I grew up without any real religious training. In fact, my father was completely anti-religious, and forbade us to participate in church-type activities. However, I had aunties and grannies who were spiritualist mediums, so I was exposed to the occult from early days. One of my first memories is of sitting in the back of my parents' yellow station wagon, playing with little pink and yellow "faeries" that looked like marble-sized balls of energy.
College broadened my horizons in a big way: radical feminism (for more on this topic see below), Wicca, friendships with Hare Krishnas, leftist politics, affairs with married professors, mentorship by an Anglican rector who was active in EST and other human-potential stuff. The whole sordid 1970s mixture, including bell-bottoms and platform shoes!
I left college, got a job and an apartment, and eventually married Jim. He had become a Christian during the original "Jesus People" era, and was a touring musician for Campus Crusade. But unresolved issues (which I won't discuss, you can ask him if you see him!) led to him turning away somewhat from the faith, so it didn't seem strange for him to marry a practicing witch and fortune-teller.
For the next decade, I continued to be heavily involved in the occult and New Age practices. Most particularly, I began following an Indian guru, and converted to Hinduism in 1992 (as much as it is possible for an American to do so.) I wore a sari, put a red bindi spot on my head, chanted in Sanskrit, and spent time living in an ashram. I believed thoroughly in reincarnation, never realizing until my father's death in 1996 that it means the dissolution of the individual personality at death. Since I maintained a constant contact with the "ghosts" of my family through the mediumship that I had learned in childhood, this confused me terribly. But by this point, I had become so identified with my attractive and charismatic guru that I was unable to separate myself from her, even though I was suffering emotionally and finding it difficult to continue believing. But the one thing that I continued to believe was that I had to work out my own salvation and enlightenment...that "oneness with the Divine" came as the result of lifetimes of effort. And yet, no matter how hard I tried, the goal seemed further away with each passing day.
I worked so hard at "resolving my own karma" that I eventually became physically ill and emotionally depressed. At the time of my Christian conversion in July of 1998, I was bedridden with stress-related illnesses and suffering from severe depression. I was medicated into insensibility everyday so that I wouldn't either become sicker physically or commit suicide. With great desperation, I nevertheless followed the hours-long rituals prescribed by my guru, still trying to find peace and happiness. Housebound and unemployed due to my chronic illnesses, I tried to pass the time with needlework, MUDding, and other mind-numbing activities that kept my mind off my depression and made life a little more bearable. During this period of time, I began to recognize that "seeking enlightenment" does not work, because I knew that I had given my best effort and used all my strength, and I was sick unto death and hadn't gotten any closer to the peace-of-mind that I was looking for. I realized that I was a total failure at self-actualization.
I had been exposed to Christianity off and on since age 7, though my family was very much against it. As I mentioned, I was brought up as a socialist, and told to avoid organized religion. In fact, I don't believe that I could have become a Christian while my father was alive, because of the negative pressure that he would have exerted. But by the middle of 1998, I had reached the end of my strength physically and mentally. I could no longer function normally, work, travel, do errands or anything else. I was caring for my mother-in-law, who was a cranky old alcoholic on a "dry drunk" while recovering from a broken hip sustained in a drunken blackout, and every day I became more and more exhausted and physically ill. Because I believed that I was responsible for everything that happened to me, I felt that I had fallen into a hole that I could not get out of because of my own incompetence and unworthiness, that I had totally failed at my goals for "this lifetime", and that I would probably be a cockroach for my next million lives because I'd done so badly.
I received Christ after realizing suddenly that NOBODY could fix their own lives, that the deck was stacked against all of us, and that anyone who said that we create our own reality was lying. I knew that I had no hope for saving myself, and I recognized that nobody could save themselves. It was not just me who was a failure...nobody could succeed. I've heard that most people weep and are sad when they realize that they are sinners. I laughed and shouted with joy, because now I knew that I was not any worse than anyone else -- we were all facing forces that we could not overcome. I leaped into the promises of Christ with joy and relief. For the first time in many years, I could look at myself in the mirror without self-hatred, and sleep through the night without ruminating on how badly I'd performed that day.
I prayed to be led to a church that would nurture me, and that happened right away. (Actually, I was led to a charismatic prayer group within a mainline church which is otherwise somewhat liberal. The Lord has a sense of humor, because becoming part of the "loyal opposition" in a liberal denomination is probably not a good option for a new Christian unless they are someone like me, who has known firsthand the hopelessness of trying to fix the world by our own efforts.) I prayed for my health to improve, and it has (though I am still partially disabled, the change in my physical and emotional health is striking). In other words, everything started changing quickly and positively. I noticed right away that I was less preoccupied and more peaceful. Later on, but within the first month or so, I found that I was no longer agoraphobic, I worried less about my health, and I smiled a lot more.
