Dropping the ‘party persona’
I am not the perfect Christian Science teenager. Maybe there’s no such thing. But all I know is that I’ve always needed an extra push to look deeper into what Christian Science really is.
I’ve been involved in a program for young Christian Scientists that has helped motivate me to be active in my practice of Christian Science, instead of just skating along on the surface—going to Sunday School but not really doing much with what I’ve learned. One of the key things I have gained from this program is integrity. When I’m participating in activities in the program, I feel like I can put aside the “persona” I sometimes fall into at home and simply be myself—the real me, expressing what God is. And I feel strengthened by others in the program, who actively support me in seeing myself spiritually and in being true to that identity.
In 2016, I was scheduled to go on a trip to Guatemala with my group. By the time our departure rolled around, the difference between “home me” and “program me” had grown. I had begun doing things that were hugely out of character.
When I look back on that time, I don’t even recognize myself. I was abusing substances, lying to my parents, and manipulating girls. I was out of control, hungry for the attention and the excitement that this way of life seemed to offer. At some point, I realized how far I’d strayed from what I really am, but my social life was skyrocketing, and that was incredibly addicting.
However, when I got to Guatemala, I quickly remembered how awesome it felt to be kind and moral, and to be thinking about God. Over the two weeks of transformative service work, enlightening Christian Science discussions, and the feeling of unconditional love from my peers and leaders, I totally forgot about my desire for all the things that had seemed so intoxicating.
All that I am becomes a little clearer each day—and I know now that that’s all I want.
After one deeply inspirational conversation with a few of my friends, I was set on returning home a different person. I felt comforted and strengthened by this idea from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy: “Truth makes a new creature, in whom old things pass away and ‘all things are become new.’ Passions, selfishness, false appetites, hatred, fear, all sensuality, yield to spirituality, and the superabundance of being is on the side of God, good” (p. 201). Instead of missing out, I could see how abandoning the things that were just about self-gratification and took me away from God would actually bring more good into my life.
I told myself I would leave all the bad behind me and go forward basking in the light of God. How much I would’ve actually been able to do that, I’ll never know. Because one night, toward the end of our stay, the trip leaders confronted me and asked if I had participated in the consumption of drugs and alcohol, which was against the rules of the program. I was scared of the consequences, so I lied and said I had only done it once. That night I didn’t sleep at all. I knew the rules; I would most likely be kicked out of the program and be sent home early. I was more scared than I had ever been. And I felt trapped, because now I’d also lied, but I didn’t know what to do.
I’m so grateful for God’s care for me throughout this whole situation, because everyone seemed to get it that kicking me out of the program would not help the problem. I needed the program—and the spiritual support it provided—more than ever. The next morning my trip leaders told me that I would have to talk to my parents and begin updating them weekly. I was immensely grateful, but my true journey hadn’t even begun yet. I’d still lied about the extent of my partying, and that lie was tearing me up inside. The love they were showing me only tripled the guilt.
When I got home from the trip, I told my parents everything—including the fact that I had lied to my trip leaders. The vulnerability was terrifying, but looking back, I can see how my willingness to do this was a huge part of the healing. Because it was so difficult, I can only describe my ability to finally speak the truth as coming straight from God. It was the power of divine Truth in action.
Rather than condemn me, my parents forgave me and supported me in seeing my real, God-given identity as completely separate from, and untouched by, all the bad behavior. I then called my trip leaders and confessed the full truth. While this was difficult for me, I can’t imagine how hard it was for them to hear that I had lied to them. Even still, they also continued to love me and to see me as I really am.
I had finally come clean, albeit at the loss of trust from the most important adults in my life. And there would be a long road to gaining that trust back. But all attraction for the party persona was gone, because now I desired something else. I desired to know myself as God knows me and to live and act in accord with that. The love I’d felt wiped away any inclination toward selfishness and immoral behavior, and I wanted to know more of the source of this love—divine Love—and how I could share it with others. The power of loving and living with integrity, in line with Truth, felt even more amazing than any of the “highs” I’d gotten during my previous lifestyle.
This all happened over a year ago, and I can gratefully say that I’ve earned back the trust I’d lost. I have lived more than an entire year free of partying, deceit, and manipulation, and I’ve been more motivated than ever to engage with Christian Science. The best part is that I no longer feel a pull toward anything but being my true self. As I continue to understand God better, all that I am becomes a little clearer each day—and I know now that that’s all I want.