In my mid-20s, I joined an uncharitable Christian sect and became a spiritually uncharitable person.
My first pastor, who led the church where I yielded my life to the Lord, had some very cultish propensities that were accepted and even magnified by this particular brand of Christianity.
Still, this part of my life was a time of loving fervor toward God, his people and toward this pastor in particular.
I often counseled with him and when he spoke, it was like God used his words to part the Red Sea of my jumbled mind to deposit truth on dry ground.
Not having been raised in a church, I found all of this so healing, so freeing and so beautiful.
Then, this pastor began a radio show, which he used as a medium to share his biblical view of the world – mostly in the political arena. He slowly changed and morphed into a fundamentalist Christian version of Rush Limbaugh.
His words grew coarser toward “those” people: gays, Democrats, non-Christians, different Christians, etc. So, my words became coarser, too. His self-righteousness possessed the airwaves and his pulpit. So, my self-righteousness possessed my relationships. His way of being a Christian became the best and only way. So, by copying him, I showed the world the best and only way to be a Christian.
Another thing I learned from this pastor and faith family was my husband needed to be the spiritual leader of the home, and a good candidate would know more of the Bible than I did.
Soon after, God called me to be a missionary, and I began waiting for that mission-minded single man – a man who held the King James Bible under his arm, knew more of the Bible than me, and had a white RV (instead of horse)– to whisk me away to the mission field.
But this didn’t happen.
I even applied for Bible College to get my “M-R-S” degree, a saying used for women who go to Bible College to find a husband, despite my having earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from a secular university.
I joined the “liberal” Peace Corps in 2004, and God brought me to Romania. I landed in a town where an American missionary family from my faith background had a church that mainly ministered to the Roma population, a community I was drawn to already.
Despite God stretching me beyond my church family’s borders, he knew I still needed the comforts of their narrow guardrails.
I began to mature in Bible knowledge and what God asked of me. In doing so, I grew out of my initial faith family’s ideological limitations and began to shed my rose-colored glasses toward my first pastor.
I also grew out of my spiritually unkind ways and tried to better exhibit the grace of God toward others.
Today, I’m married to a man who was raised in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and who likes to refer to me as a Bible scholar. God has used him to teach me biblically moral arguments for political policies on both sides of the aisle.
We have a daughter and attend a nondenominational church. We are raising her to not demonize others in the name of Christ.
I also consider myself a missionary, only within my own country’s borders and ironically within communities of “those” kinds of people whom I used to put down.
I would not be who I am today in Christ without this journey, and I wouldn’t have been able to love others as he wanted me to all along without his glorious reshaping of me from “hater” to lover of souls.
Cassy Benefield finds much comfort in her Savior, Jesus Christ, and considers herself a Bible nerd who is prone to buy more theology books than she is ever able to read.