I was reading http://blog.beliefnet.com/stuffchristianculturelikes/2010/05/154-the-word-backsliding.html
It reminded me of my teenage years. When we moved to the US we started attending an Assembly of God church. This was the worst thing that happened to me. I am not saying Assemblies of God churches are bad or that any churches we attended were bad either but for me and my development as a Christian and a person it was terrible. As a teenager I was just starting to define the specifics of my faith. I slowly started to realize that what I believed and knew to be true did not match up with what my church believed and this opened me up to some criticism. I did not understand why their opinion could be so different in these matters. That was because my brain was not completely developed yet. There was also something else wrong with my brain; I started to think. I had trouble spending time reading the Bible and concentrating on prayer. I knew that is what I had to do in order to maintain a good relationship with God. This started to worry me to the point that backsliding became a worry to me. What I did not realize is that having trouble remembering to spend time reading the Bible and praying was not the reason for my feeling of disconnect with God. I believe what really caused me to perceive a distance was my dissatisfaction with my self, my disappointment with myself and the stress caused by this. I think some of the reason I had trouble concentrating might have been a manageable form of ADHD combined with unrealistic expectations of what spending time with God meant. This disconnect set me up with increasingly lower self-esteem that spiraled off to depression.
So I started to feel bad about myself right on time to start going to youth services at my very large church. The emphasis on very regimented disciplined time spent with God continued added to it was the pressure to witness. It is not that you had to earn your salvation or anything, it was just that if one was truly saved one would naturally and eagerly do these thing. Having low self-esteem was also a sin but I was not able to love myself or even accept the love of God because I did not think I deserved it because I was not a good Christian. I asked God to help me be better, to change me, make me something else because I was not good. I felt flawed somehow, defective and even that I must have been the only mistake God ever made. God did not answer these prayers because there was nothing wrong with me. I was the way I was supposed to be. No one told me this. They just said I had to give my sins up, to nail them on the cross. I had to relinquish my sins to God, give up my low self-esteem and lustful thoughts. Did I say lustful thoughts? Girls don't have those, right, only boys. Wrong, I did and felt like no other girl did. This made me feel even worse. My pastor told us to take our sinful thoughts and pluck them out of our heads. We were told to imagine that it was a mouse or a rat and pluck it up right by the tail and toss it out of our minds. I tried it (never pluck up a real rodent by the tail) and it did not work. It was useless, stupid and ineffective. Still I kept on doing it because it was the only thing I knew to do.
Soon I began to believe I was constantly backsliding. I would spent countless teary hours crying out to God believing I had lost my salvation and was going to hell. Every worship experience was an agonizing climb up to God, I knew God could never leave me so it had been me who left so I climbed and climbed. I did not know that all this self hatred and stress had build a wall that I could never climb. We were told to seek God and become cleansed like the newly fallen snow but we were never told that we were good enough for Him just as we were. We had to do nothing but accept the love and quit stressing. It was always an effort toward holiness. My Christian walk as a teenager was hell.
It has been a slow progress but now I know that while I am far from perfect God loves and understands me. I am exactly as he intended me to be and I no longer worry about it. That is so strange that something so seemingly good as a Christian community can be something so hurtful.