(Continuing from yesterday’s post, Day 2: When Grace Met Jesus )
I had been so sheltered at home and church all summer long, surrounded by light and love. And the first day back to school is when I first noticed my heightened sensitivity. It felt so dark. It was as if I couldn’t breathe. By day three, in youth group that night I broke down crying. I didn’t think I could go back. The negative atmosphere/energy of school was more than I could handle. My parents and youth leaders thought maybe it would be a good idea for me to finish school at home. I thought it was a good idea at first, but I couldn’t let go of the people that I so badly wanted to “save”. I thought I had a mission to fulfill. What happened to my fire to start a revival? So I decided to stay.
Most people don’t want to be saved. Looking back now, I shake my head at my naive assumptions that everyone should experience and feel what I felt, that *I* had the truth that everyone needed. I truly did love my friends and classmates, but had yet to learn that love looks far more like holding space for others to process their experiences rather than interpret and judge their experiences according to my own. My school friends started thinking I was getting too zealous and over the top. They started to distance themselves from me. Everyone used to think I was too quiet, and they all wanted me to open up more. I finally did, but everyone thought I was obnoxious. Ironically, my one real friend that year was a self-proclaimed atheist.
I finished out my sophomore school year, not having saved a single soul. I left bitter and disenchanted. I wasn’t going back. I finished my schooling at home.
That year was my first “dark night of the soul” experience. I had seen the light for such a short period of time, and was then plunged into darkness. My friends rejected me, school felt awful, and to make things worse, that December my church split, seemingly overnight. Where did all the light and love go? I felt so bad and confused and desperately clung to the Psalms to make it through. Despite all the horrible experiences and feelings, I still loved God so much and knew his love was real.
The church split hurt me deeply. This place and these people were my first tribe, the place I felt connected to God through community. Now it was ripped apart and I never again trusted anyone in church leadership. I quickly rejected the system of church as we know it and longed for a Christian community that could meet together without all the restrictions, burdens, politics, and hierarchical leadership that comes with organized church. I felt all of these things polluted and distracted from the pure gospel of Jesus.
We starting attending a new church we used to attend when I was younger, and while I was happy to connect with another group of believers (many whom I already knew), I decided to remain wary of church politics and not dedicate myself to “church”.
My musical abilities were made known and at age 17 I found myself leading worship at church. It was a good outlet for me. Everybody loved me. Despite all the shit I had been dealing with and feeling, I never lost hope in God. I still loved him. Jesus was still the one who turned my life around. I had seen the light and could never go back.
It seemed as though I was created to lead worship. Less typical than normal, I really enjoyed doing spontaneous worship. My philosophy was basically that a structured song was just a gateway to move into a spontaneous free flow. I desired to move the congregation to a form of personal worship where each individual was able to vocalize their own unique frequency, and it was always so amazing to hear how all the different voices blended together so well. I led and shared so many powerful experiences during worship with others, and it’s not a lie to say that I really miss doing that. There’s nothing quite like it. My philosophy was that a good worship leader could lead people to this place, and doing so simply requires stepping back and not inhibiting the flow. It will come if you let it. It will come if you don’t feel the need to control where it will go or how long it will take or even how long it will last. You just can’t force the Holy Spirit, and trying to hype up the people only brings about a surface response that does not connect deep enough and does not provide true healing. I could write at great length about this process (I’m surprised I never actually have), but that’s not really the direction of this blog post.
And so, while I was leading worship and being a poster child for teenage Charismatic Christianity, behind the scenes I was also struggling with deep depression and torment. I did not know how to express this. The more “spiritual” I became, the more this chasm within my soul grew. I had an outlet to worship God through my music, but had no outlet to share my own songs of pain and frustration. More than anything I felt so desperately alone. I felt like no one really saw me, and that no one really cared to (typical Enneagram 4).
The following song is a poem I wrote when I was 17 and tweaked and set to music years later (click here to read lyrics):
I got a good break in 2007. I finally decided to stop being so disatisfied with the world (I just wanted to play worship music at my keyboard all day long) and actually try to connect with others. I resigned myself to the fact that people would probably never understand me (again, typical Enneagram 4!) but that I could still be social and find happiness by giving to others. I finally got a MySpace (haha!) so I could keep up with everyone and started attending youth group again. Aside from finally being “in the know”, MySpace provided me with one of the greatest tools of my life: a blog. For the first time ever I could actually share my thoughts with others that I often found hard to express verbally (I’m pretty introverted). I shared poetry and spiritual experiences and just random ridiculous thoughts. I finally had a larger voice, one that expanded past leading worship.
It was a good year. I was high on life and Jesus again, much like the summer after my “born again” experience. Again, I felt that yearning to set the world on fire for Jesus. It really surged when our youth group attended The Call Nashville on 07/07/07, the one in which John Mark McMillan told the story behind the writing of his song “How He Loves.” Years before, his best friend stood up in a prayer meeting and told God, “If it would shake the youth of the nation, I would give my life today.” He died in a car accident that night. The next morning, John Mark wrote “How He Loves”, and wherever he goes, he gets stories of how that song has changed lives, people getting saved just by hearing it. I was one of them. I didn’t know this story until that day. That song played the night I met Jesus three years earlier.
I continued on in my faith with typical Charismatic zeal, but things began to change a bit come 2008. I was finishing my schooling (I was late to finish since I spent so much of my time at the piano!) and reaching adulthood. At this time our youth group attended a talk by famous Christian apologetics teacher Josh McDowell, and for the first time ever I realized I had no clue why I actually believed what I believed. What made my religion the right one? Why did I trust the Bible? Was it indeed trustworthy?
I was 19 years old and suddenly I needed to have answers, for the world and for myself. Thus began my intellectual dissection of faith and God…
Tomorrow I will share about my journey towards the Hebrew Roots movement.