Lost and found
I’m Adira Polite, a 25 year old from Memphis, Tennessee. I am the host of the Then God Moved Podcast and founder of the Then God Moved ministry. I believe I am called to tell stories of Christ redeeming power and I almost always share other people’s stories but today I am going to share mine.
I want people to know that the God of the Bible is the God of today. Also, nothing has changed. Like, He still moves, He still performs miracles and saves people out of crazy situations. He does all the time.
I grew up with a single parent, my parents divorced when I was young and my father lived in South Carolina, so I didn’t know him very well. I also went to an all girls school my entire life from three to 18. So I didn’t know men, I didn’t understand men. I grew up hearing about God all the time. I did not understand the gospel. I could recite the gospel; I could tell you, “Jesus died on the cross for my sins.” If you ask me how that worked, I would say, “I don’t know.” If you ask me anything about it, I would say, “I don’t know.” I could not conceptualize a loving father. I didn’t have that and I didn’t really see that. I didn’t see loving brothers even. I didn’t, I didn’t know what it was to be a loving male. For me, love was always like a feminine thing. So I always had trust issues when it came to men.
And then something I’ve actually never spoken about…
When I was in fifth grade I believe, it’s still kind of hazy, I was spending the night at a family friend’s house. My mom was out of town, she runs a nonprofit and she used to travel to American capital cities all the time. I spent the night at her friend’s house, she’s in her 60s, and her niece, whenever I would spend the night, would always come over and spend the night too. So we would hang out and have like a little sleep over. One time, she started talking about what she was learning at school – She was a year younger than me. – and she essentially pressured me to kiss her. That’s how it started. It was like, “You’re gonna kiss me.” And I was like, “I don’t want to,” like, that’s weird. I really had no idea about anything at this point. I was very, very sheltered. Growing up, I didn’t really understand anything. I didn’t understand that it was wrong. I didn’t think it was right. I just was like, “Okay, I don’t feel comfortable. But I guess…” and I felt like I had to. So you know, that happens and then it escalates and escalates. And it becomes a full on, I would call it a sexual experience. It was not at all pleasurable, I was very confused the entire time. This happened for two nights. The next night, the same thing happened again. And I remember her telling me that she’d learned this from her friend.
And so, you know, as I, years later (and I’ll get into that) I began to realize what that actually was. It’s clear to me that someone along that road was touched by an adult. That’s the only way it makes sense for her to have known what that was. Someone along the way was being molested by an adult. But I did not understand that that was abuse. Even though we’re both young, I didn’t realize that that had affected me and that that was molestation even if it was another child. The years following that, I became very sexually confused. A lot of that also had to do with the fact that I was a black girl in an all white space. I was aggressive, I have a very dominant, kind of aggressive personality, I have a deeper voice, all these things that in this white, all girls, very upper class space, me as a lower, middle class black girl, I felt unfeminine. I didn’t get the attention that I wanted from the white guys in my space, like the white boys in my space wanted, you know, the dainty blonde girl. I was not that. So I found validation as this like, more masculine figure and that’s just not, even now, that’s just not who I am. Like, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a tomboy. But that’s just not even me. I’m more girly, but I took on this kind of like, masculine persona.
Then when I began to hear these identities like, “Oh, you’re bisexual,” “you’re a lesbian,” like, these other identities, I very quickly was like, Oh, like, I can find validation here. There’s a whole community of people who, like me, feel like they’re the odd one out. They feel like, you know, rejected by the opposite sex or whatever. I felt like there was something there for me and of course, looking back, a lot of that was because of that experience with that girl at a young age. I was just very traumatized – I had no idea that I was traumatized and that experience manifested in all sorts of stuff. I had eating disorders, I cut, you know, all the typical signs of sexual abuse. But I had no idea what it was about and I really did think that it was because I loved women. There was an aspect to that, but I thought that it was just, homophobia was the problem, essentially. It was that my culture was oppressive and homophobic and that’s why I was so depressed and anxious and all the time. It wasn’t brokenness inside of me, it was the world.
I went on a retreat, it was like a Christian camp retreat, you know, to the mountains. I remember having an experience there. It was like, they sent us out and they were like, go have your like, go journal, go talk to God. I didn’t really know what that meant. But I remember coming back and just having this overwhelming heat. I guess that is how I would describe it, where I was just like, “God’s real. I know that.” And I, after [that] was saying to myself, I’m done with like, the gay thing, because at this point, I hadn’t really done anything. I hadn’t really explored. But I knew that I was taking on this identity that I was being told was contrary to God’s will for me. So I was like, Okay, I’m done. I’m going to white knuckle it, and do it on my own. Like, I’m just gonna be done with this. And that lasted like a few months or so. And I was like, Well, screw this, like if it’s this or that, this is who I am. If God won’t accept me for “who I am,” then I guess I’m done.
