This is a complex and heartbreaking thing for me to write about. But, I need to do it for myself. I was a Christian for nearly 10 years of my life. And a devout one at that. I would be lying if I said that the reasons for my new worldview are completely based in fact and logic. While of course some of the reasons are intellectual, the vast majority of them stem from a place of deeply desperate hurt.
I told someone I wasn’t a Christian anymore for the first time this past week, and I had to stand my ground. I realized though, that I have never fully explained it to myself. So, here I am. Practicing this writing thing. These words will probably never see daylight because I don’t want to give Christianity a bad name. I don’t want to be the one responsible for causing doubt in anyone. But, if Christians are really so threatened by the ideas and thoughts of others, then maybe their faith is a little more fragile than they let on.
I guess this all started long before any of the hurts happened. Before I converted to Christianity, I was an agnostic. I believed there was a God, but I also believed there was room for me to be wrong. And I didn’t really think too hard about this God. I figured He was a good guy who made some amazing things, and who would leave me alone for the most part, except for when I needed help. In that case, I figured He would help me or He wouldn’t, no biggie. It was the un-examined view of a child.
Fast-forward a lot to three-ish years ago. I had been a Christian for 7 or 8 years after converting at 14. And I was beginning to struggle. More like, I had questions. Deeply spiritual questions like “Am I willing to suffer for Christ?” “Am I willing to go anywhere for Christ?” and “Am I willing to die for Christ?” I had reached the point where I wanted more out of my faith. And I knew that in order to have that “more”, I would also have to demand a lot more out of myself.
My aim was to get to the point where I could answer a big, fat, enthusiastic, “YES!” to all three of those questions. In my mind, even still, answering yes to those three questions is what separates the true followers from the fakers. I didn’t want to be a faker. I didn’t want to call myself by the name of the Messiah in my privilege; while countless other real Christians gave their very lives for that name every day all around the world.
So, I began to take the steps necessary to try and grow spiritually. Unfortunately, my plan got MASSIVELY derailed. It started with my first ever true-blue heartbreak. I loved and cared for someone very truly and very deeply, and that person left me flat on my back literally overnight. One day they were there, the next day they were not. Ghosted.
All that ensued after that did nothing but add insult to injury. I was always taught that when you are a Christian, you have a forever family with the Church. I was taught that when one mourns, we all mourn. When one celebrates, we all celebrate. I had friends who I considered to be my “triple-braided cord”- so strong it could not break. Never, ever did I imagine that it would in fact, break. Two months after being ghosted. My friends, for various reasons, many of which were out of their control, became very distant from me. The lifeline of community that I had relied on for so long finally snapped as I pulled vigorously on the rope trying to keep my head above water.
The message that I got during this time was not one of unity or of compassion. All of a sudden, our sadness could not be shared. Our mourning could not be hand-in-hand. All of a sudden, I was not wanted nor was I needed. All of a sudden, I was called an idolater for my grief. “You should never love someone that much, only God deserves that love from you”. “You are selfish”. “You should let God fill your loneliness”. And I went along with all of these things said to me.
I truly believed that I was a bad person for loving someone, for wanting community, for reaching out to my friends, for being so heartbroken, and for not knowing how to reach God in a true and meaningful way. For all of those things, I was called sinner. I was called idol worshiper. I was called unwanted.
Even so, I did what I knew how to do. I prayed. I sang. I read the scriptures and did the devotionals. I tried a new church. But, all of these things were no match for the pain that I endured. Everyone told me that I wasn’t trying hard enough. But, who decides what’s “hard enough”? If I had sold all my possessions, would God have stepped in? If I had fasted, or if I had been braver, would God have thought me worthy of rescue?
All of my friends were gone. My forever family was gone. My blood-family was also inaccessible at the time. And eventually, I came to believe that God Himself wanted nothing to do with helping me, with easing my mind, with comforting me, with strengthening me, with anything about me.
After all, I was an idolater. How could I blame Him for His silence when it was I who got myself into this mess? After years of wrestling fiercely with God, years of anger, screaming, sobbing, shaking, moaning, questioning, praying, hoping, singing, and begging, it became apparent to me that God did not have any intention of helping me out. It made me mad at first, and then deeply, deeply sad. But I am at the point now where I’ve accepted that THAT is who He is. He is the one who helps when it serves His purpose, not the one who helps when we need Him.
During all of this, I found that without God’s help, I would never be able or willing to go, suffer, and die for Him. And if He has no intention of helping us, if He has all of these unknown motives, then maybe He wasn’t someone I would really want to do all of that for anyway.
My “fall from grace” has caused me so much shame and so much guilt. I’ve felt that my life was worthless and meaningless for not being able to stay strong in trusting. I’ve felt like the biggest let down. Like I’ve been a public humiliation. It’s like I’m the black sheep of a family who wishes to sweep my story and experience under a rug and forget it all ever happened. Whether for pain, or whether for shame it is hard to tell.
Ironically, all of this has freed me to be myself before God. And to recognize who He really is without the pressure of becoming something that I will never be. My mind is free to explore ideas and perspectives that I’ve never been allowed to before. I’ve always been told that God is a God of freedom. And I believe that now more than ever. He wants our freedom above all things. It is a blessing and a curse at times. Freedom is a lot of pressure, but if God thought we couldn’t handle it then I suspect He wouldn’t have given it to us.
I have lost so much to call myself free. I’ve lost dear friends, community, and my identity. I’ve lost many tears, many nights of sleep, and much pride. But I wouldn’t choose to go back to the prison of thought I was trapped in for anything.
God surely is bigger than thought of all kinds. God surely is more mysterious than what can be found in a suburban building on any street corner. God surely is in more places than we’d expect. God surely is like nothing we can fathom. Outside of time, outside of space, why should He not be outside of the narrow institution of religion? I wonder if we should be less afraid, or more afraid in light of this.
Today, I consider myself an agnostic theist. I have peace about the way the world appears to me. And new people have come into my life both Christian and non-Christian who are helping me open my mind, my heart, and my perspective.
Many Christian ideas and ideals are still the guiding principles of my life. It’s not something that you can just throw off and walk away from. And I don’t want to anyway. My background has made me who I am and has made me a better person. For that, I will always be thankful.
But, I can’t deny the experiences I’ve had. I can’t reconcile the theology I’ve been taught with how the world actually works. I can’t ignore the hypocrisy and the squabbling of those claiming the name of Christ. I do not call myself by Christ’s name for the simple reason that I do not have what it takes to follow Him and I have the guts to admit it.
I welcome respectful discussion. ❤