Why going rogue didn’t work for me, but Jesus did
I want you to hit rewind on your VHS tape that has already been taped over twice and reminisce about the 1980s with me. Feel free to pour yourself a huge bowl of Count Chocula cereal using only whole milk, plop down in your grandmother’s plaid Lazy boy chair in her unfinished basement, and take a listen.
That awesome decade brought us the following: the Berlin Wall fell (1989), the Chernobyl nuclear power plant blew up (1986), serial killers made a more obvious debut along with scary movies such as Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Ronald Reagan ruled and reigned (1981-1989), and Journey released their timeless hit song “Don’t Stop Believin” (1981).
It was also the decade where millions of kids walked or rode their bikes home from school and watched Scooby Doo on their wood-paneled TV sets that rested comfortably on tufted green carpets. After Shaggy pulled the ghost costume off the bad guy and the show ended, these resilient kiddos jumped up off their gold-checkered couch and actually turned the TV channel knob over to Growing Pains starring Kirk Cameron. Kirk’s image was scotch-taped to their bedroom walls thanks to Tiger Beat magazine.
On lazy afternoons, these 80s kids would look forward to their manual telephone ringing on the kitchen wall and picking up the receiver, not even knowing who was on the other side. They were delighted when it was their best friend calling. They would proceed to stretch the telephone cord all the way down the slightly musty cellar steps and have a hushed conversation with their bestie, plotting and scheming about when they could get together and whose house they would spend the night at. They were secretly planning the fun and slightly bad things they were going to do later behind their parent’s backs.
Suddenly, a very faint “click” was heard on the phone line. Little brother was quietly listening in on the call from the cluttered spare bedroom! After discovering the little brat and yelling at him from the cellar, the plotting and scheming would continue.
Or maybe that was just me.
These phone calls were just the start of my newly formed covert rebellious streak.
But I get ahead of myself.
Before I became a rogue teenager, I was a fairly innocent young child from the 1970s, being raised in a completely non-religious household. And my first contact with God and religion did not occur in its purist form.
My first brush with organized religion occurred after I was newly formed in my mother’s womb. My mother Linda became unexpectedly pregnant with me at 17 years old and was advised by Planned Parenthood staff to abort me. She then, along with my father, confessed the pregnancy to both sets of parents. My mother’s parents immediately sought the advice of their Presbyterian minister who, after listening to their imminent problem, blandly stated the following:
“Linda is very young and very smart. She should go to college. She should get an abortion.”
My mom, dad, and four grandparents rejected this advice and I was born later that year, much to the dismay of my mother’s Presbyterian minister who received a pretty direct phone call from me 35 years later. Two years after I made my debut, my younger sister Jessica (Jessie) was born. My parents were very young and not ready for marriage, and sadly their marriage ended after four years. This started a chain reaction of various hardships that stayed with me throughout my childhood and teen years. These hardships included, but were not limited to, not having a close relationship with my father, my mom being materially poor, being raised in a single parent household, constant feelings of rejection and insecurity, and experiencing two divorces.
There were many good things about my childhood as well, and I am eternally grateful for all of the ways we were blessed and provided for. I want to give a special shout out to my mom, who gave my sister and me a very stable childhood filled with love and blessings. My four grandparents also stepped up to the plate and supported us financially and emotionally in many ways. My dad also came around later, I had a good relationship with both my step-dad Bob and step-mom Mel, and I truly loved my three half-siblings which came along as a result of a my extended family. Finally, my mom’s best friend Becky had two kids and I was best friends with her daughter Hillary. Hill and I grew up together from age zero to 12, and we enjoyed many fun adventures together throughout those formative years.
Yet it was right in the middle of these early years mixed with good and bad that God decided to enter my world.
God first showed me how much he loved me through the friendship and example of a Catholic nun. Although my mom considered herself an atheist and pitied people who had to lean on any religion, she enrolled my sister and me into a small Catholic school (Cathedral School) because it was close to her job site in downtown Syracuse, New York. During my first grade year, I made a connection with my teacher, a nun named Sister Patrick Joseph. We had a special bond and she loved me very much (and I loved her). Sister Patrick Joseph instilled in me that God loved me very much, He created me to be a beautiful little girl, and that I was very special to Him and very deeply loved. The highlight of attending Cathedral, besides my friendship with my special teacher, was that I won a school-wide writing contest in the first grade. The title of my book was “God and Pennytress the Easter Bunny.” It was a huge honor as this writing contest included the entire school consisting of kindergarten through 5th grade students.
