If I HAD to pick a moment in time when I became a Christian, accepted Jesus, turned into a goody two shoes church goer, however you want to call it- I could narrow it down to the first year my family lived on the base in northern Italy.
As I've mentioned several times before, and no doubt some of you are bored already, this was a Very Bad Year. At the time, it was a very bad year for me. Many years later, as I was having coffee with my mom and talking about The Old Days, I realized it was bad for everyone. My parents, my brothers and sisters, all the other people who moved to that base that year, the people who were already there and the Italians who lived nearby. Pretty much everyone living in that town that year could have used an open ended prescription for Prozac.
But I was fifteen and therefore solely focused on my own personal misery. In one summer I'd lost my best friend, my boyfriend, my social standing in school and the freedom to go places without my parents. So, for a fifteen-year-old, practically everything important. I was heartbroken to leave all of that stuff behind, but not for one second did I think I wouldn't be able to rebuild, that I wouldn't be able to make new friends and quickly be known for all the same things I was known for before.
The other day I was reading a blog that sort of made fun of the emotions and thoughts you have in junior high and high school. I honestly forget where I read this, but she was ribbing her junior high self for being so in love with her junior high boyfriend and how everything is So. Drastically. Important. when you are that age. I read it and I understood, but I also wanted to say, "It may be silly, but it's real." Like right now, I am sitting here completely and utterly mortified at how long and how forcefully I missed the dirtbag I dated for all of six months in ninth grade. But I am also tearing up, because I remember how much it hurt to say goodbye to him and K and how I didn't have anyone to take their places for the longest time. So yeah, it's really just a flash in time and the "love" I thought I felt at fifteen isn't at all like the love I have for my husband after four years of marriage and one baby, but to say it wasn't love is to invalidate, I think, everything I knew about myself at fifteen.
So yeah. It was an awful year because I was lonelier than I'd ever been in my life. The kids at my new school weren't like the kids at my old school and I didn't know how to navigate the new shark-infested social waters. People seemed to like me, but not enough to hang out with me and the loneliness was compounded by knowing what I'd left behind.
BOO HOO. POOR ME.
I began to pray. I had no idea what else to do. I was going to be stuck at this place until I graduated from high school and I had to survive. The only good thing was that it couldn't get worse, right? I prayed for friends. I prayed for something to do on the weekends. I prayed to stop missing my old friends so much. I prayed that my parents wouldn't be embarrassed of their homebound daughter who never got any phone calls. I was so ashamed of my failure, as I saw it, at making new friends. Every single night I prayed for God to give me a friend. How sad is that? INCREDIBLY PATHETICALLY MORTIFYINGLY SAD. Why the HELL am I sharing this with the Internet?!
I guess I have two points here. The first is that I think just about everyone living there needed God. That place was going through enormous growing pains, not to mention the stress of the mission (bombing the crap out of Bosnia) on the newly arrived families. There were two new elementary schools that year. People living closer to Austria (several hours away) than the base. A ton of high school kids who weren't allowed to drive. Kids who were getting in all kinds of trouble because they had nothing to do and parents managing their own stuff. The first real friend I made was a girl who'd had her ID card taken away the year before because she'd been involved in a drug bust. Some of us prayed and sat in the chapel to wait out lunch break. Some of us smoked pot at discotecas and got themselves kicked off the basketball team. Because things like pot were never an option for me (have you met my parents?) and because K had schooled me and I was already so inclined, I chose God. I honestly did not see another way through.
The second thing is that I believe God answered my prayer. The next year I met the girl who became my next best friend. I learned that to make friends at school is to join a sports team. I was known again. It never became a great place for me. I never loved it. I never felt as strongly about those friends as I did about the ones from the old school. I was still aching to graduate and move away with every bone in my body. But I made it. I had people to eat lunch with. I had things to do on the weekends. I had fun. And I never thought this was coincidence, or the natural way of things, or because of my own social skills or anything like that. I really truly believed that God had heard my desperate cries in my teeny tiny bedroom at night and he wasn't going to leave me alone.
A lot of times I think the only reason I have so many wonderful close friends right now is because I prayed so hard for them when I was fifteen. Sometimes I think God was so tired of listening to me he decided to set me up for life.
Are those reasons I can give anyone else for believing in God? Or being a Christian? Obviously not. They only work for me, and really, only years later when I can look back and see what was really happening. I prayed and prayed and prayed. It didn't seem to be working for a VERY long time, but it was the only thing I could think of to do. So I kept praying, and then things got brighter and suddenly I was a believer. That year was so bad, you guys. So bad. I don't even want to tell you some of the things I thought about that year. But then it was over. And things were slowly but constantly getting better. And I couldn't think of any reason for that except God answering my prayers.
So. I am going to publish this without editing, because the baby is demanding to be picked up from his nap and because if I read it again I probably won't publish it EVER.