By: Amanda Masiso.
Never in my life, as a little girl growing up, did I think that at the age of 23 I would be an unwed young mother to an over-active, joyful 3 year-old. Yes, this came as a shock, even to myself, let alone to the rest of the people who knew me. And I choose to use past tense because ever since my life changed, to many of them, I too became a past tense.
You should know, I never foresore my future as such. Having been raised and indoctrinated into a staunch Christian upbringing, I received Christ at the age of 11 together with two of my closest friends. I believed in living the Christian lifestyle whole-heartedly and I did my best throughout my pre-teen and teenage years to such a point where I never attended parties, believe it or not, until my matric dance. I mean I didn’t even attend my after0-party for crying out loud. I was perceived to be a “goody-two-shoes” by my peers and that’s including those in the church. Now, that wasn’t a necessarily bad start. One would’ve expected me to continue growing in the faith and eventually meet and marry a God-fearing man but that’s where my detour took place.
Having been raised by a single parent, I had never really known what it was like to have a father – not that it bothered me much. Life was blissful, as far as I knew. But when it came to relating to my male counterparts, well, that was awkward. I considered myself a simple Jane, I mean I knew I was pretty, but not like the “it” girls. So not having a boyfriend never really mattered much. But it was in my transition from matric into University that it all changed. I wasn’t looking for a relationship and neither was he. Even the way we met, you would have never guessed that we’d end up together. He was a fellow youth member from a different branch and coincidentally, he was already studying at my University of choice, so gradually we became friends and he even eased me into the world of varsity life. He’d occassionally wait for me after classes and we’d walk together to the taxi rank … even studying together. Our friendship grew stronger, as we’d pray together and share God’s word, even during our lunch breaks or in-between free classes.
Well, we’d never given ourselves the title of dating/courting up until our fellow youth members insinuated and implicated so. After much contemplation, we both felt it was worth pursuing. In the months we spent, getting to know each other and growing in the Lord, we started becoming and behaving more and more like soul mates. We set boundaries, so that we wouldn’t let our carnal flesh get the better of us, we sought guidance from an advisor at church who gave us his blessing. I was so convinced that this was God’s plan for my life that I even told my mother about it. I didn’t want to be dishonest since we felt everything we were doing was pure, but in no way did my mother see it like that. She felt our relationship was rushed, and more-over, how could we seek the approval of the advisor over hers. This, however, did not deter us and we decided we’d see less of each other, but we still remained strong in Christ.
One thing I never realised back then was that my walk with God was more of a hollow log. I don’t think I fully understood what it meant to be born-again. I sought much approval from friends, family and the church. I depended on him so much (my boyfriend) for my spirituality and growth … big mistake on my part. I didn’t see the thin line between faithfulness and deceit. I was so good at looking and acting the part that I believed that’s what being a Christian was all about – living by the law. I mean after all, my church did this so well. If ever you sinned, and it’s funny how we categorise sin into levels or degrees, you were shunned out and eventually you’d be forgotten or you’d leave the church all-together because of the shame.I learned this the hard way. My hollow Christian life and childhood insecurities made it easy for me to deviate from the truth. I got so infatuated with the attention I got from another guy, (now, for someone who’d never had this, I was more than intrigued), that I didn’t realize how far I’d drifted from my boyfriend on a spiritual and emotional level. I found myself having betrayed him in such a way, even I could never imagine, that he lost all faith, trust and hope in me. I remember the words he said when he broke up with me, as if they were said just yesterday. I couldn’t believe what I had just done. I suppose in my heart I believed that if I told him the truth, he’d forgive me and we could move on, having worked on my issues and prayed about it but this was not so. I could’ve easily kept quiet and made sure he never found out, but he was too good to me for me to lie to him. I knew he deserved better, hence I told him about my lack of virtue.
After the break-up, I slipped into a deep, dark pit of depression and self destruction. I asked myself what was wrong with me?, how stupid could I be? but not being able to get help or talk about it only made the problem worse. To add salt to the wound, the advisor from church said to me ” I warned you to stay away from that guy, you got what you deserved! (my ex) was too good for you …” Now, for a very fragile heart like mine, that was the last thing I expected or needed to hear. The advisor had played a fatherly role to me and for him to chastise me the way he did was more than life shattering. I broke all ties and means of communication with both of them. I ‘lost’ all hope in the so-called “christian lifestyle” that I’d grown up to know. I couldn’t understand the brutality with which I had been treated, so I just revelled more and more in my destructive behaviour. Things got so out of control, that even my mother said to me, “I don’t believe you anymore, all you ever say is full of lies. I no longer trust you and anything is possible with you.” I felt like I’d lost it all, yes there had been some lies, my grades took a knock, but I didn’t expect her to disown me like that. My mindset was in such a bad state, I didn’t care anymore … Nothing mattered because all that I knew, I felt was based on a lie or rather on what society or rather the church deemed truthful and just.
