How Religion Almost Killed My Faith.

It's been a while, but I'm back! I've missed writing so much, and for a long time, I felt like I didn't have anything to write about. I wanted to write something deep, or super inspiring, but I thought I’d just keep it real.

For a longtime, I've always looked at other people to tell me who I am. It was only until I was half-way through therapy that I realised that that characteristic was very problematic (face palm emoji). Not only was that extremely damaging in general life, but it was most damaging when it came to my faith.

I've always assumed that because I looked at others to tell me who I was... I wanted some sort of validation, and that made me cringe. Who wants to be that girl who needs validation? yuck lol. But truthfully, I was that girl.

It took me years (approximately twenty-six years) to realise that I needed validation from others due my childhood (inserts another face palm emoji). I've talked before about how my parents never really built me up as a woman, or as a person. I was never told I was beautiful or had any worth growing up and was left to figure out a lot of stuff on my own.

As a child, growing into a young woman, it was hard to "figure" out my worth. So I gravitated towards anyone who could validate me, because I had no idea who I was, and the hole inside of me named 'identity' was growing larger and larger as the years progressed.

As you can imagine, in life, that did not go well (that's another post for another time). The need for validation is like being addicted to a drug that wears off quickly. You'll always be searching for the next hit, and sometimes the search can take down some ugly paths.

Always remember: validation that comes from others never hits like knowing your own self worth does.

Looking back, I think the most damage was done in the area of my faith. When you don't know who you are as a person, it feels like you're searching for a million answers. Obviously, I had certain traits like being good in school and being social, but deep down, I had no idea who I was as a person. Does that make sense? I always felt like something in me was missing.

I feel like that made me incredibly vulnerable to any faith or anyone's agenda. Simply because anyone could look at me and dictate to me who they felt I was, and because of my vulnerability of not knowing, I would more than likely accept it.

When I made the decision to follow Jesus, I was fifteen, I had gotten involved in gang/criminal activity and I was gagging for a change in lifestyle. I had tried Islam and didn't like it, but there was something about Jesus that seemed so authentic to me.

You’d think my journey of finding self began right? Wrong. I think that's where more damage began to occur.

I've read multiple research articles which suggest that some people's response to having a traumatic childhood is being hyper-religious, and I would have to agree. I think some people delve deeply into religion because it almost becomes a plaster for life's wounds, especially wounds they cant make sense of. And don't get me wrong, Jesus is the answer to life's problems, but theres a difference between following Jesus, and following a religion, and I think some people become really religious and almost extremist because there is some trauma that they are using religion to soothe.

For me, religion gave me loads of answers and plenty of rules.

This gave way for another Millie to emerge, I wouldn't say she was fake, but she still wasn't who I was. I entered an establishment, where I was regularly taught how to become the 'perfect' Christian. How a Christian should pray, when a Christian pray, how a Christian should dress, do her makeup, conduct herself, or talk, were all taught. The Christian life was dictated to me, in almost every single way, and for a while, I loved it. Having a "good" standard to adhere to gave me something to be, and for years, becoming that good and perfect Christian became my identity.

It wasn't long before cracks started to appear. I'd go to family dinners and want to have a glass of wine. I'd actually end up doing so, and feel terrible about it later. I'd spend dayssssss repenting and feeling so condemned because I wasn't being who I was told I was created to be. Over time, little things like that kept happening, and then there was almost two Millie's.

The Millie that existed most of the time, which was the me that most knew, the God-fearing, bible quoting, funny Millie, and then sometimes there was the Millie that wanted to throw it all away and rebel. And I never understood why I couldn't just be one happy Millie, but I now realise that it was because I was never given the freedom to find myself, which would have eventually resulted in all parts of me reconciling (I hope that makes sense!).

Later on, I had Cairo, and one of the biggest blessings that came with having Cairo was finding myself. I wouldn't say that as soon as I gave birth I knew who I was, but giving birth to Cairo put me on a journey of being more authentic with myself and with God.

During my pregnancy, reading the bible and Christian books was my go-to as I found it very comforting. When I began to really read the word, not out of obligation, or in a rush, but really read the word, with a certain desperation, I began to get to know God intimately and I began to see just how much freedom there was in Christ.

