This was originally something I posted in the forums, but I thought I'd divide it up into 3 or 4 blog posts in case anyone missed it. These are journal entries I wrote while in the middle of my deconversion process. It's my hope that it helps someone out there who is struggling with their faith as I was. If that's you, just know that it does get better. It's normal to doubt and to question. The intense sadness I experienced while writing these things was there because of my faith, not in spite of it. The mental gymnastics of trying to cling to my belief system actually caused my depression and anxiety. Since I let go and embraced a more rational and free-thinking mindset, I am so much more at peace!
September 10, 2011
My whole life, I have been about solutions. When someone tells me something is wrong, I don’t just say “Aw sorry about that.” I would think about it, I’d try to find an answer. I’d hear God for them and show them that He understood and knew them in their place of pain. But I feel like that’s all been drained out of me now. I honestly don’t know if any of it is really real. Does He know us in our pain? Did Jesus suffer to free us from that? Then why is the remedy for our suffering so illusive? Why all the “mystery”? Why the difficult journey to get from here to there? Why all the complication? Is the Christian life really about living in a community of believers where we keep telling each other how things will be better in the future? Do we just keep living these lives, going through struggles and pain that is somewhat lessened by getting together and singing and telling each other God cares and it’ll be better one day? Is life really just this odyssey of going from one spiritual life lesson to another?
I’m not encouraged by any of the spiritual rhetoric anymore…I’m just not. I didn’t plan it this way, I didn’t decide to get off the spirit-train. I just got pushed off somehow and now none of it makes sense to me anymore. Is that because I’m not seeing the “true reality”? Am I deceived? Or are they?
It’s not like I haven’t had my fair share of “God encounters”. For a long time I felt like that’s all I had to keep me going. And maybe it was – maybe it was all real and I really was feeling God’s presence and hearing His voice. I guess I am just at the point now where hoping for some passing sensation or some person to come along and tell me God talked to them about me just isn’t enough. Sitting and reading a book written by someone who went through hell and feels like God rescued them isn’t enough. Listening to someone teach about the proof of God in science isn’t enough. Listening to preachers teach about God’s goodness isn’t enough. Even reading the Bible isn’t enough. Having “alone time with God” isn’t enough. “Soaking in His presence” isn’t enough. Dancing and worshipping isn’t enough. Being with other Christians, talking about our lives isn’t enough. Hanging out for fun isn’t enough.
I know it may seem irreverent and even blasphemous to say some of these things…maybe it is, I don’t know. But it IS honest. And I have to believe I am not the only who feels this way. I guess that is the thing…I know there are SO many Christians out there who’ve been through the same process I have and have ended up the same place. And yet there are others who seem to have won the spiritual lottery ticket to heaven on earth. They are happy and optimistic about their lives, they claim to see miracles and to have “victory”. Is that because they work harder at it than the rest of us? Or did God give them some magical open window into the spirit world?
The thing is, I really thought I was one of those people for a period of time. I thought I could see in the spirit in a way others couldn’t. I had people prophesy to me about my life and my ministry – that God would use me to heal people and encourage them. They “saw” me speaking, dancing, travelling, creating works of art, and seeing miracles as a result. That was enough to keep me going for a long time. When I’d get discouraged, I’d go back to those words….I figured if that was in my future then somehow the pain I was experiencing had to end. I believed all that I needed and so desperately longed for was in my future. Future…that was where all the good stuff was. If I could just hold on. For a long time I was pretty patient. The pain of my present circumstance was bearable because I believed my rescuer was going to come through.
But over the course of several years I had a series spiritual experiences. Each time I was sure my day of rescue had come. But each time left me more confused and discouraged than the one before. It was like being lost at sea and finally seeing that rescue boat. The captain waves and says, “Don’t worry! I’m here!” You are so relieved, finally you will be saved. But then the captain sails away. What lesson was I supposed to take by these events? Was I supposed to be encouraged simply by the fact that the captain and the rescue boat existed, and maybe they’d come back?
Then I started to learn that there were lots of methods for what to do and how to respond when you haven’t yet been rescued. First, it’s all about perception. You’re not reallylost at sea. It just feels like you are. But you can't trust your feelings. So the key is believing you aren’t being engulfed by waves of pain and despair, even though that’s how you feel. See, feelings aren’t real, they’re just an illusion. What’s real is the captain and the rescue boat. And when you can finally believe that, then maybe he’ll come throw you a lifeline.
Or maybe what you need to do is just start swimming. Yes, fight for your freedom! Don’t give in to how you feel, just live as though the rescue boat has already arrived! Oh you’re too tired to swim? Well don’t worry – it’s all about rest. Just lay back and float. The captain is there with you, even though you can’t see him and you feel like you will go under. Just relax! You’re still drowning and getting impatient? Well, remember that the captain doesn’t always rescue the way you think he will. He has lots of different ways of saving people, you know. He might send a hot air balloon or maybe a mermaid will come along! Don’t limit the captain!