My second brush with religion occurred via an old church bus trolling through our poor, sketchy neighborhood in the south-side of Syracuse. This church bus drove kids up the road about three miles to a small town called Nedrow, where the good news of Jesus Christ was presented in a Vacation Bible School format. One day during the church class, I remember a woman teacher talking to me about Jesus Christ, and how He was God’s one and only Son. She told all of us that God loved us and wanted to have a relationship of love with us. The seeds about Jesus had already been planted by Sister Patrick Joseph, so I remember bowing my head and praying, asking Jesus to come into my heart and my life, to forgive me and to be my Savior and my Lord.
It was around this time that God also started to quietly work in the life of my mom. At the time, she was an atheist/liberal/feminist who used to make fun of Ronald Reagan. Her good friend Bonnie would send her letters and share God’s love with her, but she had no interest in the “religious parts” of the letters and would gloss right over them.
One day as she was reading a book, she had a profoundly transformative experience. From my mom: “I was looking into New Age religions when I read Edgar Cayce, a clairvoyant ‘prophet’ who was popular with New Age seekers. In one of his books, he was discussing how Jesus’ birth, ministry, and death fulfilled many Old Testament prophecies, written hundreds of years before He was born. I suddenly realized there must be a God for that to have happened, and my mind was completely transformed. This was confirmed by the fact that almost immediately, I called my friend Bonnie to tell her what had happened, and she followed up by sending me Christian reading materials to study.”
That experience eventually led her to a belief in a loving God and His Son, Jesus Christ. She slowly and steadily grew as a new Christian, and our little family of three started attending church. This was also during the era of “Jesus Music,” and I have many fun memories of riding around in our car, listening to Keith Green music. Later, she met and then married a wonderful man named Bob, who became my new step-dad.
Although Bob was and is still is a great guy, I had a real problem with authority figures back in the day and wanted to rebel against bosses and rules, therefore our relationship was somewhat rocky for many years. I also developed a tough, rebellious exterior due to hiding all of my insecurities and fears of rejection. And although I was slowly growing in my new faith in God, I was also being pulled away by the world and the pressure to appear cool and be accepted by my peers.
This brings me back to the beginning of this post, where I began my rogue streak. For the next few years, I continued to rebel against my parent’s rules and my new Christian faith. Sometimes it was as mild as riding my bike all over Onondaga valley with my best friend Jennifer and not telling anyone where we were going or what we were doing. I look back over those years and I am grateful for God’s protection, as Jennifer and I were constantly alone and doing things away from our parents at 14 years of age.
Most times, the rebellion was hidden and fairly mild. Other times, the rebellion was more pronounced. For example, a few of my Christian high school friends and I would change our New York State driver’s licenses and go up to the Syracuse University (SU) bar scene (we would call it going to “the hill” for short) and fake-ID our way into various SU bars. Even though we were a mere 17 or 18 years old at the time, we would dance, drink, and meet up with and sometimes make out with guys we literally just met (speaking for myself here, I am not sure what the other three did).
However, one time I followed a young SU student named Andrew back to his Greek frat house. This was really bad because I actually left my group of three friends and went off on my own with a man I had just met. Nothing bad or scary happened that evening but looking back, this was very foolish behavior.
I also told little white lies to my parents about my whereabouts and would attend underage drinking parties (who didn’t back then?) and concerts without their knowledge or consent. I also worked at a Christian summer camp and would sneak cigarettes, sneak out of my cabin at night and meet up with other kids sneaking out, and sneak wine coolers off campus in the middle of the woods.
There was a lot of sneaking around back in those days. But it was around this time that I realized that going rogue wasn’t really working for me; here are the three reasons why.
First, going rogue did not leave me happy, peaceful, or set free
This realization ironically began at a well-known bar at SU.
I remember one night my friends and I were drinking and dancing at a bar called “Maggie’s.” All the young college kids were very drunk, sloppy, sweaty, slimy, and dancing in a very provocative, sexual manner. I looked at my friend Marla, and said the following: “this whole bar scene is kinda gross. And everything about this place starts with an “S.” The girls are dressed slutty (I probably was too), the men are sleazy and sexual, the place is sloshy and sloppy and smoky, everyone is sweaty and shiny and dancing in a sexual manner, and it stinks in here!”
She laughed at me and we continued to dance to “You Shook Me All Night Long” by AC/DC.
I was also not deeply set free inside, mainly because I was not happy deep inside. I think the greatest lie of rebellion is that it will lead to a great sense of personal freedom and happiness. I found the opposite to be true, because I became a slave to my own desires and agendas. I become aggravated if anything tried to mess with my freedom. For me, it was more about being extremely self-centered and wanting to do whatever I wanted to do, whenever I wanted to do it.
