“I was raised Apostolic Pentecostal. It’s a pretty unique religion because of some strict rules we are supposed to follow. I wasn’t supposed to grow my hair long, watch TV, movies or listen to Secular Music. We were also different because unlike other Christian doctrines we believe there is a process for getting into Heaven.
2) Be baptized in Jesus’ Name
3) Receive the gift of the Holy Ghost with the evidence or simply with the proof of speaking in’ tongues’ or suddenly being able to speak in a language you don’t know by the movement of the Holy Spirit.
I really started thinking deeply about my religion after my mother died when I was 14. She had numerous complications predominantly associated with diabetes. It developed later in life due to compromised pancreatic function caused by cancer which had metastasized across her body. She survived the cancer in her 20’s expecting to only have 4 months left. My mother also had 2 major strokes when I was 6 a few months after my dad died, leaving her unable to work and drive.
Her health declined in the following years. Congestive heart failure developed as well as other conditions. Her last few years of life she developed staph infections, spent a lot of time in hospitals and eventually went into renal failure. After a lengthy stint in the hospital she went to a recovery and a rehab center and ended up on dialysis several times a week. I feel I should mention she was a registered nurse until a few years before she died. She maintained her license hoping to one day return to the work she loved.
While my mother was in the rehab center she made the conscious decision to stop dialysis. After 3 days without it she slipped into a coma and died. I was left thinking and wondering if this qualified as suicide. I still lean toward thinking it was suicide, given the fact she knew the consequences.
Being a religious person of course I wondered where she wound up. I was hurt, I felt anger but I don’t know if I was ever actually angry at God directly. I was angry at my situation. I wondered why I had lost my mom and my dad by 14. I questioned God and I never felt like I got my answer.
When I was 15 I was sent to a youth convention. It’s like a youth retreat and we were there for 3 days. We had worship and preaching during different parts of the day but at night it was the real service where they’d pull out all the stops. Bring on the loudest, most bumping Gospel music and most heart striking worship songs. Preach emotionally and pluck at everyone’s hearts to try and ‘reach’ and ‘save’ young people.
It was our last night there and I had been trying to make a deeper connection, trying to talk in tongues and feel what everyone else seemed to feel. I prayed with friends and for my mom, with my youth pastor and even with several pastors hosting the event. My youth pastor encouraged me to ‘let down my walls and let the holy spirit take over.’ I did everything I could to speak in tongues but nothing came. The most I got was something called ‘stammering of the lips.’ People will say it means the Spirit is working with you but you refuse to let him in.
We left that convention and I felt empty and alone. Everyone else seemed fired up except for me. They talked about the prayer they had and what they felt and people they met. I didn’t get any of that. I avoided meeting new people because I had just lost my mom a few months earlier. I thought maybe I couldn’t let my walls down because I actually was angry at God. I kept trying for years later. During this time I started to really read the Bible on my own and think about my doctrine and our rules. I tried a private Christian school owned by another church with very different beliefs. That didn’t fit me either.
When I was 17 I went with a friend to her church. During the service I felt the Holy Ghost actually move within me. It was the same feeling I’d get sometimes in my church but mostly when it would seem like something wasn’t right or someone was faking ‘tongues.’ This time it felt like I was being told basically, this is it. This is what you’ve been waiting for. I went to the altar at the end of service and the guest pastor came straight to me and prayed with me. He leaned in and told me not to pay attention to anyone else, just talk to God like a friend. Tell him what’s in my heart. I let go and voiced everything I had been feeling, all my frustrations. The pastor moved to someone else and I cried and prayed for myself and others. I prayed about my mom. I finally felt peace about her passing.
After I recovered my friend told me another woman had prayed over me and I had been ignoring her. The pastor came to me after more people had left and told me he was the translator for the spirit. He explained I haven’t been doing anything wrong and not everything I’ve learned in the past was necessarily right. He asked me to ‘open my heart’ and ‘follow where God was really leading me.’ He looked at me and oddly said, ‘You have to get out of the sound room. That is not where God has called you my friend. You are a great asset to his kingdom, but you can’t be what he wants you to be by staying in there. He’ll take you out of there if you don’t do it yourself.’
After this I was taken aback, he couldn’t have known I was a sound engineer in my church or that I hid in that specific room to avoid going to the altar. I was shocked. After this I read more about God and decided to open my heart and mind. I realized maybe I was never meant to speak in tongues and that was okay. Maybe God had a different calling for me. My suspicions were confirmed when I visited my best friend’s church in Georgia. They opened their own church which was nondenominational. I was there the first time and my friend’s dad taught me that speaking in tongues was not for everyone and it was okay. It’s not a ‘requirement’ to be saved. I knew he was right.
I feel like I can now help others. When I was 16 my friend lost his dad, unexpectedly. He was hurt, angry and downright distraught. I pulled from my experience losing my parents and told him, ‘Hey, I know how you feel. I’ve been there. It’s going to hurt a lot, but you’ll pull through and feel better.’ I told him I was there and he could talk to me. He thanked me and told me I was the only person he felt like was honest with him. We talked about his dad and my parents a lot. Eventually he left my school but when I saw him a year later he thanked me and told me I really helped.
Since then I’ve changed further. I’m far from perfect but I am confident I have a better understanding of the Bible and religion than ever. My opinions aren’t popular with all but I think they’re right for me. I believe more people than just ‘my kind’ are making the cut into Heaven. I believe we are all going to the same destination depending on what each of us truly hold in our hearts.
Whoever reads this, if you struggle with finding your spiritual north, don’t be scared or depressed. You’ll find your own walk with God. God gave us free Enterprise. He gave that gift to everyone on Earth. Take it and use it how you choose.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jeremiah. You can find him on Reddit. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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