I had several song versions of this verse rattling around in my head. My mom sang it to me on roller coasters and driving through thunderstorms. It was my mantra for many different fears, but mostly for the invisible, spiritual world. As a believer, I literally believed in angels and demons floating around. I would sense the negative spirits of certain rooms and be afraid to look certain directions, worried that I might get a glimpse of evil. I remember one night, when I was about 21, I got so terrified of demons at home alone, that I went out and drove aimlessly around town.
I vaguely had confidence that as a believer, I was safe from becoming possessed. I also sort of thought that you could always just driving the demon away by name dropping Jesus, but I had a nagging suspicion that if I didn’t say it with enough mojo, it might not work. I once heard a story of a little girl becoming possessed and losing her swallow reflex. I legitimately got dysphagia anxiety, where any time I was either worried that I was sinning or was exposed to something of an evil nature that I wouldn’t be able to manage my secretions. Experiencing anything potentially dangerous, I would will myself to swallow continuously to keep the demons out.
One positive change that I have noticed since deconverting is that I have much less fear. I can focus on tangible threats rather than worrying about evil spirits floating around. I can deal with threats objectively rather than trying to cast out demons. Sure I lost my imaginary friend God to protect me, but I also lost the monsters running that I needed protection from to begin with.
This passage was my Christian class’s theme verse printed as printed on the mug we received our freshman year. This reminds me of my experience choosing, starting, and dropping out of Christian college. I was not pressured by family or church to attend a Christian college. It was my dream. I saw the ads for different schools in Brio (Focus on the Family teen girl magazine) and got promotional material in the mail. I went to the Christian college fairs. I dreamed of a place to be immersed in my walk with the Lord, surrounded by a community of believers. As a socially awkward teen, I longed for a tight knit group of believers who would accept me and make me feel normal about myself. I imagined late night deep theological discussions in dorms. I thought it would be convenient to meet one’s soul mate in a godly school environment, like all the adorable courtship stories Christian raft guides would tell.
I legitimately read every college catalog I could get my hands on, as in literal hardcover books, because this was before PDF files. I dreamed about the courses I could take and browsed the policies and procedures to see which colleges would let you visit common areas of boy dorms. I toured campuses and enjoyed stories of pranks and traditions. I compared the quality of worship music at required chapel services. I got a scholarship and chose a school based on its academic rigor, the climate/ campus prettiness, and my hope for Christian community.
Thinking about my future, in terms of figuring out an education/ future, I literally never asked “What do I want to do?” Everything was cloaked in the language of destiny. I was searching for the plan the Lord had for me. I was looking at every clue from a bible passage to the timing of a breeze hitting a leaf to figure out what I was supposed to do. I had to say “I feel called to…”or “I’m struggling to trust His plan for my life” rather than “My goal is to _________. Therefore I should study ________”
I packed my UPS boxes and moved into my dorm. I jumped right into the studies and the social activities. I shed my introversion. I kept my grades up and enjoyed the mandatory theology courses and chapel services. I also stayed up until 3 am every night, trying to engage in any of the “fun” events happening in my dorm to hide any hint that I was naturally shy. I joined the Young Republicans club, because back then, I believed that even at our small Christian college, the liberal agenda was invading our education. I made time for “quiet time” where I would read “the Word” and stream of consciousness pray into my journal, still striving to make sure every move was in line with His plan. I joined a bible study. On open hour days (where we were allowed in opposite gender dorms) I learned how to play Medal of Honor. I started to burn out on it all after a while.
Some things happened that made Christian college life more challenging to keep up with eventually. Then, there was a big event every spring, a competition with performances by dorm groups. It was the epic thing that alumni would continue to talk about 50 years later. I didn’t get an active role in mine. I missed the mandatory rehearsal because of bronchitis and sexual assault simultaneously. I changed majors. I came back for another school year, but my mental health sucked so bad that fall semester that I transferred back home and gave up Christian college life all together.
I gave up the “race” and that is how I became a Christian college dropout.