When I was 16, I dressed quite strangely. I looked like I didn’t care, like I felt empty, like I was alone. I dyed my hair a strange shade of red, wore combat boots, dog collars, black lipstick, and thick eye makeup. I prided myself in my outdated thrift store clothes and often wore plaid “grandpa” pants with oversized concert t-shirts of bands most people never heard of.
If you looked at me only from the outside, you would have never guessed that I had perfect attendance, was on the honor roll, and by choice, did community service work. I really did care. But the pain in my heart due to the neglect and emotional trauma at home prevented me from wanting to reach out to others.
I was a slave to the fear that no one could ever love me. At home, I was the proverbial red-headed stepchild. At school, I hung around outcasts, most with stories like mine. This led to trying drugs, alcohol, and other less-than-desirable behaviors. I was free! But was I really?
Routinely, my stepfather made my life unbearable. He was a bi-polar man with random fits of rage and a cocaine habit that fueled it. My mom was a lazy stay-at-home mom who pushed her duties off to my brother and me. My mother didn’t try to help me, for fear my stepdad would turn his rage onto her. I felt so lost and constantly under attack.
I remember sitting in my room contemplating taking my life and feeling, “No one even cares . . . no one wants me around.” As I completed that thought, the radio began to play “I Want You Around” by the Ramones.
It figures God would use punk rock to reach me.
I had no faith at that point but the irony of the song playing wasn’t lost on me. I didn’t act on that dark thought. I believed if I could just get out of there, I’d be free.
I moved out the end of my senior year of high school. I worked full time, maintained my GPA and school attendance, as well as many bad habits. Now that I was living out in the world, my mom gave me certain conditions to be able to visit. I looked too “freaky” for her to allow me in her home. Honestly, I looked no different than I did when I lived there.
This sent me in a downward spiral. I began to really look “freaky.” I got facial piercings, dyed my hair violet, and asked my friend to shave my head into a mohawk. As my hair gently floated to the ground around me, I remember thinking “Now I am free of it all”.
But again, I wasn’t free.
Doing all the wrong things and trying to gain the love of all the wrong people didn’t give me freedom. I parted, with hatred in my heart, from my family that could only love with conditions.
I began to focus on fixing myself. I began to find my moral compass and start forming a life, and I had hopes and dreams for myself. I created my own spiritual structure. I changed my lifestyle choices and focused on being the good I wanted to see in the world.
But, I still wasn’t free.
When I was 26, I found out I was pregnant with my first son. The father was an abusive addict, so I had already ended our relationship. Looking into the eyes of this tiny being made me change inside. It was the first time in my life I felt unconditional love. I knew I had to be a better example. Being a single mom was hard. I worked 60 to 70 hour every week. I often went without so my son had everything he needed. I did my best, but I still was missing something . . . oh yeah, that freedom I kept trying for.
I wish someone would have told me long ago. I wandered the Earth in search of a thing that seemed so unattainable for so long. I found that freedom I was searching for six years later in a baptismal pool when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. That was the easiest choice of my life.
Galatians 3:23-29 (NIRV) states: “Before faith in Christ came, we were guarded by the law. We were locked up until this faith was made known. So, the law was put in charge of us until Christ came. He came so that we might be made right with God by believing in Christ. But now faith in Christ has come… So, in Christ Jesus you are all children of God by believing in Christ. This is because all of you who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. You have put him on as if he were your clothes… So, you will receive what God has promised.”
I fought through a long battle prior to being washed clean, redressed in the love and grace of Christ and renewed. Don’t get me wrong. I still have a lot of work to do (who doesn’t?), but now I am free to do it. The scars of my past may never be gone, but my heart is free, my mind is free, and my soul is free.
I am free!