Monday, October 20, 2008

Is God out there?

I grew up in a broken family. My parents divorced when I was 9 years old, and by the time I was 10 my mom had moved on to a new man. I grew up around drunks, occasional potheads. My father is a good man. He always looked out for my sister and me; and my mom. My mom dated a deadbeat loser from the time I was 10 until about a year ago. This man has scarred me for life. This man has created wounds in my heart that will never heal.

Brad has three kids of his own; two boys and a daughter. He hasn’t been a father to them at any point in their lives. He had a good paying manufacturing job when he started dating my mom, but promptly quit when he was offered a raise smaller than he would have liked. He was on work release at the time, serving time for his second drunk driving offense. I’ve always wondered what made my mom be with him; the only thing I can think of is low self esteem. My parents had been together from the time my mom was 16. Dad was basically the only boyfriend my mom had ever had. When me and my sister started growing up, she started realizing that she hadn’t experienced a lot of things; what if she could do better? What she ended up with was a stupid man (truly stupid. I’m not just being negative) who doesn’t know how to care for anyone but himself. Want an example of his stupidity? He thinks the guys who block the goals in soccer are called “Goldies”. Anyway, if he had a good heart, this would be okay. But he doesn’t. I would sit and listen to them scream at each other all night long. On nights he’d come home drunk, mom would lock him out and he’d pound on the door for hours. Then he’d come to my bedroom window pleading for me to let him in.

God was my strength. My family was not “religious”. My parents both claim to believe in God, but have never been practicing, church going Christians. I, however, followed a different path. At the age of three, I found my very best friend. Her name was Kristin and she lived 3 doors down. We did everything together. Went to school, played barbies, made snow men. Her mom baby-sat my sister and I for a couple years. When I hit elementary school, I started attending her church’s AWANA program. My mom was always willing to let me attend church with her family. For years I attended Wednesday services. In junior high I also started attending Sunday services. Her family became my refuge. The more I learned about God, the less lonely and bitter I felt.

I never dated in high school. I never smoked, never did drugs. Heck, I didn’t even swear. Gee whiz, I never even said HECK!!! I was the epitome of a good Christian girl. I was a freak of nature, given the whole “nature vs. nurture” thing. I could have rebelled, could have become everything my family feared I would based on my upbringing. But I didn’t. I will never forget what Kristin’s family has done for me. Actually, more accurately, how God blessed me by putting her family in my life.

Even with my faith in God, I was a weak soul. I was a cutter, and I was depressed. I cried all the time. I put on a brave face and became the “funny” friend. I am funny. Hilarious, even. I was a flirt at church. While I never dated boys, or even kissed one, I was outgoing and bubbly and all the boys enjoyed being around me. The girls enjoyed being my friend. The leaders respected me because of how I was, given my “family life”. I sang in choir, and took leadership roles in my high school youth group. It was only a matter of time before I fell.

I was determined to go to a Christian college. I got my wish, and started attending my freshman year. The college life was hard. I commuted, and didn’t make friends like the other people in my class. But church was another story. I joined the college group and automatically fit in. One guy, 5 years older than me, asked me to go to a wedding with him. I was blown away. Did I actually get asked out on a date?! He was a hockey player; he was asian, but was built and was taller than me. He definitely wooed me. We went out our first date after the wedding and it was such a fun day. He picked me up and we went to the movie theater. We shared a bowl of Coldstone ice cream, then watched Finding Nemo. After that, we went to Babies R’ Us to pick out a Halloween costume for his baby niece. We went for sushi, where he spent $100 on dinner. He made me try it all; it was so exciting! We left dinner and stopped by a party his friend was throwing. He had a beer, which seemed huge to me! I was so uncomfortable; I didn’t eat Port Wine cheese! But it almost made him seem even more cool. After about half an hour, we called up some friends (my future husband and brother in law being 2 of them) and we all went bowling. At the end of the night, he dropped me off, gave me a hug, and peeled out of the driveway.