Yeah I know, this sounds so harsh and cynical. I know that people who teach things like this have the best of intentions. Hey, I’ve even been the one telling people this stuff at one time or another. And honestly I can’t even say it’s all untrue. I really don’t even know right now, hence all of this rambling and venting. But what I do know is that most of what Christians call “encouragement” and “inspiration”, are not actually helping those who are in the darkest of places.
By the way I’m writing, it makes it sound as though my spiritual journey has been all about trying to find what “works” – and maybe on some level it has been. But I can honestly say that I have experienced what I felt was a real relationship with God where I felt like I knew who He was, and maybe even who I was. I’ve had times where I felt safe in His arms. But somehow I have misplaced that bit of my connection with Him. And I will say, with utter vulnerability, that at times I wonder if He and His “kingdom” are real at all. How does a person hurt inside and see others hurting and not lose hope and faith? I want to be a person like that, but it appears that I am not. I do lose hope and faith…and at this point of my life I feel they have slipped completely from my grasp. I am not at the point of despairing for my life. But I am in despair. I am disillusioned…that is what I am.
The definition for “disillusioned” is: having lost one's ideals, illusions, or false ideas about someone or something; disenchanted
Yep, I’d say that description fits.
I’m not sure I believe anymore that God rescues people out of pain. I know, “God doesn’t always work the way we think He will”. But what if the way I “think He will” is what the Bible says? Why is it that when I create an expectation of God based on what the Bible says about Him, and then that doesn’t happen, I feel I am somehow wrong for being upset and saddened by it? I heard a minister on TV say recently, “God doesn’t change, so YOU are the only variable.” What he meant by that was that when our prayer doesn't get answered, it’s not God’s fault – so the problem has to be on our end. So what am I doing wrong? I’ve loved, I’ve trusted, I've surrendered, I’ve given, I’ve spoken what I felt were His words to the hurting and broken. And yet I am still broken. I have wounds that won’t heal…no matter how much I ask Him to heal them or try to heal them myself…they do not heal.
I was born with the ability (I can’t seem to call it a “gift” at the moment) to see and at times even feel the pain of others. What a cruel joke to play. Why would I have this ability and yet not be able to bring healing to all of those who’s pain I can perceive? For a long time I found hope in the idea that one day that’s what I’d do – that somehow I’d break free of my own pain and sickness and I’d find this “place in God” where I’d bring healing to all of those who are sick. I’d be rescued and then I’d get to be the rescuer for others. “Well…” some would say, “…that’s a pretty lofty goal. Some people do get healed, but no one can claim to be able to heal all who are sick and oppressed.” But see, there goes the Bible again, raising my expectations. It says that Jesus healed ALL and Jesus told His followers to go and do what He did and MORE.
And yet this “reality” doesn’t seem to exist. There are people who claim all of these miracles and healings in their ministries. But there’s ALWAYS someone who gets passed over. And many times that someone is the minister or someone in his or her family! That’s what I can’t shake. I can’t shake the fact that even if all this great stuff is really happening (and honestly right now I don’t know if it is),it doesn’t happen for everyone. So what that says to me is that it’s all just a crapshoot – that I might be the one it doesn’t happen for. That is how I feel…like the one who is continually passed over. I know, that sounds so melodramatic. And maybe it is.
But, guess what? I’m not the only one who feels this way. I’ve been to enough Christian conferences and “revival meetings” to know that not everyone gets that touch they go there searching for. I’ve seen the desperate, hurting people…the ones with no hair and bandanas covering their bald heads…the ones who’s eyes are filled with sadness…I see them. I amthem. They go hopeful and expecting a miracle and they leave worse off than before. At least before they could find a way to cope, at least before they hadn’t visualized what life would be like when they were well. At least before they didn’t let themselves think about being an active and happy person. But then they had to go and hope…they had someone tell them that if they just trusted God He’d heal them, He’d set the captive free. They stood and watched as others “got their miracle”. They waited…maybe they even had some sweet person minister to them…maybe, if they were lucky, they even felt a tingle or some warmth in their body. But they went home sick and feeling foolish, hurt and maybe even bitter.
That is me. I am that girl. I’m the one who, time and again, thought “this is it”. I felt the goose bumps. I heard the words that seemed to shoot like a holy dagger right through me. I felt the sensation of a supernatural force ripping things right out of my body, I felt the weight of God’s presence so strong I couldn’t stand. And yet I am still here, still sick, still depressed. And worse than that, I can now add to that confused and disillusioned.