Now, mind you, I didn’t say what God deemed as the truth and that’s because after news of my pregnancy spread like wild fire, I saw how cruel and hurtful people in the church are. I blamed God for their behaviour because a lot of them held high positions within the church and the level of prejudice they displayed was more than what my little faith could bare. It was then that I understood why some unsaved people would say “I’d rather stay where I am, because Christians are the most judgemental and hurtful people, they’re worse than non-believers.” I could honestly identify with their sentiments because I now found myself on the ‘other’ side of the fence. I stopped believing all-together, I lost my closest friends, I found myself allienated and not knowing where I belonged.
I couldn’t carry on with my studies because my mother felt it was deliberate and she would not “waste” her hard earned money on someone who behaved in a delinquent manner and embarrassed her. My self-worth took another knock, I even considered suicide – but I could never go through with it. In my whole life, I’d never hit such a low. I felt pathetic and felt the world would be a better place without me because it seemed all I did was hurt the people around me. I even considered terminating the pregnancy, but my conscience and my mother wouldn’t let me.
I delivered a healthy bouncy baby boy on a bitterly cold July morning and that was the closest experience I got to truly understanding the thin line between life and death. I didn’t imagine I’d be on my own, I had dreamt that such an experience would take place with me being married, having my own house and car, and having a successful career. Instead, I had no cent to my name, was unemployed, a varsity drop-out and living in my mothers’ house. I couldn’t really be joyful, instead I felt like the biggest failure on earth. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my son but the timing and whole experience was all wrong. I remebered my church youth leaders’ words: “you’re now going to have to act like a 25 year old” and by that he meant that I could no longer behave like a typical 20 year old, I’d have to be more responsible and make sacrifices that were’nt commonly made by my peers. I had become a young mother and I’d have to stand up to my responsibilities – no matter how bitter-sweet.
In all my “worldly” living and self-hatred, God never once turned against me. So many things could’ve gone wrong during this tumultuos period in my life but I believe He was showing me who He is and even though I had to learn my lesson the hard way, He finally got through to me. I’ve lived in regret for so long that I became bitter and resentful and thought very little of a lot of people in my church. Its only recently that I decided to let go of all the hurt and anger. I couldn’t change people’s perception of me and whilst I held onto their judgement of me, they happily moved on with their lives and even forgot about me. You see, as much as I wanted retribution, I harboured a lot of vengence in my heart and I subconsciously competed with my accusers and I remained the loser. I think it’s up until I fully accepted and acknowledged that I cannot change my past or what others think or say about me that I let it all go. I forgave them all, but most of all I forgave and continue to forgive myself. I had to re-learn and re-establish my relationship with God. I owed it to myself, and more importantly, to my son.
The biggest lessons I learnt were that 1) I couldn’t and shouldn’t depend on others, more than I do God. 2) I had to accept that I’d lost friends, some of which I’d never regain, and it’s alright – it was part of my season. 3) I’m not perfect, but who is?. 4) The church isn’t God, and neither are the people who attend church. 5) My walk with God is exactly that – Mine- it’s not a group effort because even though some of the people’s intentions were good, their actions were much louder than their words. And 6) My past, current or future circumstances, should never dictate my level of faith in God because He who began a good work in me will bring it to fruitition.
I sometimes, wonder what my life would have been like if I hadn’t had my son. But on the flip side, I’m so appreciative of the life lessons that I continually learn through him. It’s not easy chasing a qualification and raising a child and not always having support. I’ve had to be a ‘big girl’ very quickly and find solutions on my own. I’ve had to face and accept rejection but pick myself up and move on. I can only say I am still here, and it’s by the grace of God. I continually see that grace in my sons’ smile and laughter. And even though the nay-sayers will still want to see me fall, I draw strength from knowing that God is still on my side. My walk with Him is still not perfect but He reminds me that He came to seek and to save, that which was lost, and I’m that little lamb, that deviated and He left the other 99 to come look for me. So, I cannot refuse myself the opportunity to be sheltered under His shadow and from here on forth I look to Him and Him alone. He walks and carries me in the journey back to myself.