When I began to seriously question my faith, one of the things I struggled with was that the idea of a “guarantee” in life was gone. God had always been my guarantee – “all things work together for good” was a scripture that I clung to often. I always felt like I was special – that I got special treatment because I loved God and let him plan my life for me. I believed he loved me as a daughter and would always take care of me.
Any time I was ever afraid of anything, I fell back on that. From an early age, I was taught that bad things can happen to “other” people but not to us because we believe. For instance, I remember my mom telling my brother and sister and I that God told her none of our family would be harmed by a tornado. So anytime there was a bad storm, I wouldn’t worry. I always depended on the belief that God would protect me and if something bad did happen, he’d give me what I needed to get through it. I lived my entire life believing I was incapable and fragile. Often I would thank God for being there for me, because without him I’d be curled up in a ball on the floor somewhere. I really believed that. I attributed my very sanity to his grace in my life.
So, when I started expecting the “manifestation” of these great things I’d been promised (by the Bible and Christian teachers), the more despondent and disillusioned I became. Bad things DID happen to me and to believers I knew and loved, and it became difficult for me to keep reconciling that with what I believed to be true. If God wasn’t coming through for me on these things, despite my love and devotion and surrender to him – what did that mean? The more I questioned, the more my faith crumbled, and the more I felt like I was losing my grip on my sanity. The only thing I knew to do was to press into God further – to try to learn more about how to connect with him, “renew my mind”, and “trust him despite my circumstances”.
I downloaded teachings about what to do when you experience disappointment - how to keep believing and not get “offended at God”. But ironically that’s what finally pushed me the rest of the way over the edge. The image I’d created of this loving, kind, dad-of-a-god was falling apart. I could no longer reconcile my experience with what I believed. So my only conclusion was that either God wasn’t who I thought he was, or he wasn’t real at all. I had to accept what my mind had been trying to tell me all along – that "God" wasn’t there. As soon as I pondered that idea, the whole spirit-world I’d created began to vanish. I felt panic, followed by a huge sense of relief, followed by more panic and millions of questions.
What I’m realizing now is that all of the instability I’ve experienced throughout my life has actually been caused by my belief in god. I simply wanted him to be as active in my life as the god in the Bible (like the nice god of the New Testament!). I really felt like I knew him, I truly loved him and did experience what I felt was his love for me. But those feelings turned to disappointment so often when my reality didn’t line up with what I believed to be true about him. I lived in this cycle of feeling disappointed and mad at him to repenting and feeling guilty for expecting him to do things “my way”. I lived in a constant whirlwind of depression, trusting god to intervene, feeling disappointed and frustrated, surrendering again, and so on.
Once I got into the whole Charismatic, “experiencing god” thing – I felt better. People would give me words and it was like god was talking to me. They seemed to know things about me only god could know. I recorded and saved every word and would refer back to them when I was discouraged. Sometimes things didn’t make sense or seem to apply to me but that didn’t matter. I was sure I’d understand that stuff later on. Worship for me was my safe haven. I’d get totally lost there and felt like I could stay there forever. In that place, I felt that I could fully believe god really loved me and cared about my life…I felt like he was speaking to me and holding me.
I knew if I could just “live in that reality” all the time, I’d be ok. But I just couldn’t. I thought that was my fault, that I just hadn’t reached a certain level in the spirit yet. I just needed to keep letting god “renew my mind” and change the way I see things. I thought one day I’d live in that “spirit-reality” all the time and that I’d even be able to do supernatural things. After all, that was what the Bible promised. That was what I felt god was speaking to me personally.
But I reached a point where I couldn’t believe anymore…despite the fact that I could look at a person and “prophesy” to them and they’d melt into a puddle on the floor…I could pray for people who claimed to get healed…I could dance and worship and move people to tears…I could hear god’s voice and feel his presence. None of it was doing it for me anymore. The bottom line for me was that what I believed to be true about god and his interaction with people and what I actually experienced (and observed others experience) didn’t line up.
So I had a choice before me. I could either dig deeper into the "spirit" and continue to deny the reality that my mind and my senses observed to be true, or I could question the reality of the spirit dimension. I chose the latter. I chose reason. I chose to follow the evidence. And now, here I am…a non-believer….a free-thinker. I am more free and more at peace than ever. There’s no longer a battle being waged in my mind. The cognitive dissonance is over. The frustration is gone. The pain is gone. I am free to move on with my life, to choose the life that I want. And that life is going to be amazing!