I left my last non-denominational Christian church more than 15 years ago, after trying to be the “perfect Christian” for almost 20 years, but my journey of being in a love/hate relationship with God started in 2001. I had been married 362 days before and had just left my emotionally and physically abusive husband. I hadn't yet been hit but had been hurt in other ways and knew, the night before, that if I didn't leave, I would be hit soon. I had married this man, after a whirlwind dating experience, 8 months after we had met. I was 29, a month shy of 30, when we married, and I was sure that God had hand-picked him out just for me.
I was "born again" at 16, right around the time that Love Waits was touring the country. I made a decision at one of those rallies to wait until I was married to have sex. I had fulfilled that promise to God and had waited the almost 30 years I mentioned earlier by the time we married. I was also incredibly involved in church – had led the junior high youth group, hosted bible studies, was on the worship team, played music with other women on the worship team at retreats... I was IN, 100% IN.
I met my, now, ex-husband on December 31, 1999 and danced with him well into January 1, 2000. The song "It's the End of the World (As We Know It)" played at midnight and the thought that ran through my mind was that it really wasn't ever going to be the same. I was right; I just had no idea the trajectory it would ultimately have. Of course, I later attributed that thought to God telling me he brought this man into my life. We had an instant familiarity because he was friends with my pastor's stepdaughter and her husband. The two men had been friends since they were 10 so I decided that meant he must be a good guy to still be friends after all of these years. I didn't see any of the red flags because I was so certain this was "of God".
Fast forward 362 days. I had left my husband and was sitting with a very good friend from my church when her husband came home. I’m not even sure if he greeted me, but the exact words he said within about a minute of his arrival were that I was "spitting on the cross of Christ" for leaving my husband. No one knew of, or bothered to ask about, the abuses, of the assault that had shattered me, of the affair, or of the child pornography I had found. No one heard him screaming at me and then throwing up, because he had become so worked up, while I laid in bed. No one else had wondered that night if or when the cops might show up because a neighbor called 911. But apparently the only thing that mattered was that I had "spit on the cross of Christ" by leaving. In that moment and in the weeks to follow, I not only lost the dream of the perfect marriage, I had now also lost my all of friends (who sided with this man who was a church deacon), and my church home of seven years. I didn’t know it then but that was the beginning of the end of my relationship with God.
I attended a new church, in a new town, after my marriage fell apart. I was there for about 3 years when that also fell apart because a new building changed the focus from people to money. The pastor’s mantra became about giving more money and then saying, "If you don't like it, you can leave, and 10 others will come in your place." I didn't like it, I didn't like the in-fighting, I didn't like being devalued week after week after giving so much of myself, and I didn't let the door hit me on the ass on the way out. I had friends tell me not to stay away too long - that I needed to be back among believers, but I never really made it back. I was disillusioned, heartbroken, lacked any trust in church leaders, and couldn't understand why God would allow any of that. Where was he??
Not too many years later, I moved to Washington, DC to work for a 3-letter agency, on a child exploitation task force and saw the absolute worst of humanity on a daily basis. I worked with an amazing team of people which made the work bearable but if something will make you ask questions about a "good, loving God", it's watching kids being abused in videos and pictures. The other things that contributed to my questioning a "good, loving God", was that, while I was in DC, I ended up losing my house in the collapse of the housing market, which caused me to go bankrupt, and in the same week, found out the man I had been in love with for four years, was married. So, where was God? I thought he had plans for me, promises for me:
"plans for good and not for disaster, to give (me) a future and a hope"
"all you who are weary and burdened, come to me and I will give you rest"
"all who listen to me will live in peace, untroubled by fear of harm"
"whatever you ask in my name, this I will do"
"if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'move from here to there,' and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you."
But none of those things actually happened. Since that time, I have been what my best friend calls, an angry agnostic. I have been so mad at God and at the people that were supposed to represent him, that even the mention of someone praying for someone or hearing a song that sounds “Christian” has made me angry. But on the other hand, I haven’t been able to say that there is no God. I just keep asking, “whose God? What makes the Christian God THE God”? But then two weeks ago, when talking with that same friend, I made an off-handed remark about there being no god and it was the first time I didn’t feel any guilt, no trepidation, no worry of being struck down, no fear of being wrong.
I don’t yet have an ending for this… I am just now processing it. I don’t know where I will land on any of this, but I do know that being angry hasn’t helped for the last dozen-plus years so I have let that go (with the help of an amazing therapist) and am now on a quest to figure out what faith means for me, if anything at all.