I began to understand that though there are many foundations in the Christian faith, God gives us the freedom to have individual relationships with him. These relationships are all different, because we as individuals are different. I believe some people are gifted when it comes to prayer. I know people who write letters to God daily. I know others that could spend the whole day worshiping God, I know others who talk to the Holy Spirit as if their best friend is next to them, and I know others who do none of those things at all.

It took me years to realise that none of them is better than the other.

It took me years to realise that how and when I pray is individual to me, how I seek God is individual to me, and how I walk out my Christian faith is individual to me. I'm not saying not to follow what's in the bible. DO! But understand that you're walk with God is going to smell different to other peoples, and God intended it to be that way. David's walk with God was different to Abraham's. Abraham's walk with God was definitely not like Esther's and Esther didn't walk with God like Mary did. Could you say one did it better? Or one way was the right way? No. The variety was purposeful because we are all different, and will relate with God differently. The pace of your walk, how much you regress, and the emphasis of certain characteristics of God will different with different people, and that's fine. We need variety in this (sometimes boring) body of Christ.

After I realised this, I began experimenting. I first experimented with my fashion sense, I binned all the clothes I felt like werent a true representation of me, and I started buying clothes that made me feel stylish, happy, and clothes that aligned with my convictions. Basically, I started living less-religiously. I didn't put emphasis on doing any rituals such as getting up the same time every morning to seek God, or praying for a certain amount of time for a need, I just began to enjoy my life, make decisions for myself, decisions that aligned with my convictions and decisions that I'd be happy with. I began to care less about what others thought, and tried to be focused more on what God required of me.

Gradually, through therapy, getting to know God for myself, and by being a mother, almost all parts of myself were able to reconcile, and I finally got to have an understanding of who I really was and who Christ really was. I was then able to marry the two and live from an authentic place of that understanding - knowing who I Christ - THAT was what completely transformed me, my habits, my personality, and my life, and that's what gave me healing and understanding in so many things.

I realised that although I wasn't getting up to pray religiously. All my prayerful thoughts when I was dropping Cairo to nursery, or doing the food shop - were actually me praying! I realised that though I may not do things in a "sanctified" way, I was still seeking His face, and that was good enough for Him!

So I stopped doing Christian things just because they were what other people did, and I started seeking God in a way that felt most natural to me. I found so much liberty - and most importantly, I found Jesus, and with him comes grace, mercy, peace, joy and so much more.

There were weeks when I hadn't sought God's face, but over time I realised that what matters most is repenting and trying again. And it was in those moments that I was able to come face to face with who my God is. A God who sees my needs, sees my heart, sees my weaknesses and limitations before I do. A God who decided to forgive me of it all already, a God who has decided to grace me for the journey ahead of me and promises me to meet me halfway if I continue to just try. Sounds simple right?

So that's where I am right now, I guess. I'm living a less religious life and I'm enjoying it.

I'm realising that the person I need to listen to (the most) when it comes to living a Christian life is Jesus, many pastors and preachers help us along life's journey but errors come when we make their lives our standard of living. My only standard comes from Jesus. He's the only one I'm trying to impress.

I have a glass of wine with some dinners and I might shake a leg if my favourite (non-worship) song comes on. Does it mean I'm destined to go to hell? Hell no (pun intended). I'm a human being, who is flawed and is trying to love Jesus with her life. I may not get it right, but I'll keep on trying, and I'm committed to keeping it real, enjoying myself and inspiring others along life's journey.

I definitely wouldn't have opted to be a single mother, but sometimes, I do think, Cairo and the whole experience of single-motherhood woke me up from a deep religious sleep. One that I'm not sure anything else would have saved me from. And for that, I'll always be grateful for this journey.

I want to encourage you to find Jesus for yourself and I want to encourage you to find yourself. It's so easy to imitate other people, other styles, other habbits, other personalities, its so easy to copy trends and cultures but be brave enough to be you, unashamedly.

I don't want to spend my lifetime trying to fulfill someone else's vision. I want to spend my life getting to know Jesus for myself, I want to spend my life LIVING and I want to be transformed, truly, from the inside out, I want people to look at me and see God-ordained liberty. I want people to see me living from a place of freedom and not fear. I want real chains to be broken. I want to live from a place of abundance, and not hurt or trauma.

And I want you to do the same!

- Millicent x