When I was 21 I kind of officially broke up with the evangelical Christian Church. I'll spare you the details at this point. But when I was 16 years old, I stood on a hill at Cornerstone, on the outskirts of the crowd at dark and listened to Jennifer Knapp sing for the first time. A barely illuminated figure in the center of a huge stage. A solo guitar. Chills rippled through my teenage body.
I was struggling with so many things at that time, many things I didn't realize until years later. I was feeling very small in the ways of the world, the ways of family and friends. I was feeling very small and found, in her voice, a connection to God that made me feel big. At so many points during those years, I found myself feeling alone and insignificant. I would turn on Kansas and sing at the top of my lungs, alone in the tiny cab of a silver Ford Ranger. The times that her lyrics covered my tears is impossible to note, but I felt powerful.
When I was 21, I was dealing with the kind of ambiguity that wasn't acknowledged by the Christian community I was a part of. There was a right and a wrong. They were right and I was wrong. Teachings of black and white were no longer applicable to my daily life. I could never quite meld my beliefs about humanity and their beliefs that God is disgusted with humanity. I could never quite believe that God cared enough about the people that we choose to love that he would stop loving us if he didn't approve. Not to mention, I don't believe that God is a he. Let alone a He.
As a result, I choose to follow a belief system that loves people; a belief system that loves people every single day regardless of their decisions, beliefs, and hang ups. As a result, I lost connections in a painful way . . . connections that were at the utmost center of my identity, that encapsulated everything about me. I lost the connection to God in the only way I had ever known it and have since spent the last four years attempting to pull out the most alive, meaningful, and soulfully true beliefs in an otherwise destroyed faith system.
At many points, I have found myself in the same place I was at 16, feeling alone and insignificant, in the theoretical cab of a truck. I have pulled out Kansas, autographed, and now worn and unplayable. In Jennifer Knapp's music, I have felt belonging and wholeness -- cutting out all the people who mattered and didn't matter -- and finding myself in the present of God, the two of us in complete understanding.
Today, I read that Jennifer Knapp came out publicly. I felt overpowered and overjoyed. I felt a connection that has been long extinct. I hope for a generation that I dream will not have to choose human rights, human understanding, and human compassion over their home church.
I felt a slight sense of closure, healing, an "everything is going to be alright."
There are ghosts from my past
who have owned more of my soul
than I thought I had given away
They linger in closets and under my bed
and in pictures less proudly displayed.
A great fool in my life I have been
have squandered til pallid and thin
Hung my head in shame and have refused to take blame
From the darkness I know I've let win
Can you hear me?
-- from Martyrs and Thieves by Jen Knapp