I embraced a bisexual title. I’d always call myself bisexual or queer, you know, for years…girlfriends. I go off to college, I don’t go to church anymore. Once I’m in college, doing my own thing, I thought I was happy. I really did. Like, I think back and it’s actually insane. Like, I was miserable. But if you’d asked me, “Are you happy?” I would say, “Yes.” I was successful. I was popular. I had leadership positions on campus, I was getting all the internships I wanted. I was living the world’s dream life. I was celebrated because I went to school in Maine, where it was totally fine on this liberal campus to be the black queer girl; that got me points. Like I was cool at school.
My sophomore year, I was at a party, there was a girl there who I’d been very into for a long time. There had been a mutual attraction. We both like, knew that the other person was interested. I’m at a party and there’s a poster on the wall. It’s AC/DC’s Highway to Hell. I was staring at this poster and it wasn’t like, I’m on the highway to hell, or I’m in danger, per se, but I just was struck by it. I remember just staring at the poster and being kind of unsettled. I went back to my dorm, I took this girl home with me and I, like, couldn’t do it. Like it felt repulsive. It wasn’t like, ‘this is wrong.’ It was just like, I don’t want this. I really don’t want to be doing this thing. And I still wrestle with that. I don’t know exactly what that was, but to this day, I have no desire for women. Like He took it away. I don’t know if – sometimes I wonder, did I ever? Was it always abuse? Was it always something else? But He took that away. Like there’s so many things I still struggle with, but He just straight up took that away. So it’s very obvious to me, God was regenerating me before. Like, I very much believe that my faith was a response to Him already coming in. I don’t think that I initiated anything.
So the summer of 2016, I can only describe it like God just grabbed me. Like, He grabbed me like, it was like, “Come on.” Because I was not looking. I was doing research on campus that summer, on mass incarceration, because that’s where my heart still is, with those in prison and that’s the work I was doing. I was just reading book after book after book about the history of black criminalization in this country, not thinking about God at all. If anything [I was] kind of like, if God’s real, why would this stuff be happening? I was reading some scholarly work and there was a reference to Revelation that I didn’t understand. I went to go find out what this meant and I just started reading. This was the summer of those three police shootings back to back to back, it was Philando Castile, I honestly can’t remember the names. But there were three police shootings back to back and there was so much tension on campus. There was so much tension, like in my heart, and it was just racial strife and all sorts of stuff. I remember reading Revelation, and I’ve always been somewhat of a conspiracy theorist, so this was very much in character. But I was reading Revelation, and I was like, this is, this is this! I was like, this is happening, like, what I’m seeing in Revelation, the way that society is, the way that everything is unfolding, like the reality of evil, like this is true. But I wasn’t like, okay, the Bible is necessarily true, but I was like something…there’s something to this. So I just started to read casually on my computer, I didn’t even have a Bible. I would read online, on the internet, scripture.
I’ll never forget this one day. I was having a terrible day. My academic advisor had just dropped all of his mentees and I was super stressed out. I was like, oh, my research isn’t going well, blah, blah, blah, blah and I remember saying to my friend, I was like, “Okay, well, hopefully lunch is good.” We go to the dining hall, and it was all of my favorite foods and I quickly talked myself out of it. But it was literally like all my favorite foods, none of which go together. Like it was just like mac and cheese, Caesar salad, like all these things that they never have at the same time and I was like, “Oh my gosh!” Then I went back to my dorm later that day, and I remember I entered my dorm, it was a single room, I entered and it was that same heat, that feeling of just like, God is in this space. I had this overwhelming realization, and it was about the food. It was so small at that point, but it was about the food. I was like, That was God. Like, He loves me. He really does. Like, He actually cares and that just, that shook me. At that point, [I was] like, okay, God’s real, but I was still very much resisting the Bible being true. But I was like, okay, there’s a higher power and He actually does, like they told me when I was a young person, He does care and He does see me, and that started to change things.
The second half of the summer, I spent at the Innocence Project in New York, and I lived with my mom’s really good friend from college, who’s a pastor. I didn’t really know this woman, but this was planned long before and this was obviously God. So I’m living with this pastor. I get to her house in Brooklyn and I asked her if she had a Bible I could borrow, because I’m still reading on the Internet at this point. She gives me like multiple Bibles and stuff and I just started to like, read more and more and more. I started to read the Gospels. She would invite me to church every single Sunday, and I was not interested. I was like, Yeah, I don’t know. I would go out, usually on Friday night, after leaving my internship, leaving the office, I would go out and come home on Sunday, like hanging out all weekend with my friends, partying, whatever. But there was a weird feeling. Like, I knew something was shifting inside me. I couldn’t have fun the way that I used to. I wasn’t having sex and I couldn’t really put my finger on why. I was kind of having an identity crisis; I was like, I don’t have sex with men or women. I don’t know what’s going on with me. But this used to be a huge part of my identity. I was Adira, the president of the Gay Straight Alliance on campus, very out, very publicly like you know, if you disagree with me, I don’t care like, “Screw you!” type person and now I don’t want to have sex, and it feels like there’s a more moral component to it.
