Today marks a day that I have been waiting for, for nearly 15 years. I want to start to say that writing is an unequivocal passion of mine and that I have been writing for approximately 14 years. I have long had a passion to share my story with the world, and contrary to what the clear majority would believe – this highly confident, I don’t care what people think because I am who I am girl…Yup, that wasn’t always me. And even if you thought this was truly me, (and I say this to those who have known me since childhood) it in fact, WAS NOT who I was. It is however, who I had hoped one day to be.
For years I thought to myself, if I ever got the courage to tear down the millions of walls I built, I would tell my story. But how would I do that? How could I tear down my walls? How could I trust another? How could I go through pain, when for me emotion was weakness? How could I let other people see my cry? How could I let them see that I was insecure in many ways or that I once lived in constant fear that everything I was fighting for would be stripped away from me in a moment. I didn’t know how I was going to overcome this fear, but I knew to tell my story would mean to expose myself; this meant I would have to be honest, transparent, and vulnerable. And so, today is culmination of that hope. I come to you fully undressed, fully transparent and fully vulnerable. Are you ready?
I’ve titled my first blog “The Closet Jesus Freak” because I think you will be quite surprised on just how much of an undercover bible thumper I really am. A lot of people know that I am Christian and that I go to church, but that pretty much sums it up.
My relationship with the Lord is the foundation of my strength and my success. Many people have told me before: I grew up Christian, but then in high school I rebelled and stopped seeking the Lord. It’s almost like there was a lapse in their faith; a time when they were no longer Christian. I can’t relate to this. For me, my story is the opposite. I’ve done or been involved in many stupid things that for the most part would cause others to question my faith. However, in my circumstance, I never stopped talking to Him, nor did I cease to seek Him. I’ve always had a personal relationship with Him in which all of my big life decisions have been made. Yet, I have been hiding the deepest parts of who I am in Him for many years and for many reasons.
I think a core reason would be that I used to live in my head. At a very young age I convinced myself that no one around me thought like I did, wanted in life what I wanted, or even dreamed beyond the scope of their current situation… and who knows? Maybe there was one person or even many people, but because I discounted myself and others – no one stood a chance. And I think many of us could relate to this fact. You don’t have to be a follower of Jesus to feel alone or feel like you are the black sheep.
I grew up on the boarder of Whittier and Pico Rivera and was never really surrounded by a Christian bubble. Where I grew up, you got into partying young. You joined “party crews” or “tagger crews,” and kicked it on the block, in the alley or in Uptown Whittier drinking a 40oz of Mickeys. In fact, I think the first time I got wasted, I was in the 8th grade. I remember feeling numb in the face, which I think accurately depicts how I felt for many years of my life. If I’m being honest, I never really wanted to do any of that stuff, but that’s what people did where I grew up. And to be clear, no one coerced me, I made my own decisions, but I think the issues I faced were twofold:
I loved my friends and wanted to do what they did, and
I was afraid to be who I really was because that would be the ultimate test of acceptance.
And so, as one who lived in her head I would think to myself: “Will people really love me for who I am? … If people knew this was who I really was, would they still be themselves around me?… What if I start to change? Will they accept me?!?!
I used to have daily conversations with the Lord about this. Something like, “give me the courage to be who I am in the midst of those who don’t follow you.” Over the years as I have slowly begun to disclose who I really am, I have found that people don’t really care if you believe something that they don’t. They don’t even care if you don’t do the same things that they do. All that they want is to be surrounded by others that equally respect and love them for who they are.
It amazes me that as I began to change, and as I continue to change, my closest friends say things like, “Yeah, you’ve changed, but you haven’t. You’re still the same Emily, but different, and you shouldn’t be afraid to tell us things or to be who you are.” And I think that what they say is true. I have changed, and I continue to change, but at the core, I am who I am.
I am not a typical follower of Jesus. I don’t say things like, “have a blessed day,” and when people ask me how I’m doing, you’ll never hear me respond, “I am blessed and highly favored of the Lord” – lol, I am not saying that it’s bad for people to say that, I’m just saying it’s not me. I don’t believe in conventional Christianity and I don’t have a single religious bone in my body. I am who I am today because of the two most prominent figures in my life; God, and the non-Christian. And I think this is so incredibly rare, yet beautiful. I would argue that 95% of those in my life are not Christian, and yet I am a strong woman of God. I think this baffles people.
But here is another reason why I have been somewhat in the closet. A part of me has also always hated what I call the “Pushy Christian”. I think we’ve all encountered these people. They are the ones that are so on fire for the Lord that their genuine heart for you to know what they know translates into pushiness. Yep, never wanted to be like that.
I have personally encountered the Pushy Christian on more than one occasion. Each encounter was more infuriating than the last, and each instance made me not want to be a Christian out of spite. That sounds horrible, but I’m just being real. This is not what it’s about. There is a reason why God gave us free will. You can’t truly love someone, unless it’s in your heart. It shouldn’t be forced or out of coercion. What’s more, if I as a believer struggled to exist in my own skin, and struggled to feel as though I would be accepted as I am, then why would I push others to be something they’re not? Why not pay the same courtesy to those who don’t share my belief by letting them be who they are, and loving them without a motive?
I think I’ve learned something in the discovery of who I am. And that is that there exists a fine line between one who is pushy and one who genuinely is who he or she is, and who openly expresses the nature of their faith. But I didn’t always see it like that… instead I took the notion of the “Pushy Christian” to the extreme…. rather than risk being pushy, I remained silent all together. And so, the nature of this blog is to say:
I am no longer remaining silent. I’m going to start to tell my story and God is all up in it, but so are all who have impacted my life. Believer or non-believer, YOU count.
Finally, I’d like to note that writing this is so out of my comfort zone that my stomach is in knots as I write, and my heart is clinching at the thought of unfolding my life to the masses. I think it’s important that I let people know that there still exists an inherent fear in me of being my full self, but that I’m pushing through it. Finally, as quoted by Cinderella herself: “The greatest risk anyone can take is to be seen as they truly are.” And so today, I declare that I am no longer in the closet.