Christianity has always been a major part of my life. I’ve been in church since they let me leave the hospital. My parents provided us with a great Godly environment to grow up in and I’ve always been surrounded by great, encouraging, inspiring Christian mentors. When I was eight I did what all the good Southern Baptist kids did and walked the aisle, prayed the prayer, ‘accepted Jesus as my personal savior’ etc. Was I genuine? Very much so. And for years after that I found a ton of comfort and fulfillment in studying the bible, learning about theology and sharing with those who didn’t know.
Things changed right before I turned eighteen though. I had several setbacks that year, a lot of rough stuff, a lot of stuff happening to people around me that I cared about. Starting college, entering the working world, encountering a bunch of stuff I’d never been exposed to…a lot changed that year. I guess I wanted something more. I guess I got tired of the same old stuff. I guess I out grew the Sunday school lessons of ‘love your neighbor’ and ‘stealing is a sin’ and all those things we learn. I had bigger questions that I wanted answered. Was this really all there was to life? Did my life count? Did I really have a purpose and a role to live out and if so how did I know what it was? Why did God allow bad things to happen? Why would God let stuff like ‘this’ happen when I had been doing everything right? Why wouldn’t God answer my prayers and relieve this burden from my friend or deliver this person that I cared about so much from their situation?
The more my questions went unanswered, the more I started to take notice of things. Why is it that every time I ask a question I’m told that ‘God loves you and has a plan for your life’? That’s great, but I know that already, what about the question I asked? Are all these people here at church hurting like me and just covering it up? If they are then that means that we are all just a group of fake people. How can I trust a group of fake people to help me understand life?
And from there it turned to frustration and anger. These hypocrites! How can you judge the way people dress in morning worship? How can you preach one thing and do another? How can you raise your hands and sing about how God has set us free and then condemn others with your glances and your words and your social systems?
One more little piece of bad news that year and I had it. I told God I wanted to be left alone. I vowed to never go to church again. After all the years of believing in this God, in this system, I was devastated to think that it was all tainted by this sense of hypocrisy, false-hood, fakeness and judgment. I knew God existed, I still loved him very much, but I felt like I couldn’t get to Him. I felt like He was up there somewhere and in between Him and all of us was this giant mess of confusion and hypocrisy and people’s opinions and theories. I couldn’t get to the real God. I guess I felt like I had finally been awakened to the real world, the way things really were. I thought that was all there was too it. So, I quit. I ‘quit’ God, I quit church. I quit believing. I became a cynic. I lost hope. And I moved on.
Or so I thought. I love how we think we can ‘tell God he doesn’t exist’ or choose to walk away from God as if he isn’t holding our entire existence in the palm of his hand. How exactly do we think we can live life apart from God when there is no life apart from God? I don’t know. But I can tell you now, as I look back, I quit God but God never quit me. And it wasn’t like people say ‘God lets you walk away, but He’s always there waiting if you will just turn around and go back.’ Nope. God never left my side. He pursued me all the way. He was right behind me, even though I tried to tune Him out in so many ways. He ran after me and He kept running as fast and as long as I did.
And let me tell you, I ran. And I ran. And I kept running and kept tuning Him out and this went on for about two years. A lot can happen in two years, especially when you’re intentionally trying to run from God. A lot did happen in two years, and we’ll leave it at that for now. But after two years of running, I couldn’t tune Him out any longer. He was there, in such an overwhelming, overpowering way. I could feel it, I could sense it. I could almost taste it if that even makes sense.
I had no idea what I believed anymore. I had no idea who ‘God’ was. All that was in my mind was these facts and stories and lessons that I had learned throughout my whole life, and then all these new facts and theories and logical arguments as to why there’s no way the bible could be true, there’s no way a God like that could exist, there’s no way what churches teach can be fair or valid. It was such a jumbled mess I didn’t even know where to begin but I knew for a fact that I couldn’t trust someone else’s word or opinion, that whatever I was going to believe and decide was going to have to be mine- my own research, my own logic, my own conclusions.
So, December 6th, 2006 I decided to spend 30 days (Christmas break) studying, researching, thinking, writing- whatever it took- and at the end of those 30 days whatever conclusion I had reached is what I was going to go with. If I couldn’t find something that encouraged me to believe and gave me hope, then I was going to block out that little ‘voice’ once and for all. I was going to walk away for good.
So, what happened? I’ll save that for the next post….