I have been raised in a faithful Christian family for...

My Story 
I have been raised in a faithful Christian family for most of my childhood. My brother and I attended a private Christian grade school. We went to a lot of different churches during that time but we were always doing some kind of church function. My faith didn’t fall apart until I was 19, hurting, on my own, and out from under the prayer and faith cover of my family. I was living a life where I thought I would receive the love and acceptance that I was missing from home. My doubt, loneliness and fear lasted almost 9 years when a miraculous event happened, where I felt the presence of God in a mighty way. I chose to return to my faith. I was tired of trying to be good enough on my own. Now I know that I am ok being not good enough as long as God is in my heart and working on changing me a little every day.
What are some things your family did well in responding to your departure from their faith? 
I think that it was hard for them to know what to do or how to handle the situation so they chose to just back away. This was good at the time because I was an “adult” and had I been pushed, it would have potentially made the situation worse.
What are some things your family could have done better in responding to your change of faith? 
I believe that I was judged a bit too harshly. Yes, they did well by not pushing, but at the same time I felt like the mistakes I was choosing to make were irreversible. And that if my family was giving up on me, then I felt that God was too.
Can you share an example of how the church responded well during the time you were leaving faith? 
Honestly, I can’t think of a time that anyone in a position of religious or spiritual authority handled my departure well. I felt dropped and forgotten about.
Are there ways that the church or those in the church could have responded better to your departure from their faith? 
They could have responded better by reaching out to me, “the sinner”, more instead of shunning me and having me feel as if I had no place in the church because I wasn’t living a life right before God.
In the responses of Christians, what surprised you most? 
That they were so easily able to judge me for my choices, and that I was, for lack of a better word, expendable to them.
Was there a particular event that had a negative impact on your leaving the faith? 
The event that most affected my faith was the death of my great-grandfather, Tom Branam. I had prayed so hard for so long that God would heal him and restore him to my family. When he finally died, I felt like God had ignored my cries to Him and that was when I decided that I couldn’t have anything to do with a God that would allow that kind of pain in my heart.
Was there a particular event that had a positive impact on your return to faith? 
One day when I was deep in my addiction, nearly 8 years after I had turned my back to Christ, I was in a motel room contemplating the best way to end my life. I decided to try one more time to reach out to God and ask for some answers; some help. He pointed out a passage in Mark 5:41. I felt like He was talking right to my wounds and telling me to “get up little girl”. That day completely changed my life and view of Christ.
Since God is willing to make something good of all things, have you felt that some good thing has emerged from your journey? 
Absolutely! I know without a shadow of a doubt that I had to walk the path I did for many reasons. One, being that my view of my God comes mainly from the things He has brought me through in life. Two, is that without my trials and having to humble myself, I don’t believe I would have the amazing relationship that I do with my mom. And third, I can be a better woman, mommy, and someday wife. The things I have been through have given me such a powerful message of hope to share with the women out there hurting.
If you were able to step back in time and chat with yourself what might you say to yourself? 
Marianne, do not turn your back on God’s love because there are going to be times and trials ahead that you will need to feel his arms around you. He will be the only one to hold your head up when you’re drowning… don’t shut his love out of your heart.
How would you advise parents of a prodigal today? 
The best advice I can give is don’t push too hard but at the same time, show your children that though they may make decisions that will affect their lives, they will never do anything to fall out of your love or God’s grace. Sometimes we may be stubborn and have to learn the hard way… but as long as we know you love us we will eventually come back. The fear of being judged as a failure or not good enough is a powerful force that keeps most kids away. Whether we act like it or not, we need the reassurance that we are loved, accepted, cherished and above all, good enough, no matter what.