The first thing I remember ever learning and retaining was the fact that I was worthless. God had apparently created me, but had declared me to be a “dirty, rotten, filthy, little sinner” in the words of my dad. Those were words I internalized before I was old enough to even say them. Although I read the Bible through cover to cover many times during my life, because that was what was expected, I somehow never truly noticed those words in the opening chapter of the whole thing, where God creates humans and not only creates humans but proclaims them as “very good.” In the same chapter, God blesses the humans God created, and the most beautiful part of it all is that God creates these humans in God’s own image. It’s in the very first chapter. A chapter that’s very important to the fundamentalists as they loudly insist that this proves that God created the earth from nothing in six literal days about 6,000 years ago. That belief was shoved down my throat from the time I was born. But somehow, I missed the created in God’s image, very good, and the being blessed part of the whole deal.
My first tangible memory I have is from being beaten as a very young child because I did not want to eat my porridge. I have never disliked porridge, but I have disliked the times it had weevils in it. Whether the porridge had weevils in that day I do not know, but I remember my father’s anger about the fact that I did not want to eat it. He said I was rebellious. He said I was a “dirty, rotten, filthy, little sinner” and that therefore he had to administer this punishment because God instructs parents to punish their rebellious children so that they will grow to love God and respect their parents. This whole business about beating me so that I would learn to love and trust God totally fucked me up for a very long time, and even as an adult made me think that violence was an inextricable part of love. That people hurt me because they loved me, and that if I was a better person, they would not have to hurt me.
Probably not surprisingly, I never placed a great amount of value on my own life. I mean, after all, I was a dirty, rotten, filthy, little sinner. In other words, I was a worthless piece of shit. “Katy-Anne engages in risky, impulsive behaviors” is what the mental health professionals called it. My teenage journals are full of desires and plans to run away, my battle with self-injury which took the form of purposely trying to break my own bones as a child to cutting as a teenager. They’re full of suicidal ideation. It wasn’t that I didn’t love God. I loved God the best way that I knew how. I desired to please God. I believed my parents and the cult that if I was miserable it was God punishing me for something that I had done wrong, and that God was doing this because God loved me.
As if this wasn’t enough of a hint that I was worthless, when I hit puberty, I realized that I was interested in the girls and not the boys. I didn’t know the correct terminology for this phenomenon, but I knew it was sin because my parents and the church offered dire warnings against “faggots” and “queers” and “dykes” and homosexuality. It was an abomination and those who commit such abominations were beyond God’s love and were going to hell. I was not longer just a dirty, rotten, filthy, little sinner. I was an abomination. I was not worth a damn thing to God and the only thing I had to look forward to at the end of my miserable little life was an eternal firey inferno that I apparently deserved. I often wondered if I should do God a favor and just kill myself so that God could cackle in glee as God personally threw me into that pit. My parents said that God created everyone with the express purpose of sending them to either heaven or hell, that this was already put in place when each human being was created. I said this made God fucking sadistic but my parents said it made God righteous and holy, and that God had a right to chose who went to heaven and who went to hell and that God’s plan is perfect and that we need to trust God. I never stood a chance in that world.
When I became an adult, the doctor told me I had fibromyalgia, which I figured I obviously deserved since I was, you know, a dirty, rotten, filthy, big sinner. The only difference was now I was big and before I had been little. My mental health issues began to present themselves in ways that I could not ignore but I deserved those too. I never took care of myself because I didn’t matter. It was all punishment anyway. God was angry with me. I often wondered why God had wasted their time in even bothering to make me if I was just a big cosmic disappointment. I never really figured out what the hell I had actually done to God to make God so mad at me, but I daren’t ask in case God retaliated with more punishment. After all, questioning God was out of the picture. And hey if God let Satan do horrible things to Job who God claimed was perfect in the name of teaching him…something…then I didn’t stand a chance. If God wanted Job to suffer when Job was a good man, then I deserved everything that ever came my way. In fact I got told that I needed to be thankful for all the bullshit that I went through because I was a dirty, rotten, filthy, sinner and that therefore, anything that I got in life better than an eternal placement in hell was better than I deserved.
About a year ago, a priest looked at me and told me that God loved me. I didn’t believe her, and she knew I didn’t believe her. I told her that I had many issues with the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, and she said she would be happy to work with me on some of these things but that none of it really even mattered until I could believe that God loved me because that was the basic fundamental of Christianity and if I didn’t know and understand that, I didn’t even have the basics down. She was convinced that it was imperative to my faith and to my views of myself to believe this fundamental truth. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to believe her, it was that the idea that God loved me was completely and utterly ridiculous.
I also met some great people who for some reason took a liking to me even though I never could figure that one out. These good Christian people never once told me that I was a dirty, rotten, filthy, sinner. They just loved me. They taught me that I was worth something to someone. That I was worthwhile. That I was important all on my own. They built me up and affirmed me but also told me when I was being an idiot. But they always reinforced that just because I was acting like an idiot in any given circumstance did not make me bad. They told me I was a good person. For the last year I have been processing this, unsure about whether I could believe it or not, and knowing that if I did, it would have the potential to completely and utterly change my life in ways I could not imagine. The concept of God loving me, the concept that I was of value to God was a revolutionary idea. It was something that I had never really considered before.
Last month, I turned 34. I have decided that it is time to walk in a different direction and to take some risks. These old beliefs are not serving me and do not make me a better human being, and because these beliefs don’t work it’s time to chuck them out into the garbage and start again. My father used to work at the rubbish dump, where all the rubbish from all the garbage bins was dumped by a truck and they incinerated that stuff. I don’t want to just throw it in the trash, I want to totally incinerate that bullshit. I’m going to leave it where I left the whole “God created the world out of nothing in six literal days” mess and instead focus on other things from the very first chapter, the affirming things where God said God’s creation of humanity was very good, where God blessed humanity, where God created humanity in God’s image. It’s in the very first chapter, and for 34 years of reading the Bible, it’s been right there, in the opening lines of this story we share with God, and I never really noticed it before.
For my 34th year, I’m forging ahead with this crazy notion that God loves me.
Thanks be to God.