Perfectionist Finds Peace with Christian Faith

“I was the kind of person who would rather be in a lower level of class and get an A, than be in a higher of level of class and get a B because I couldn't handle the idea of not being the smartest kid in the room.”

Emily Armstrong usually was the smartest kid in the room.  She was labeled “gifted” in the third grade, which, she says, trapped her between two extremes.

“How that affected me was I did vacillate between thinking I was fantastic and then having tremendous anxiety when I didn't live up to my own expectations.”

 Emily says the pressure she felt was self-imposed.  

“I think it was a measure of value – ‘How valuable am I to society?  How valuable am I to the people around me?   I have to be this way so that I will be loved and appreciated and cared for.’"

Out of those beliefs grew a need for academic perfection.  By high school, Emily also craved some kind of framework for life and explored religion.  She discovered the Baha’i faith in college, which fit into her view of how things should be.

“The idea of having a one world order, a one world universal language, one world religion and one world government.  It seemed perfect.”

But trying to keep all the rules showed her she wasn’t perfect.

“And the longer I was a Baha'i, I found out "Oh, apparently we're supposed to do ceremonial hand washing, we're supposed to be doing ablutions, I don’t know how to do that.  And particularly when Aaron came along that whole chastity thing went out the window.  And that was another thing I wasn't good at.   I tried to keep this idea in my head that, you know, I was this awesome, smart, amazing person and that wasn't lining up with reality and that was starting to be really hard for me.”

Emily felt like a failure, so she gave up on Baha’i, and moved in with Aaron.

“I just wanted to be with my boyfriend and have fun in college and I just wanted not to care anymore about being perfect.”  

Aaron says, “I wasn’t interested in anything to do with religion or God, or spirituality.”  

A few years later, a friend invited them to a Christian discussion group called “Alpha.”  They went solely for the free food.  

“After those ten weeks, we went, ‘Well, that's great for them.  Good for you guys, thank you for sharing,’” says Emily.

Still, the course made Emily think about eternity.

She says, “I was starting to get the concept of Jesus' sacrifice and what that means.  And the idea that ‘No, I'm actually not good to get into heaven on my own.’”  

Aaron got nothing out of course, but wanted to poke holes in his Christian friend’s beliefs -- so he bought a Bible.    

Aaron says, “The Jesus that I saw there was nothing like any sort of caricature that I'd seen in any sort of media.   It was a very passionate individual, a very authoritative individual. Is this guy telling the truth, and if so, what does that actually mean for me?”

Emily decided to read it too.

Emily says, “’‘Cause he was doing it.  I thought, ’Okay, well, we can talk about it together.  It'll be fun intellectual exercise.’”

It was then they both noticed some strange things starting to happen.
Emily says, “I would get hang-up call after hang-up call after hang-up call.  I would start to see shadows in the corner of my eye, as if someone was there and had just moved out of view.  And I was starting to really be concerned about my mental health.”

Over the next few weeks, it got worse.  Aaron heard voices.  

Aaron recalls, "’You're not His, He won't save you, you're ours’" - that kind of thing.   I'd wake up actually with scratches in places that I couldn't have made them.

They were afraid, but didn’t know what to do.  One night, something woke them both.  

Emily remembers, “It was like there was a thick blanket of evil in the room.  He was half up off the bed.  And it really did look like someone was lifting him up.”

Aaron adds, “I actually felt myself fall down into my bed.”

This terrified them.  Emily decided to pray – for more than a rescue.

Emily says, “That’s when I really started thinking about what we had learned in Alpha.  And the things in the Bible.  What the Bible says about ‘You can’t get out of this on your own.’   I need Jesus because I can't be the awesome person that I thought that I could be. I realized that I was a sinner and there was no way I was going to get to heaven on my own.  And then I waited to see what Aaron would do.  And it was a very, very long 12 seconds.”  

Aaron says, “And it really was this moment where I had to admit, “Okay, Jesus, you are who you say you are.   You are God, you are the Creator of this universe, you are the Ruler of this universe, that I have been in rebellion against you, and I need to repent of that, and forgive me for that and please save me from all of this.’”

Emily says, “And He did save me.  And that feeling lifted from me – that feeling of oppression.  

Emily and Aaron soon found a church, got counseling from the pastor, and months later, married.  Ten years and three children later, they’re grateful that god showed them who he really is – and that only He can be perfect.   

Aaron says, “So ultimately, the thing that He has given me that I most needed is redemption and adoption into His family, and that is huge for me.”

“I have a peace that I didn't have before,” says Emily. “And I know what is true.  I think that because I know that Christ is who he says he is, it makes the rest of the world make sense.”

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