I was 18, and a perfect prototype of the Good Christian Girl going off to college and experiencing true freedom for the first time. Having a world of opportunity right at my fingertips was exhilarating, especially for someone like me who felt like I'd missed out on having "fun" in high school. I had become slightly disillusioned with the faith after being shamed by multiple Christians for some of my life choices, so I was eager to spread my wings and live a little.
I drew further and further away from God as I witnessed hordes of so-called Christians living a lifestyle of condemnation. I actively shut out the voice of the Lord because I didn't want to be associated with people who lived their lives judging everyone different from them. After a while, the voice of God I'd grown up hearing became faint, until there came a point when I could no longer hear it at all. I was finally "free," and didn't see the possibility of ever coming back to the Lord.
As the year drew on, my life began to fall apart. I had an insatiable desire to be loved and accepted in a way that only the Lord could provide, but I attempted to fill that need with other people. People, of course, could not fill me up. The freedom I had craved earlier in the year started to become confusing, and I desperately longed for something to hold on to. So I turned to an odd brand of spirituality. I felt creatively stifled while I was rejecting anything relating to the supernatural, and I thought that being spiritual would restore my inspiration. It did, in a way, but being unsure of what I believed in became very tiring. In my life of chaos, I wanted something more certain and unshakeable to hold on to.
I wish I had rediscovered God earlier than I did. After some more crises and reprehensible choices, I had to leave freshman year early. It wasn't until I returned home that I realized how very much I needed God, and God alone. I wasn't sure how he was going to speak through all the doubt and cynicism that had accumulated throughout the past several months, but I found that all I had to do was ask. I asked God to live once again in my spirit — not that he ever left — and speak through my thick cloud of "buts" and "what-ifs." That was all it took.
I still find myself frustrated with Christians, to the point where I don't really label myself as one. The label, in my perspective, has been irreparably damaged by shame and ignorance. I simply try to follow the example of Jesus, his teachings, and the loving, powerful Word of God. It's a wonderful thing that Jesus said "follow me" and not "follow Christians." God has never done me wrong. It was the actions of flawed, misguided humans that I incorrectly conflated with the teachings of Christ.
The incredible witness of a few good Christians opened my heart to the possibility of God, but it was God himself who ultimately broke through my walls and pulled me back into his arms. I am the prodigal son. I was lost, but now I am found — and not at all the same.