“Being Saved Didn’t Save Me” is a series detailing real accounts of faith-at-a-crossroads moments by people of all walks of life. The following story in the Being Saved Didn’t Save Me series is written by a TUFC Guest Author, KR Bankston. It has been edited only for syntax and flow.
Trigger Warnings: Sexual Abuse; Child Abuse
They Were Wrong. Being Saved Didn’t Save Me.
My first memories of God and church came at 5-years old. I was introduced to the small family church down the street from my house. The pastor was an older man, well into his 80’s. Almost a year into my coming to the church, he became too ill to preach or continue on as pastor. His wife took over, which to me, was no big deal. I would be introduced to the patriarchal sexism of the Baptist church watching two deacons declare they would not ‘sit under a woman’ as they left the church.
Each Sunday morning, 9:30 sharp, my parents would drop me off. At 5 you don’t question why they dropped you off, but seldom attended themselves. I loved church. I loved the singing, the preached word, just the very aura of church. So it wasn’t a hard sell when the Pastor began teaching us what it meant to be saved, to give our hearts over to God. I was told how God would make ways, how he could heal broken hearts, give sight to the blind, give money to the poor, set free the bound, a protector in time of trouble.
By the age of 12, I was speaking at conventions, leading songs in the choir, being groomed and heralded for leadership in the youth ministry. I was saved that same year, well in my mind because I actually understood WHY I was being baptized. I wasn’t just ‘something to do’ or ‘what my mama nem’ told me to do. I still loved being in church, and being among the people of God. There was no other place I would rather be. I couldn’t wait for Tuesday prayer meeting, Wednesday bible study, Friday choir rehearsal, Saturday youth days, Vacation Bible school, I was there for it!! I loved every bit of it.
I prayed fervently and believed God heard me. My home life wasn’t the greatest. My mom drank, dad too at the time. They smoked hard, 2+ packs of cigarettes a day; cursed like sailors. The latter a trait I picked up and still fully possess to this day. Still I felt God was with me and his grace covered and protected me from all the darkness that continually surrounded me. To their credit, they encouraged my church life, making sure whenever I needed something special for worship, choir, or convention, that I received it. God was good, and life rolled on.
Teen life was here and at 15 I was excited about driving, getting my permit, and hanging out with my friends during my sophomore year of high school. By this time I was no longer at the small Baptist church, my thirst for something more leading me to discover different doctrines. I was indoctrinated into the Church of God of Prophecy around this time and taught the gift of Spiritual tongues as a sign of being saved. Of course loving God fully, I freely accepted this outlet to bring me closer to him. I was baptized again and welcomed into the fold. My tenure would be short lived however once I was introduced to the legalism of the religion.
It was also at 15 that everything I was taught and told about the true and living God was put to the test. I was sexually molested and coerced into a sexual relationship with my adopted father.
No, he wasn’t my blood father. Not that it makes it any easier for me, but for some of you reading it might. Talk about questions, man I had plenty. Where was God? Where was my protector? Why did he allow this to happen to me? I tried telling my mom when the subtle innuendo and touches first happened. What was her response? She had a talk with him. He of course said it was innocent and he never meant to make me feel uncomfortable. That was the end of it right? Nah, not hardly. It simply shut me down.
I never told another soul what happened to me on a daily basis in that house until my father died of a massive heart attack nearly a year later, right after he finished sexually assaulting me for the day.
I was conflicted. I loved him because he was my father, but I was glad he was dead because he was a monster who hurt me on a daily basis. Just where the hell was God? When I think of my ‘first’ time, I cry. I hurt. I scream inside. What happened to that protection? God said he would be there didn’t he? Well he wasn’t and I was mad as hell about it. I turned my back on the church, on God, on anything vaguely religious. There could not possibly exist an all knowing, ever present Deity watching each day as this man destroyed pieces of my soul. Religion was a joke. A cruel joke and that joke was on me. I became a walking, empty, shell. I didn’t pray, I didn’t acknowledge God. I wanted nothing to do with religion, period.
Right before my 17th birthday, a friend convinced me to go to church with him. It was a special service at the popular COGIC (Church of God In Christ) ministry the city heralded. Shrugging, I told him sure. At this point service was just another ‘show’ for me. As was usual flow, there was a Prophet present and he was calling people from the audience giving them ‘a word from God’ about their lives, futures, and the like. I was bored. I do remember that. Annoyed that I let my friend talk me into this nonsense and cataloging in my mind all the things I needed to do when I got home. An elbow to my side brought me back to the present, with my friend persistently whispering “He’s calling you, go up there. Go up there!” I sighed heavily and sucked my teeth in disgust as I grudgingly rose and went to the man present. I’ve always been defiant, and tonight was no exception. I made absolutely no attempt to disguise or hide my indifference to the beckon, or his authority in God.
The Prophet quietly took me in for a few moments before smiling slightly and speaking close to my ear. “This is just for you,” he began as I rolled my eyes internally. He told me that I was in pain, that I was angry with God because he let me down. He told me that God did hear my prayer and he answered. Yeah right, my mind spoke back. He told me that I didn’t believe in God anymore. I didn’t refute it. He told me “that’s okay, because he still believes in you and he loves you still.” Uh huh. The prophet told me that my trial, though not ordained by God, came to make me stronger, to give me strength for the assignment over my life. Then he touched me, lightly, almost wispily, and that changed everything for me. I can only describe it as a supernatural gut punch.
I could tell you that after that night everything was fine and I lived happily ever after, but I don’t do fairy tales. That night was the beginning of my new awakening in my walk and relationship with God. I struggled, still struggle, to this day with the thing done to me and the damage it left. In time however I learned to forgive my father, but I won’t ever forget. I learned not everyone was the same. I was able to let a man touch me without being nauseous. I was able to show affection to my daughter without aversion to her touch. As God directed real and true people after his heart into my life, I learned that in my religion, I never learned to have relationship with him, and that has been the game changer for me. Being saved didn’t save me from pain, anguish, abuse, or despair; and religious rhetoric did nothing but push me further away.
Letting go of work-less faith, meaningless epitaphs, and well meaning, yet rhetoric blinded people, did save me from being destroyed when those things came, and continue to come, against me. I don’t do religion anymore. I don’t sit in a church building every Sunday or fly there every time the doors open, but with my entire being I am fully in love, and have relationship with, the one who never stopped loving me back.
KR Bankston is the author of several award winning novels, including The Gianni Legacy and Thin Ice Serial. KR has some 30 published books to her credit. She is also CEO of Kirabaco Publishing, an independent publishing house for fiction and non-fiction works. KR is a mentor for several up and coming authors. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook