I was born into a fundamentalist Christian family – one great-grandfather was a pastor, 2 uncles were pastors, and everyone in my father’s and step-father’s and mom’s families were members of the same denomination. There was a glitch with my maternal grandfather who was a black sheep, but the church connection picked up with the next generation. As long as I can remember I was attending church – usually as often as 3 times a week – Sun morning and evening as well as Wed night. I was read Bible stories starting before I could talk. I’ll tell ya – the 3 guys in the fiery furnace and Daniel in the lions’ den make great bed-time stories!
It didn’t take me long to discover that not everything that people said they believed was really what they lived. When I was 5 ½ and my mom married the step-father, the abuse started and though he used Scripture to justify it – “Spare the rod and spoil the child!” or “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” Proverbs 13:24 – I didn’t buy it. If that were so, then I’d have been the most-loved kid on the block! But even though he was a lay leader in the church, I didn’t see him as the only human role model for what a follower of Jesus should be. Then there were other people at church whose hypocrisy was more or less evident. And the really over-the-top emotionalism during certain services and “revivals” really bothered me. It just didn’t seem to have any basis in reality or any practical effect on later behavior. I didn’t reject God because his followers were fallible or even evil. I guess it’s like the analogy of hearing Mozart played by a beginner – you don’t blame a poor performance on the creator of the original musical composition – you just disregard the bad example and look for a better one that is closer to the composer’s original intent.
So while the abuse was continuing from the SF and then later from other bullies and perps, I was a sincere (if immature) young believer doing my best to do right and obey God and follow Jesus. But after a while I started to feel like He wasn’t holding up His side of the deal. I knew that prayers could be answered and miracles could happen – but I wasn’t getting any of those perks! I was stuck in a bad situation and nothing was changing except I was becoming more and more disillusioned. It got to the point where I concluded that I was the one at fault. Either I didn’t have enough faith or I was disqualified because of the taint of being abused or maybe my sins weren’t really forgiven because I felt so dirty and guilty all the time. I became very depressed and hopeless – both emotionally and spiritually. I continued to go through the motions and look good from the outside – but inside I was miserable and in despair.
In college I had an incredible experience of the unconditional love of God – that renewed my faith and gave me fresh motivation for life. For a while I got into the “Jesus Freak” movement and though the “peace, love and brotherhood” atmosphere was cool, it was short on solid doctrine or theology and open to all kinds of distortions of the Truth. Then, looking for more, I got involved in an abusive, totalitarian, pseudo-Christian cult for a 7-year detour. After fleeing them – and being afraid they would capture us and forcible return us to the fold like they had some of our friends, we moved, got involved in a church that seemed safe and went through a couple of nasty church splits. One pastor tried to undermine my marriage by using information he had gained through counseling me and tried to seduce my wife. If anyone had an excuse to NOT believe in God, I think I qualify.
But all that has not caused me to turn against God. Somehow I’ve know He was there all along, even when He seemed far away and uninvolved.
I’ve been in positions of leadership and youth ministry and have always gone along with the accepted doctrines of whichever church I’m in (I’m much more picky now and have not been part of the traditional family denomination since I left home. And I avoid like the plague any church that resembles the ones where I had major trouble.) But I sure have a lot of unanswered questions. I find it really hard to sit through many church services or prayer meeting because I feel like a phony with all my reservations when others are so 100% and gung-ho and enthusiastic and seem to have no doubts or fears or insecurities regarding God and their relationship with Him.
I now believe that I had been forgiven and “saved” from my sinful state way back when I was a young boy but the effects of the abuse made me feel bad and as though I was still “lost.” But I still often feel unacceptable to God and others. And the whole prayer and answers problem has not been resolved. I’ve had some incredible instances of times when it seemed God really came through for me and my family – amazing financial provisions and arranging of circumstances to solve problems. But the most important prayers – for my own psychological restoration and my daughter’s physical healing of 2 incurable, debilitating and painful conditions, and the mending of family relationships – have not been answered. I just don’t understand the inconsistencies.
So where am I now? I do remember that my belief in God did give me hope and some measure of comfort when I was a kid going through the bad times – even though I didn’t really get any specific evidence of God’s presence with me or intervention on my behalf. At some point – as an adult – I just accepted the fact that He was out there somewhere but wasn’t going to get involved in my situation and stop the abuse any more than any of the adults who could have and didn’t. I think I have even more questions and reservation now than I did then. Once in a while I really see or feel His touch on my life – and that is good. I am beginning to trust Him more and accept the fact that there may never be any answers. And starting to be OK with that…
But still hoping for more understanding and greater closeness to Him,
Responses welcome and encouraged, please!
Edited by traveler (04/12/12 06:40 AM)
"My experience has shown me that I all too often tend to deny that which lies behind, but as I still believe, that which is denied cannot be healed." Brennan Manning, "All is Grace - A Ragamuffin Memoir"