfishness, and resistance to any sort of aid—and in turn, my mentality, maturity, and belief system were closed-minded and shallow. More on this will be elaborated upon in Part 2.
JUST THE BEGINNING
What is important to note here and now is that this isn’t the end of my story. This is just the first step in the path. All of this, as it were, marked by darkness, bitterness, and despair–this is not the end of anyone’s story. This is the reason for Part 1 and 2; I need you, as the reader, to fully grasp this picture as its own image, because when you understand the rest of the story, you will come to see where the transformation is, where God’s hand was, and how it’s a matter of taking a leap of faith to see what even our physical eyes cannot. In Part 2, I will explain all of this so that you can see for yourself that our pain and our questions have answers and solutions, even if it doesn’t seem like it yet. I can tell you right now that despite my pain, God is still good!!
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