I suppose it would be wise to establish just exactly where I stand before I begin chronically my journey through doubt. To do this we must go back to the very beginning; to the point at which I was first exposed to the Christian faith, no still further than that....to the family I was born into.
Both my parents were brought up in active Christian households, their lives heavily influenced by the Protestant Church and the Bible. They attended Church religiously, participated in Bible studies and summer Bible school, and were active within the community. Both of their fathers (my grandfathers) were highly involved in preaching and teaching, invited to give the message at services and meetings despite the fact that neither of them were officially ordained.
While my mother's family were content to live their lives within the confines of their home country (firstly England and then, later, Scotland) my dad's parents were both missionaries, travelling out to South Africa when my father was still young. During their time there my Grandfather ran a clinic, often providing free healthcare to those too poor to pay, while my Gran founded and ran first a Christian primary school and then an equally Christian secondary school, before finally planting a Church. They were held up as the paragons of their community, a Godly couple well loved and respected by everyone it seems.
My parents met and courted through the Church, attending conferences and Bible studies together. They were married before God, in their own Church, my mother's uncle (an actual minister) officiating over the ceremony.
Two and a half years later, on June 16th 1987, I was born and named Susanna (Luke 8:3). My brother came along three years later and we were both dedicated to the Lord, my parents vowing to raise us in the Church to know Jesus. As a family we attended a local Baptist Church faithfully every Sunday, our holidays consisting of Bible camps and clubs, our free time devoted to Bible studies and various Christian musicals that the Church would put on. We grew up on Bible stories, blessed every meal we sat down to eat and had a nightly family devotional time which ended in prayer. Our home was a place of warmth and safety where not only did we know that we were loved by our parents, but that the Almighty Creator of all the world loved us also.
Of course there came a point when I began to question what I had been taught, when my easy faith was challenged by the circumstances that life throws at all of us. My High School years (12-18) mark a very difficult period in my life, a period that even now is uncomfortable to recall. Without going into too much detail, in those six years - my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent all the treatment that goes with it (surgery, radio and chemotherapy), my brother began to have epileptic fits for no discernible reason, I was bullied and shunned by the majority of my peers and this (combined with the situation at home and my unwillingness to burden anyone with my troubles) drove me into a deep and dark depression.
I rebelled against God, withdrawing from my Church and my belief. I shut down and in the midst of it all stumbled blindly into a romantic relationship with someone that did not treat me well. To make matters worse, my Christian grandfather took a strong dislike toward me for a reason I still have yet to fathom and seemed to make it his mission to verbally and emotionally abuse me whenever he got the chance. The lack of support from my church 'family' and the absence (perceived or literal) of my biological family left me in a very bad place.
Eventually my Mum became aware of just how much I was struggling (something that I had deliberately hidden from her) and so began the process of healing. I was pulled from school and put into treatment. For a year and a half I did my school work at home, some how managing to pass my exams with reasonable grades, as I fought to piece my life back together again. In the midst of all that mess, struggling to make sense of who I was and what I had experienced, a number of influential people stepped into my life.
Writing became an outlet for me, a way to put my thoughts and feelings into words, and it provided me with a voice that I had been lacking for some time. I began to keep an online diary (I'm not sure they were called blogs at that point, I don't recall) and, behind the veil of anonymity, I was able to finally say just exactly what I was thinking and feeling. One day a Christian man named Doug commented on one of my entries, sympathising with my experiences and reassuring me that I was loved by God. He gave me his email address and said that if I ever wanted to talk that he was willing to listen.
We struck up a friendship, though thousands of miles separated us. He reassured me that God had a plan for my life, a means through which to work all that I had experienced for good. Pointing me toward books such as 'The Bondage Breaker' by Neil T. Anderson, and showing me who I was in Christ. I was a new person, set apart for and by God, loved by the Creator of our beautiful and awe-inspiring world. Jesus had suffered and perished for me, God made flesh, so that I might have a personal and lasting relationship with Him.
We met a year into our email conversations and as our friendship grew I spent summers with his family, went to Bible camps and got involved in his Church. I made lasting friendships and for the first time in my life made a personal commitment to Jesus and accepted Him into my heart and life on the 30th of May 2004. This was a choice, a conscious decision to live my life for God. I threw myself into Christian literature and studied the Bible. Having tasted America's brand of Christianity and having felt embraced and accepted by the Church I had attended there on my summer visits, I found an evangelistic and rather charismatic Church in my home city planted by a group of Americans.
And there I grew in the Faith. I made connections and developed a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. I healed and I grew.
Of course that can't be the end of the story, because here I am in 2014 on a forum for the de-converting or de-converted Christian.
In 2009 Doug passed away from cancer, despite hundreds of people praying and believing for his miraculous healing. I didn't understand, why hadn't God done anything? Surely such a good, kind and gentle man deserved healing, surely such a devoted and faithful Christian was worthy of God's healing touch? Despite my doubts and confusion, I came to the conclusion that it was simply His will and tried to take what joy I could in the fact that Doug was now free of pain and with the God he loved so much.
Six months later, still reeling from that loss, my Mum was diagnosed with a second cancer, entirely unrelated to the first (a fact that doctors told us was incredibly unlucky). Knowing the drill, as a family we grit our teeth and battled through the months of treatment - surgery, radio and chemotherapy. We believed that she was going to make it through with the all clear, just as she had done the first time. We reached out, told friends and family her situation, requesting her prayers. I don't think it is an over-estimation to say that we had five separate congregations praying for her, as well as friends and family scattered around the world.
Mum finished her treatment and the doctor's gave her the all clear! It was wonderful, a blessing, answered prayer.
Three weeks later Mum was rushed to hospital with intense pain in her abdomen. After various scans we were given the bad news; the cancer had spread, there was nothing they could do. I can't put into words how you react to that kind of news, how it is possible to feel both emotionally numb and raw at the same time. With determination we renewed our prayers with intensity, God had the power to heal, He could heal...surely He would heal.
Despite her faith, the family's faith, the faith of all those congregations scattered across the world she passed away. On the 1st of November 2010 I sat by my Mum's bedside and held her hand as she slipped away.
And God was silent.
I'm not sure if this was interesting to anyone, I applaud your fortitude if you made it all the way through that. Half-way through writing I realised that this was probably more of a personal exercise than a desire to tell the 'world' my story. It was an opportunity to take stock, to ask the question 'how did I get here?'
And, with that done, now the journey can continue....