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There Is Something There...


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There is something there…

 

I used to believe that I knew what it was – and that everything I needed to know was wedged between leather covers. I worked full time as a youth minister at a large SBC church after getting my college degree at a conservative SBC school. And I could have told you everything you needed to know about God – and if you didn’t listen, you were simply blind and illogical.

 

I believed that all you really needed was God. I would tell the people that I counseled that – my youth, their parents, random church members who found my basement office with trendy band posters, a leather couch and a large bean bag comfortable. I would weave it into the messages that I preached – on Wednesday, the rare Sunday when the congregation begged for something “hip” and during my side job where I was flown around – almost rock-star-like – to different cities to speak at conventions and other large events.

 

I can remember meeting every challenge my youth came to me with, from temptations to drink to rape (yes *sigh* I even dealt with one of my kids’ rape with the same, dumb-ass answers) with “God is enough! Just go to him!”

 

When anyone came back, reporting failure (even the girl who was raped) I wondered if maybe I wasn’t reaching them – maybe I wasn’t building their faith like I should. Why did they doubt???

 

But then…

 

I needed God…

 

I really hadn’t before. I was pretty bright and a hell of a speaker. Opportunity came my way constantly. Sure there were tough times – and going through college married meant learning to live with little – but I always found a way to make ends meet. I was pretty self-sufficient. God could use his miracles elsewhere, thank you very much…

 

Until I was faced with divorce…

 

Then – I cried out to God. I begged him to step in and stop it – to keep the wicked current from destroying my family.

 

Nothing…

 

The divorce happened and my kids were moved away from me.

 

Then I begged God to help me be close to my kids. I begged him to give me one of those miracles that I hadn’t needed before. Just one open door – just one opportunity – just a crack, a crumb…

 

Nothing…

 

I lost my career, my wife, my kids, and was dumped into financial ruin…

 

But I pressed forward – looking for God within it all. And he never showed his face.

 

I held on as long as I could – trying everything I knew to connect to him, this Abba of mine, but this God I’d never asked anything from was as silent and cold as a dead body.

 

Of course, the church shunned me – and I was amazed at the stories I had heard about the reasons for my divorce. It came down to a guy who worked far too hard to please God and a wife who didn’t share his “vision” – but to hear the church tell it, I was an amazingly evil person. The church loves scandal and I had become a fairly easy target…

 

But I didn’t need the church – after all “God was enough!”

 

So for a few years, I begged him – chased him – made clever guesses about his silence – and refused to doubt him…

 

Then – I gave up.

 

I just decided to do it on my own. And you know what? Things happened! My career turned around (not the way I would like it yet, but heading there), I am happily (way happily) remarried, my kids and I have built a great relationship (including my daughter who was literally estranged from me for a couple of years – now we are best friends). Life is good.

 

And not only is life good – I am living it! I am doing things that I want to do, without guilt or shame – and without apology. I am having fun and doing things that I would have never thought about doing before.

 

And – still – God is silent.

 

God was an excuse to wallow in pity for a while – nothing more. He was the belly of the Buddha – the four leaf clover – the great quack physician. There was nothing coming from him – because he was not there. “God is enough!”? No – God is not even listening.

 

It amazed me that my life could be better after God, than it was with him. I reasoned that this is because I was no longer using him as an excuse for my failure. “It wasn’t God’s plan.” “God must have something better for me!” Bullshit excuses from a guy who can do whatever he puts his mind to – as long as he stops putting it in neutral while he waits for Heavenly Santa…

 

I was sitting on a canyon floor on Last Chance Ridge in Death Valley recently. I was on a four day vision quest. It was hot and I was fasting for four days. I realized that I had become a hippy.

 

I also realized that if I meant anything to God – if my years of ministry were something that meant anything – if my soul were precious to him – this was the time when he could have made some impression on me. I was open – I was searching – I was eager. I no longer needed anything from him, so I didn’t need a miracle. I would have taken even an impression – a conviction – something…

 

I did feel something.

 

In the quiet of that canyon, I had no doubt that there was an energy, primitive and powerful – something that I could connect with. But I had no impression that it cared about me – anymore than a river cares that I am standing in the middle of it. If was bit by a snake or fell from one of my climbs, that was just the circle of life at its finest. Tapping into it was good – animalistic – healthy – but not necessary. I could pray to it, but it would not hear me. I could worship it, but it would not be moved. I could live my life sinless, and it would not be impressed.

 

Then again – I was in the hot sun without food and totally isolated for four days…

 

I came home, realized that my experiences made sense in a pagan way, so I started studying that. I believe now that religion is simply a way to “document” what you experience. It is nothing more – not universal truth, not provable fact, not even necessarily an experience anyone else can have.

 

But what it is not is a God who needs me to do something to complete him. It is not a God with insecurity issues and a weak spine. He is not the God of the Phelps, the Falwells or the Dobsons. He does not “save” nor does he need to. And it exists regardless of how we define it, experience it, name it. In fact, it isn’t even aware or interested if we are doing those things… We are just another part of a greater tapestry that it is nothing more than a part of.

 

Rejecting Christianity was the greatest thing I have ever done. I do not regret it, I am not miserable, and I do not fear for my soul. I feel more complete, more authentic and more loving.