My very last Sunday in Brooklyn, I decided to go to church with my aunt. And it’s crazy. I’m literally sitting there, and it’s a guest pastor, and he starts talking about, he starts talking about the lost sheep. He gives us an entire sermon. I was like, kind of paying attention, not really. But he was talking about the lost sheep and at the very end he says, “I know that there’s a lost sheep in this room. Come forward.” And it was the same heat, like the same crazy thickness. It was like, it was humid in the church to me and I knew he was talking to me. I thought it was just a casual like altar call. I could just kind of ignore it. But he was like, “We’re waiting.” Like, he was like, “I know you’re in here. We’re waiting.” And I was like, sweating and I was like, I’m not going up. That’s embarrassing. But the Holy Spirit moves, like I felt myself get up and go, and I was crying my eyes out. That is just when it all became very, like I knew He’d been chasing me for that whole summer. But that’s when it was like, I have no choice but to respond, like it’s just happening. It’s just, this is what’s happening. From then on everything shifted.
That same day the Holy Spirit said to me – because that’s when I started to really hear Him, like clearly – Holy Spirit told me to reach out to a girl named Amanda at my school, who I knew of…I knew who she was, but that seemed really weird to me. I was like, I don’t, she’s gonna think I’m crazy. But I messaged her, and I was like, “Hey, I just became a Christian, like God told me to reach out to you.” She thought that I was pranking her. She’s now one of my best friends. But she thought that I was pranking her because she knew I was, she knew what I was about on campus. She was like, “Why…like, you’re a Christian?” And it turns out, she’s one of the leaders of the Christian Fellowship. So when I got back to campus, I was like, immediately plugged in to community and, you know, God knew what He was doing.
I also wrote an article for my school paper called Coming out Christian. I didn’t say anything, – I can send you the link. – I didn’t say anything in the article about sexuality. I alluded to darkness and then titled it “Coming out Christian” and thought that I was slick. So everyone knew obviously what I was saying. But I was really, really, really, really terrified to speak about it because I knew how it sounded. Because the things that I was saying, the things coming out of my mouth were things that I’d heard growing up, that when you don’t have the Holy Spirit, it sounds just stupid. I was like, I know I sound dumb. I know I sound bigoted. I know I sound brainwashed. I knew how I sounded to them because I was them a few months ago. When I came to faith I became aware of a spiritual war, essentially, is what it was. I was like, oh, there’s a spiritual battle happening. What I thought was just guilt or internalized homophobia – because that’s what you’ll be told it is – it’s internalized homophobia. It’s not that there’s something written on your heart, it’s that you’ve internalized what society has told you. When I realized there was a spiritual war, it made so much more sense. I was like, oh, there’s an actual fight for my soul going on. And that’s, that’s what’s going on here. It’s just very, very clear to me what’s happening right now in the world.
There’s a huge revival happening in the queer community. There are just people flooding out of the community and meeting Jesus. There’s an organization called Freedom March, and they do marches around the world of people who have been freed from homosexuality. It ranges in story from, ‘it’s a battle for me every day,’ and ‘I’m like struggling all the time, I’m sinning all the time, I’m falling into it all the time, but I love Jesus and I know Jesus has got me and I’m being sanctified’ to people who’ve been out and have lost the desire and have been, you know, just, walking in freedom for decades and people in the middle who are, you know, struggling, but by the grace of God resisting and living their life in Christ. The idea of identity in Christ is just so radical in comparison to what the world tells you about who you are and that’s still something I’m trying to…There are a lot of things that I’m trying to shed because it’s, that’s a very obvious identity, like you’re told you’re gay, that’s who you are. That’s your personhood. But there’s so many other subtler identities that I agree to. There’s so many word pacts that I made, whether it’s related to, you know, race, or where I come from, or whatever. Like, you’re being told who you are, based on these worldly things, not Christ.
I wake up every day with just genuine joy, even when things are really crappy. It’s like, I know I have a mission. Like, it’s an adventure. Life is an adventure now and God is revealing Himself to me. And the friends that come into my life aren’t friends out of convenience, or circumstance or trauma bonding. Which is what a lot of relationships in the queer community are, trauma bonding. It’s, We’ve both been through these awful, awful things, and we understand each other. But now it’s, Yeah, I’ve been through some awful stuff and I’m walking it out with Jesus and so are you. That’s a whole nother level of friendship. It’s like a whole nother level of intimacy. So it’s just, when I look back, I’m like, I thought I was happy because I was popular and successful and stuff, but I had no idea that there was this type of happiness, this type of, it’s not circumstantial. Whatever happens, there’s still joy available and that’s not available outside Christ.