I was hooked. I went to every hockey game he had. He was the goalie, and a damn good one. We hung out all the time, but the relationship morphed into this weird… “thing”. We didn’t kiss. We stopped going out on dates. I didn’t go to all of his hockey games, since some of them were pretty far away. He’d call me at 1:00AM when he got back (his league’s games started at 9:00 or 10:00 pm) and I’d hop in my car and go over to his house. He lived in the basement of his parent’s house. I would come in really quiet, so I didn’t wake them, and go downstairs. We’d watch movies for hours. He started getting more physical. He’d give me backrubs, or take his shirt off and ask me to give him one. We’d lay on the floor and he’d start rubbing my stomach or reaching up my shirt; pretty innocent by much of the world’s standards, but not by mine! But I would freeze, and I never told him to stop. Things progressed further, but I won’t go into detail. We never had sex. We never had any other “version” of sex. But I went much farther than I had ever planned on going before marriage. All without ever having kissed! I felt used. He stopped talking to me at church; he stopped coming altogether most of the time. But he still called me. And I still went. And my grades were slipping, my friends were feeling pushed away. I would get home at 5:00 am, go to sleep, get up at 7:00 and go to class. Then I’d get out of class at 4:00, waitress until 10:00, and go home and wait for his call again. It took awhile for me to realize his drinking problem. I think I knew, but didn’t want to believe it. He smelled like alcohol. He’d forget conversations we had.

I finally grew a pair (yeah, I know, I can’t grow a pair. But I’ve always wanted to use that phrase) and told him one night that I was done. I told him that I felt guilty over what we’d been doing, and that I needed to put my relationship with God first. I told him we couldn’t do that anymore. He told me okay, and that was that. I was torn up about it. I didn’t have serious feelings for him; I barely knew the real person under his mask. But I was devastated by how I handled the situation. I had always thought I was strong, and could tell a man no. I caved, and never said a word to him. He probably thought I was easy, even! My walls started to crumble.

Enter Matthew. A guy I’d been friends with since freshman year. The guy that I had always turned to with my problems, my spiritual struggles. The only male other than my dad I had ever said “I love you” to, and that had said it back. We started dating only months after my “fling” with Buff Hockey Asian Man ended. We fell in love immediately, and married within a year.

Yes, long story. The end of the story? My faith is in shambles. My strong spiritual leader of a husband is doubting all aspects of his faith. We haven’t been to church in months. I don’t know what to do, or how to fix it. I pray, and then I give up. I search for a church, and we never go. I try to talk to him, and he tells me he doesn’t believe in God anymore. My life feels meaningless.

How do I try to change myself for the better, when I feel like my life has no meaning? When I feel like I’m destined for hell, and I don’t care enough to change it?

If you are a believer, please pray for me. Share with me some encouragement, verses, anything. I am desperate and alone.


debbyweighsin said...

OMGosh, Amy Jo. I am overwhelmed by your story and your request. I am a believer, and I believe that our faith is sometimes more complex than what is sometimes presented in the church. I think it has been 'dumbed down' too much sometimes. (That said, I totally love and believe in the church as God's creation for man's good.)

Anyways, Amy Jo, I would really like to write more to you. I am going to think for a while (and pray) and will get back to you later today. Some of my favorite authors come to mind. If your husband is a reader, he might relate to some of them. Phillip Yancy struggles with his faith and his doubts, and writes honestly and beautifully about them. His book 'Reaching for the Invisible God' helped me tremendously at a crisis time in my faith. John Ortberg is one of my favorite authors, and his new book is called 'Faith and Doubt' about his own struggles in this area. (He is also a great speaker, and you can listen/watch his sermons online.)

I'll get back to you later today.

debbyweighsin said...

Amy Jo, How are you doing? Do you read 'The Message?' It is just a modern version of the Bible, but sometimes reading the words in such stark modern language will bring new meaning to old words.

Check out Matt. 11:28-29--one of my fav's.