There I was, after twelve rough years, standing in Crescent Lake – near Rhinelander, Wisconsin – ready to make a choice that would change my life forever. I was getting baptized and, although I had long ago accepted Jesus into my heart (at some Bible camp, somewhere), I was no where near realizing how hard it is to be a true and strong Christian in today’s society.
Honestly, I can remember being “saved” about five or six times as a child. I had to be sure, you know? Had to make sure I was on the highway to Heaven and not going straight to Hell. The thing is, I think I might have went through the same motions a hundred times just to keep my family happy and to make sure the other kids at church liked me. Yet, a few years later – around the age of sixteen – I felt so excluded from church that I felt awkward eating at the same table as them at lunch. How did the weirdest kids in school think that I was too weird to belong with them?
I think that may have been the first time I ever felt rejection from the church. Of course, as the next two years crept by and I started to make friends with non-church-goers, I began to feel even more excluded. Throw on some drama and some “Christians” who basically excommunicated my brother and I from the church because we led different lifestyles (cause, you know, that’s what you’re supposed to do, right?) and, there you have it, another lost child of God.
Fast forward two more years and I was off to serve in the United States Marine Corps on a plane going straight to hell on earth – otherwise known as Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. While there, I had a reawakening in my faith. Of course, I was scared out of my mind and the only place drill instructors couldn’t follow you was church, so I’m pretty sure a lot of people have an awakening during those thirteen long, excruciating weeks. Unfortunately, my awakening ended soon after I graduated and went home.
During my four years of service, I went to church all of – well – one time. Oh, but wait, there was a phase where I decided I wanted to be Mormon (for all of the wrong reasons). So I went to church a lot for about eight months, but then I fell right back into my rough and exhausting lifestyle. I’m not saying that everything I did was bad, but most of it was not good. Let’s see, that brings us to about 2012 – eleven years after the day I was baptized.
For the year following that, I was still pretty lost – out there in the big old world and trying to forge a path of my own. I was drinking, I was partying and I was doing things I would be ashamed to tell my Grandma (thank goodness she has no idea how to use the internet). And, then, it happened – May 2013. I lost an aunt that month, because I was living in Virginia I was unable to attend her funeral. I actually crashed my car that day. I came home for my birthday and for a baby sower and realized something really important, I didn’t want to go back to Virginia. In fact, for the first time in six years, I wanted to move home.
Now this is where things got a little odd. I made an agreement with my mom that I would only move home if I had $10,000.00 saved up. I had six months to do the impossible and then, two weeks later, I woke up to over $20,000.00 in back pay from the Department of Veterans Affairs. I knew that, for some reason, God wanted me back in Wisconsin and had provided me with my way to get there. However, this wasn’t my “Got God” moment. In fact, that moment didn’t arrive for quite a while.
I moved to Waukesha, Wisconsin in January 2014. I left behind me a life of freedom from family in Virginia and placed myself back into their loving arms seven years after I’d officially left. My cousins, Michelle and Natasha, encouraged me to go to church and I did, occasionally. I wasn’t ready yet, I wanted to sleep in, I had a headache… The list goes on and on, however the result remained the same: I wasn’t going to church, I didn’t want or need that. In fact, during this particular time frame, I only wanted God when it was convenient for me. Funny how that works, right?
I remained in this stage for a little more than three years and then, out of no where, everything I wanted, everything I thought I needed and everything I had been searching for was torn out of my grasp without so much as a blink. My first reaction was, “How could you do this to me God? How could you show me something like this and then just yank it back? How could you tell me what you told me and then just tear it all away?”
Do you see the question I never asked? I never asked, “Why?” Honestly, I feel like God heard the unspoken rule because suddenly, he was in my head – all of the time. God this and God that.
“Go to church, Cassi.”
“I promise you that what I showed you is real, Cassi.”
“You’re not ready yet, Cassi.”
“Give everything up to me, Cassi.”
That last one is where it got difficult. I could go to church, I could connect myself with the community, I could even pretend not to care what was happening in another person’s life. Yet, I wasn’t willing to give it all up to God. The great thing about God, though, is that he knows us all like the back of his hand. He knows our stubbornness, he knows our worries and he knows our desires. God doesn’t know our flaws – for we were created in his perfect image and in his eyes, we have none.
Then, on the way to my second small group meeting, God forced me to give up control. I crashed my car into a Hummer and my car lost. (It’s in the process of being repaired right now.) The next day I was told that my insurance company wasn’t sure they were going to pay for it – for various reasons. I had a $26,000.00 car sitting in a garage and I honestly didn’t know if I was going to get it back. I had rent to pay that I had no money for. I had worries regarding the painful moment at the beginning of February, which God had told already told me to give up to him. My life started to crumble – what I thought being broken meant was no where near how broken I needed to be.
A week later, on a Saturday morning, I woke up with two words resounding in my mind, “let go.” I deleted phone numbers and I did what I thought God was asking me to do. Yet, for some reason I still felt the pain and the weight of everything on my shoulders. By this point, I was reading God’s word regularly. I was praying… occasionally. I was exhausted and had a moment where I really felt as though it would be easier to just end it – with a big bang. End the pain, end the hurt, end the anger, end the bills, end the exhaustion, end the fear, end it all.
But, that very same day, when I was thinking of ending it the wrong way, God came in and started taking things. He took away my worries about “M”, he took away my concerns about my car, he took away my fears about rent, he took it all. He lifted all of those things off my shoulders and all I had to do was have faith, be hopeful and love him. All he wanted was my full reliance on him and, after years and years of avoiding him, I ran into his open arms.