I have learned since that time that Christianity is all about loving God first, and loving and serving others after that. If you do those two things well, God will bless you and give you the internal freedom and peace you are truly longing for.
In addition, I felt like there was this invisible force that was keeping me from fully rebelling. I went right up to the line of right and wrong and peered over the edge, but something was holding onto my t-shirt, not letting me slip over the edge.
Second, I realized that as I aligned with rebellion, I was aligning myself with Satan and his demons and away from God and his angels
This is the part of this article/post that will make you want to check out mentally because it sounds weird, but hang with me for a minute and you will see what I am referring to.
At around 16 years of age, my best friend Jennifer’s older brother Jeff handed me a book and said: “Read this book; it will change your life and you won’t be the same.” As I was an active member of the “yeah whatever” club, I promptly dismissed him until I opened up the book and read the first ten pages. I was hooked. He was correct: the book completely changed my life, and stopped me in my tracks.
The book was called “He Came To Set the Captives Free” by Rebecca Brown. It is the true story about a young doctor named Rebecca Brown who ministered to over 1000 men and women who were active members of their local Satanic group, but wanted out. The only problem with Satanism is that it works much like Hotel California, in that you can definitely check out anytime you’d like, but you can never leave. However, Rebecca was the most bad-ass Christian I had ever heard of or read about (I thought most Christians were weak and boring) and through the power and authority of Jesus Christ, she successfully led these men and women out of Satanism and into a very real relationship with Jesus Christ. She also became friends with one of the top witches in the United States and got her out too (an impossible task).
The stories she told blew my mind and made me realize that Satan and his demons hated me and wanted to destroy me. They were thrilled when I rebelled against God and my parents. They wanted me to do bad and risky things late at night with no protection. They wanted me to hate God and doubt his love and goodness.
After reading about the invisible world of angels and demons and how real they actually were, I realized that I wanted to align my life more on the side of God and the Angels for the rest of my life.
Third, Jesus worked for me instead
The final and most important reason that going rouge didn’t work for me is that Jesus worked for me instead. I began to grow as a Christian during the summers of my teenage years working at Christian summer camps. There were many chapel services and friendships that God used to draw me to Himself. My high school growth spurt led to my college growth spurt, and here I am today.
The gospel means “good news.” God loves you and me so much that He sent His son to die on the cross for our sins, so that we can have a relationship of love with him, and to experience eternal life. I choose to be a Christian because God has drawn me to Himself with His love, and He has been faithful to me over the years. Here are just a few ways God has been faithful to me:
- During my youth, God provided many blessings and also some hardships, in order to shape my character and humble me.
- When I was a young adult, God showed me that my identity, the very core of who I am and how I felt about myself, was incorrectly placed. He revealed to me that I am unconditionally loved and accepted, and that He is in control of all aspects of my life. And then He healed me of my deep-seated fears of rejection.
- God also provided a wonderful and fulfilling career on Capitol Hill, doing meaningful work, as well as a wonderful husband Erik, whom I married at 27 years of age. He blessed Erik and me with three wonderful (yet challenging, I must be honest) kids, through the miracle of adoption.
- But probably the most important reason I continue to stick with God is because I am free, peaceful, and happy deep inside. I enjoy a deep sense of security and peace that the world or any other human relationship cannot provide. I have peace knowing that God is in control of every aspect of my life, that He is good, and that I can trust Him implicitly.
- There are many other benefits to having a relationship with God. Please see the highlights located in the Bible verse I will leave below.
So as I look back over the 1980s, I have many fond memories of good moments with my family and especially my mom and sister Jessie, dancing all crazy with my high school besties, riding my bike all over the valley with Jennifer, going on little adventures with Hillary, Grandma Inge buying me Nancy Drew books and an Orange Julius at the mall, and consuming a lot of unhealthy sugary cereals while watching the launch of MTV on my vintage couch with a large green ashtray beside it. 😁👍
But the best thing I received from that awesome decade was that it solidified my relationship with God and Jesus Christ. Jesus loves me, forgives me, heals me, redeems me, and satisfies me with good things so that my youth is eternally renewed.
So please don’t stop believin’ in a loving God who will set you free big time and give you eternal life!
Thank you for reading my Never Ending Story all the way to the end.
Try not to accidentally tape over it.
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36
Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits –
Who forgives all your sins
And heals all your diseases
Who redeems your life from the pit
And crowns you with (His) love and compassion,
Who satisfies your desires with good things so that
Your youth is renewed like the eagle’s…..