“After high school I became very disillusioned with the church and left. I had moments where I would attempt to come back, I always felt like I had an open heart. I remember a teacher telling me when I was little, ‘Always keep your heart open to God and He will always be there.’ I always remembered that. I’d say I never left God. I just turned away from the church because I felt it was hypocritical. I was 20 when I turned my back on religion. I met my husband when I was 22. He was in the military, so we traveled around doing the military thing. We were married, then divorced, then remarried. We married each other twice. I was going through a battle with substance abuse, drugs and alcohol. I struggled heavily with that, and it played a huge role in the decisions I made. I felt like I couldn’t be forgiven. These were the big sins I’d been told about as a child. I understood from what I’d seen as a child–people being reprimanded for, say, getting pregnant out of wedlock or even struggling with alcoholism–they would be disfellowshipped. The church members would talk about them. I knew that would happen to me, so I believed God wouldn’t forgive me. I felt like He was always there, always judging me.
I’d failed out of a couple of different Adventist colleges right after high school. My parents were trying to get me back on track. I ended up finally finishing undergrad in 2013. I had my daughter in 2008. The moment she was born, I said, ‘Where does a love like this come from?’ I remember asking my husband in the operating room, ‘Is this what Jesus feels like when He looks at us?’ It was my first experience with this sort of parental love, feeling it for myself. From that moment, my husband and I decided to look for an Adventist church. He wasn’t Adventist, he’d been raised Catholic. We wanted to see if we could discover if this was a love that came from God. It’s hard to explain the feeling.
We found a church and really loved it, but about a year in, people started finding out about my past. They started being like, ‘We don’t really want anyone knowing about this. It puts a bad image on our church. This may not be the best place for you.’ That was really hard. I felt that rejection again. Almost 10 years later I was being rejected, again, from the church. So we left. In 2012 my son was born. I was back in school between dates having children. I was finally nearing the end of my degree when I had my son. The same thing happened, I saw him and thought, ‘This love isn’t human. It has to come from a greater place.’ I was in counseling at the time. I’d been clean since my daughter was born, but I wanted to stay clean so I’d stayed in counseling the whole time. My counselor was an Adventist. He suggested going to a different type of church, one that was more modern. He said there was one where, ‘people live their lives out loud. People admit they’re sinners at this church.’ It was such a crazy new concept for me. I’d heard people say things like that, but you never saw it. You always felt like you had to be perfect. I went and I loved it. But because of what had happened a few years earlier, I knew I had to make sure I could be there. I walked up to one of the elders after the service. I said, ‘Hi, my name is Kari and I have a sketchy past. Can I come here?’ He looked right at me and said, ‘So do I. There’s no better place for you to be.’ That changed my whole life. The church, the people in it–God used them to really embrace me and show me that you can be a sinner and be in church. You can make mistakes. You can have a past.”
Based on the practical, human experiences within our area, Oregon Adventist Stories (OAS) is a new line of social media content that seeks to connect us through the thing we all share- figuring out life on Earth as Seventh-day Adventist humans.