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Sarah Gibson

My family has always been religious and for as long as I can remember we've always attended church. We were members of a Baptist church for several years. Unfortunately, my brother developed an allergic reaction to the wood that the church was made of (I still find this mildly amusing). While we were in search of a new place of worship, my father, an ordained minister, taught my brother and I biblical lessons. I learned about the light of God and I believed in Him and envisioned His candle that shined the light on me and blocked out the darkness.

In sixth grade my best friend (whom I will refer to as Dan in order to protect his true identity), Dan's mother was diagnosed with cancer for the second time. The doctors said she was going to die and that it was only a matter of time. I cried my heart out and my candle flickered a little. I couldn't understand why God would put me, Dan, and his family through such pain. This was the first death I had dealt with and I had to watch her die.

At the funeral Dan's little sister ran to me and we embraced each other and she wouldn't let go. I looked into her tearful eyes and said to her, "God just needed another angel." Soon afterwards, Dan broke off all connections with me. He talked about me behind my back and I still don't know why. Once again, my candle flickered.

In seventh grade, my sergeant grandmother, after years of dealing with Alzheimer's Disease, had a series of strokes and was placed into a hospital retirement center. Her little dog, Samantha, was left behind and I begged my parents to let us take her in. I just couldn't bear to see her go too. My wish was granted, but it didn't lighten the pain of seeing Nana going through so much torture. She didn't know where she was, and she couldn't even say, "hello." The only thing she could do was look through her drooping eyes and plead with us to help her.

Then, in eighth grade my grandfather died of a heart attack. The light of my candle grew weaker. He passed away on the first of November and my mother was so stressed that she refused to have Thanksgiving or Christmas spent with our family. Instead, we spent it alone. About a month and a week later (in mid-December), Nana died. Out of these three deaths not one was peaceful. With this realization the light became dimmer.

In the January of my eighth grade year I was expected to receive a copy of the Bible from the church, be baptized, and then become a member of the church. However, first I had to write a Statement of Faith and meet with our minister. I spent two weeks working on my paper. When I was finished I held what I considered to be a master piece. It was seven pages long and explained, in detail, what I thought about every aspect of the religion that was presented before me. I told about my confusion, my debates, my losses, and more. The time came for me to talk with our minister and I went in happily and sat down eager to talk about my Statement of Faith.

Our discussion started out well until she got to the part about Jesus Christ. I had a few disagreements about him and I personally didn't expect to be accepted into the church. She asked me if I believed Jesus was the Savior. I had her refer to my paper because I had specifically explained my situation. I believed he had existed and was a great person, but I don't think he was the Savior and I don't think there will be a Savior because I don't think one is needed.

In response to this, she told me, "People who don't believe in Jesus go to hell. You're going to hell."

It was at that moment that the light flickered and went out. At that moment I felt an urge to scream that if God loved us he wouldn't let us suffer the way he does. How can anyone put a person through so much pain after they have done so much good in their life? I couldn't grasp how Dan's mother, a person who was known for her wonderful volunteer work and work with children, my grandfather, a doctor who practiced right up until the day he died, my Nana, who worked in the judicial department, brought so much joy into people's lives and taught me what love is, and all of them a hard-core Christian could die in some of the most painful situations. As I saw my candle being surrounded by darkness and its own smoke I began to cry. She had destroyed my last hope in religion in a single sentence.

I stood and wiped the tears from my eyes. I handed her back the Bible that the church had given me the week before. She took it and looked coldly into my eyes as if she were trying to penetrate them in order to steal the last bit of my will. With ice in her words she said, "I'm just a messenger of the Lord."

Still crying and hurt I became determined not to let her take anything more away from me. I grabbed my Statement of Faith and tore it up until it was nothing but confetti. As a single tear ran down my cheek I told her, "If you're the messenger of God, then I don't want to believe." With this said I walked out of her office where I met my father. I never told him what was said in that room. Nor did I ever let him read my paper. I merely told him that I never wanted to enter the church again.

Over time I have developed my own light, my own candle, and my own salvation to strive for. I find it in the love I share for other people. I believe in them and they believe in me. My friends help me to stand tall and I know they will always be there for me when I need them. This inner redemption penetrates the dark and lets me walk on. I have risen from this darkness and found in myself a new confidence that no one can break. Not even a "messenger of God."

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