 

I don’t hate Christians. In fact, I moderate another message board (for swingers) where I still defend the surprisingly high number of Christians who go there asking for advice on reconciling their faith with their choices. (You’d be amazed how easily one can reconcile that with the Bible). I just wish they could see it for what it is – and see how limiting it is. And I wish they didn’t have to live in fear and loathing…

 

Okay – I have no idea why I am so intimidated writing this. I actually tend to be pretty funny on-line and this reads so “soft”. I am not terribly pleased with my “testimony”, but I’ll post it anyway. If nothing else, it is honest.

 

I think part of the problem is I really respect a lot of the people who post here. I been impressed with the depth of scholarship and debate. I won’t be impressing you guys in the same way, I’m afraid. But I will jump in where I can.

 

Thanks for having a place like this available.

 

Spoomonkey

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Well, I am certainly impressed with your glorious testimony, and I enjoyed reading your post. Life can indeed be good after God! Glory!

 

I know what you mean about God being silent. Oh, I thought that I heard him sometimes when I prayed. I was one of those hand-raisin', tongue-talkin', pew-jumpin', praise-shoutin' Charismatic Christians. The emotions would be flowing while I was praying and worshiping alone in my apartment (the neighbors must have thought I was crazy!) and I would sometimes hear God "speaking to my spirit" things that I needed to hear. Now, of course, I know it was all just me. The power of belief is an amazing thing, though. It can make you become convinced that the most outrageous and improbable things are really true.

 

God got me jobs, too. When I was unemployed, I would pray and ask God to give me favor with employers and give me a job. Then I would go out and apply for jobs, interview well, and usually soon find a job. Oh, that was just me, too. I did all the work and made things happen!

 

I happen to have Bipolar Disorder. For years before I was finally diagnosed at age 32, I would ask God to fix whatever was wrong with me. I was "slain in the spirit" many times and I was told that God was doing "spiritual surgery" on me. All I ever got out of those experiences were some nice religious highs. Religion can be a great drug! Glory! But no miraculous healing...now I'm glad that those days of religious ignorance and insanity are over!

 

I don't hate Christians either. I hate a lot of what they think and do, but there's not many of them that I hate personally.

 

Thanks for sharing your story, and welcome to the site! Glory!

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I think it is an excellent post. I think it would have lost all its impact if you had added funny bits, just to be funny. Your sincereity came through, and that is what counts.

 

Oh, yeah, and welcome to the boards.

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Spoomonkey, your post is great. Thanks for posting it. It was like reading a storybook.

 

Because of my own serious problem in getting real answers from pastors and other church leaders I really love stories like this. It helps me better understand their empty promises and unhelpful advice. It helps confirm that it was not me asking illegitimate questions so much as it was religion not having real answers.

 

Like you, I feel so much better now that I am out of religion. It has seemed that for every step I take further away from god, I feel another notch better. The icing on the cake of your story is that you got remarried--to the same woman, I understand? Wonderful!

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When I read appoligists that argue that xianity gives hope, despite its truth or non truth, I think I will just refer them to your testimony. False hope is a bitter pill.

 

Welcome to the forum SM

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The icing on the cake of your story is that you got remarried--to the same woman, I understand? Wonderful!

 

Actually, I am not married to the same woman. However, my ex and I have recently become pretty good friends and have been working very well as co-parents of our kids. It has made all the difference in the world. She is also very happily married to someone else.

 

We were married very young and because of pregnancy. We did our best to keep it together, believing divorce to be a horrible sin. But, in hindsight, I think we can both say that sometimes realizing that a marriage is hopeless can open the doors to finding the person you were meant to be with. It is funny - as long as we held on to our faith, we weren't able to fully see the gift we'd been given in our freedom.

 

We are better off without each other - some people just bring the worst out of each other - and, oddly, we are actually better together, now that we are apart - if that makes sense.

 

Thanks for the encouragement and the kind words, RubySierra! And also to the rest of you. It is good to know my fears about posting my testimony - something I put off for a few weeks after joining - were not warranted.

 

Spoomonkey

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The icing on the cake of your story is that you got remarried--to the same woman, I understand? Wonderful!

 

Actually, I am not married to the same woman.

 

I see. The important thing is that everyone seems happy with the way things are now. I am always glad when I see parents co-parenting respectfully even if they are no longer married to each other. I think there must be nothing worse for children than having parents tell them what a horrible person their other parent is.

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In the quiet of that canyon, I had no doubt that there was an energy, primitive and powerful – something that I could connect with. But I had no impression that it cared about me – anymore than a river cares that I am standing in the middle of it. If was bit by a snake or fell from one of my climbs, that was just the circle of life at its finest. Tapping into it was good – animalistic – healthy – but not necessary. I could pray to it, but it would not hear me. I could worship it, but it would not be moved. I could live my life sinless, and it would not be impressed.

 

Beautiful. That just says it all.

 

Welcome! I'm glad you found this place. :)

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You must have been quite a minister because you sure do have a way with words. I loved your story and am glad that you have chosen to bring peace and happiness into your own life rather than waithing around for an answer from Big Brother God. I really look forward to hearing your commentary on the topics in the forum.

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When I read appoligists that argue that xianity gives hope, despite its truth or non truth, I think I will just refer them to your testimony. False hope is a bitter pill.

 

Well-said :)

 

And welcome, Spoonmonkey! :wave:

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