As time has passed, I have become normally cheerful, whereas before my conversion I was morose and withdrawn. I still spend a lot of time on the Net -- but now I participate in prayer chains and other forms of online "missionary" work. I am more interested in others, and have made several good friends at church. I am still somewhat self-absorbed, but I am working on this issue. I am no longer bound by daily bouts of deep depression, and I try to spend a lot of time seeking to know more about God and my new faith. But I don't feel pressured to be a "good Christian -- or else" because I can see that this is the kind of life that I used to lead. Now that I am free in Christ, I no longer have to beat up on myself for not being good enough.
It's hard to explain the relief that I felt when I discovered that I am a hopeless sinner. I used to buy into our society's condemnation of that concept, because I thought that I was a "star-child" with "infinite human potential" and the power to "create my own reality". Whatta crock! And what a cruel idea...just ask any crack-addicted infant or Holocaust survivor. Truth is, we cannot do the simplest and most important thing: to save ourselves from the effects of our own mistakes; the errors, selfishness and occasional outright malice of the people with whom we interact; and the casual cruelty and selfishness of our society. That's what the word "sin" means...all those mistakes that we make, whether we mean to or not, because we're not perfect.
And I can't erase the effects of those mistakes and unhealthy influences by simply doing an equal number of good deeds, or thinking positively and affirming "good thoughts". Know why? Because inhumane actions and unbalanced emotions tend to corrupt the person who experiences them. As an old friend of mine used to say, "You can't turn a pickle back into a cucumber." I've come to realize that doing wrong actually changes my basic nature; sin is an "infection", in the words of the Anglican statement of faith known as the "39 Articles". We catch this illness at birth; the crack-baby metaphor is a valid one. And we cannot make ourselves well again.
But I am living proof: Jesus is the prescription; Jesus is the cure; Jesus is our chance to start over, to be healed, to become whole again. I know that nobody is beyond the reach of God's grace, because if an old witch like me can be brought back from the edge of destruction and humiliation, then God really must mean it when the Bible says that He doesn't mean for anyone to be lost, and that ANYONE who believes in Jesus can be born again to a new life.
Yes, I'm an evangelical Christian. No, I'm not a right-winger, though some of my opinions have changed in surprising ways since my conversion. I still have a strong social conscience, as does my husband (who first came to Christ in the 1970s before the New Christian Right became a major political factor). We tend more toward Sojourners than the Moral Majority; we know that Jesus is the essence of compassion because he welcomed us to His family when we were helpless and hopeless (and in Jim's case, welcomed him back home again like the Prodigal Son without even a whisper of "I told you so" or "you'll have to make it up to me somehow"). And, speaking purely for myself, I think that the most compassionate thing that I can do is to share my testimony with you, so that you might be persuaded to put aside the shallow criticisms that our materialistic society has made against the Christian faith, and consider its beautiful core message:
God loves you just as you are right now, and no matter how unhappy and unfulfilled you might be -- no matter how badly your life has turned out -- no matter how many dreams you have had to let fall by the wayside -- the Lord wants to heal your heart and body, and give you happiness and peace.
And all you have to do is ask Him. Won't you do that today? Come to Him -- or come back to Him, if you have known Him but have fallen away -- and He will give you rest.
I hope to be able to eventually add links with more information on some of the topics mentioned in my testimony (e.g., radical feminism, Wicca, children of alcoholics issues, etc.) from a Christian perspective. So if you know of any good Christian links on these subjects, I'd love to see them.
I also plan to write a testimony and discussion on the dangers of MUDding (online role-playing games). I haven't been able to find ANY resources on that subject, written or online. Help!!!! If you know of anything available on this subject, please write me immediately!!!!
Write to Kathleen!
First it was grief -- the feminist movement lied when it told us that
not having children would be a painless, enjoyable
and easy decision. I recognized this when one of our guinea pigs died; suddenly I was insane with grief. I wanted to
break into a pet store and hijack their guinea pigs. Even though we have another permanent resident right now (the
handsome-and-he-knows-it Nathan), my longing for the departed Natalie was overwhelming. Through Natalie's death,
I began to grieve the loss of the children that I never had.
After that, my heart became softer toward womanly things. I no longer
thought that the "real woman" was the one
who looks and dresses and acts just like a man. Have I decided to put on a skirt, purchase some eyeliner, and change
my last name to match my husband's? No...or perhaps I should say "not yet". The Lord isn't done working with me
yet. But I know that I am beginning to crave the company of women, and ironically, this is something that never
happened during my feminist days, when I was too busy judging other women's political correctness to really enjoy
their company. (And yes, I am ignoring the total irony of the fact that even during my most hardcore feminist days, I
would often end my days with an hour or two of delicate and detailed needlework, or by baking my infamous