I was THREE and TERRIFIED of HELL
My earliest memory is being terrified that God was going to send me to hell forever. I was 2-3 years old. I was a toddler. And I deserved to die and go to hell, because I was such a horrible person. I was taught that God saw us all as horrible...so bad that he had to kill Jesus...and we need to accept that sacrifice or we will go to hell.
Do religious people not realize what kind of trauma this creates in a child's mind and body!? No toddler should ever live in an up-regulated emotional state that some invisible being is going to torture their soul forever if they don't get it right. EVER!!!!
My mom read me a quote from my baby book not too long ago. She said that when I was 3, I told her..."I hope I don't be bad anymore." Kinda cute, unless you realize this was coming from the mind of a religiously traumatized toddler who thought there was a sky god, or a "loving heavenly father" as the church taught, who was going to send her to hell because she may not have prayed the right words for him to save her from all her sins, or he may not have heard her. I was terrified that no matter what I was supposed to do to get that eternal life in heaven, I was not going to get it "right enough" and I was going to be disqualified and burn in hell forever.
I WAS TERRIFIED OF GOD AND HELL THE AGE OF 3 PEOPLE!!!!!
Yes, I'm a little bit angry. And I'm allowed to be.
Every Sunday we would go to church. Sunday school, main service, and Sunday night. Every Sunday afternoon, week after week, I would run into the house ahead of my parents and hide under my high chair. Then, real fast, before my parents would enter the kitchen, I would pray and beg Jesus to come into my heart..."Dear Jesus, if I didn't mean it last time, I mean it this time...please come into my heart so I can go to heaven. In Jesus name, Amen." Over. and over. and over.
Why would I hide as a toddler?!? Because I was FREAKIN EMBARRASSED that I was asking Jesus into my heart AGAIN...There was so much shame that I couldn't figure this out and struggled with fear and doubt. PEOPLE I WAS A TODDLER!!!!!!! And this was normal to me. I didn't know anything was wrong.
I was so indoctrinated that I thought this was life. I thought this was how it was supposed to be - and I was struggling to figure it out for myself.
Obviously, eventually, I quit hiding under my high chair since I outgrew it. LOL. But as a child, I never outgrew my doubts. I never outgrew the terror that "what if" I die and end up in hell. I would be lying if I said I didn't struggle with doubts and terrible fear of God, hell, and my eternity my ENTIRE childhood.
I look back and younger me, and my heart just breaks for her, that she spent her entire childhood in panic-mode, and literally shaking through Bible stories at church and Christian camps that told her she was not okay and God was angry - but he is love - so he killed Jesus - so I must accept him - or burn in hell. At the time, I saw nothing wrong with this - I saw what God did as an act of love for horrible me. I was the bad one. In fact, I was so bad, that God might not hear my prayer asking him to save me so I could go to heaven some day.
Let me interject that while I was traumatized - it was all I knew - so I thought it was normal, and I also had fun. I could run, laugh, and play as a child...but in the background was always hell lurking, when I would slow down, and let my thoughts come to the surface. So staying active and being silly was a great coping mechanism. Along with following the rules as closely as possible and people pleasing to a T.
Then I was taught by the church and Christian school that the goal of this life is heaven. Everybody who didn't go to my church was a project to be saved. Not another human to do life with - they were an assignment from God. We are only left here after we're saved because God wants us to save everybody else. So go tell them. Tell anybody. Tell everybody. Tell them all that they're going to hell if they don't pray the "sinner's prayer." And so I did. I would shake. I would feel intense emotions all throughout my body. I was afraid to disappoint.
I was told every person I did not tell about God, "their blood was on my hands." So much responsibility for a child. We would load up and go door to door asking adults to accept Jesus...or burn in hell. WTF!?
I lived this life all the way through college and 13 years into my marriage before it all came to a head and disappeared. And it disappeared without warning. If you would have told me just over a year ago that I would be writing this blog post today, I would've NEVER EVER believed you. I was the committed of the committed.
So my faith disappeared, but the trauma that it created did not just go away...
...Because trauma doesn't leave the body even when the mind figures out it's been played.
Trauma sticks around. Trauma makes you not feel safe. Your mind can know you're safe. Your mind can even tell your body you're safe...but the body keeps up-regulated until it decides to come down.
I can still feel the feelings I had when I was 3, 5, 8, 12, 17, 18...the fear, the shaking during altar calls that I better get right with God (even though I had been doing above and beyond and always going the extra mile - it wasn't good enough).
But while I don't like how I feel. I know I'm going to be okay. And you're going to be okay. Because there is no hell as an eternal place of torment. We create hell on earth sometimes - but it stops there.
And if there is a God, which I don't know that there is or isn't, that God is not going to punish me in hell for forever. Because if there is a God - and God is love - and I love because God is love - and I love my kids so much I could NEVER send them to hell for eternity...then if God is really love like Christians say, then he could never do that either. But that doesn't matter anymore - because Idk that he/she even exists...but if he/she does...he/she can handle my dilemma - since he/she didn't give me the "gift" of being able to believe anymore.
It is what it is - I pick up the pieces from here. And I keep going. And I choose to create a life that is meaningful by investing in myself, my family, my friends, and you...
You're not alone, my friends. And you're going to be okay ♥.
Don't miss my book coming out this spring! Click on the book tab, and follow the link to my fb page to keep up to date :).