I used to watch world events closely with a quickened heartbeat, holding my breath and waiting for the world to end. It was what I had been taught growing up, that we are in the end times, and I still believe it. However, somewhere between being a teenager and becoming an adult, I had a crisis of faith. The result caused me to be disciplined and shunned.
I have struggled most of my life being able to come to terms with what happened. I had mistakenly believed that my relationship with God could be dictated by those who had authority in the religious organization. How dare they? How could they claim to be Christian while behaving the opposite of how I believed Jesus would have responded? My strongest argument was, if baptism is an outward expression of an inner commitment, how can another group of humans take that commitment away?
To be honest, I just realized a few months ago in prayer and study, that just as baptism was a symbol of my desire to obey, the act of disfellowshipping was a symbol of my desire to stray. I could have changed, but I didn’t want to. Instead, I became a victim who blamed my difficulties on others. The shock value was helpful in creating sympathy. The harsh nature of the discipline usually guaranteed my receiving support. Of course, I failed to mention to these people that I knew the rules before I began, I knew the consequences of my choice and whether they were right or wrong, it wasn’t unexpected.
I had nothing and I had no one. When the option of suicide was presented, I became obsessed with it. I didn’t care where I went when I died, it just had to be better than living like a ghost in my own life. The thought of peaceful slumber was too enticing to pass up. I was admitted into a psychiatric hospital for two weeks until they were able to convince me that suicide was not the best option. One of the doctors began talking to me about my future, something I never really thought about. I always assumed I would get married young, have children and spread the word of God until the world ended.
I began to drown my guilt, anger and frustration with alcohol. As long as I was drunk, I didn’t have to care or at least I could be better at pretending I didn’t care. I even went so far as to blame God for my troubles. “Look what you did to me!” I would shout to the night sky during a drunken self-pity session.
And that is how it went, until I had no one else to blame but myself.
I chose to get behind the wheel of my car when I was drunk. I drove nearly head-on into another car on the highway. I almost ended a life. Me. I did those things. It was difficult to accept. Through a period of self-examination and discovery, I began attending meetings for recovery. I wasn’t on speaking terms with God at first because I still had the notion that He started it. I tried everything I could not to have to turn to Him. But as time went on and I realized how completely incapable I am of self-discipline, I only had one avenue left to try.
As with any relationship, I knew things couldn’t stay the same if I wanted them to be different. Seeing as how God never has to change “for us,” it looked like I was the one who might be in need of the new perspective.
The question that changed my life, “Do I believe, or am I even willing to believe, that God is different than I thought?” Our first conversation after several months of silence began with me saying, “I don’t know who you are and I don’t even know if you care, but something has to change and I’m willing for that to be me.”
In that moment, I felt his attention on me, as if he had only been waiting for me to ask. Even if I didn’t ask nicely.
Whatever this new relationship was about, I loved it and was afraid of losing it. I’d been told about the “pink cloud” and I was not looking forward to falling off. One day, I asked God, “Please, don’t ever let me forget you like this.”
I was concerned about following the suggestion in recovery to form a bond with a higher power “as we understand him.” I was only human. Couldn’t my understanding of God be flawed in so many human ways?
For a time, I went back to what I knew. I was accepted because once again, my actions matched my words. However, the more rules I was reminded of, the further I felt from God. It wasn’t until I was advised to stay away from the very people who had reintroduced me to God that I began to question once again. When scripture failed to change my first husband and it was time for me to leave him, I received no support except from those I had been warned to stay away from.
Thankfully, my second marriage was to Chris and he had a religiously spiritual background. He wasn’t actively attending a church, but I loved that his lifestyle closely resembled a difference between religion and spirituality. His family was patient, kind and loving in all the places I needed it.
When our nation was attacked by terrorists, my insides froze. There I was, perfectly content in my complacency with God and suddenly I was shocked into remembering, I am mortal. We all are. I was reminded that this life and this earth are temporary. My mind became a jumbled mess of mass confusion trying to process past teachings with still developing beliefs.
The anger and hatred expressed toward those who attacked us felt justified in the beginning. As people cried out for revenge and a reckoning, I joined in. However, I then realized, this wasn’t an idea or an invisible, intangible enemy. These were people. People who were once babies, whose mothers or caregivers had held and tried to quiet them. These were people who were being taught at a very young age some very hurtful beliefs. Whether I thought they were right or wrong, they believed as strongly as I did. No, even stronger than I did. They were willing to die for what they believed in – was I? They were so certain that what they were doing was right that they gave up their lives for it. The only other people I could liken that to was our military and missionaries.
Terrorists set out to terrify and while the nation was saying, “Don’t give them the satisfaction,” I could do nothing but be terrified. I was not concerned that they would attack, not that it might be the beginning of the end, but I was terrified that I would perish without ever believing in something so strongly that I would die for it.
Those who raised me were experiencing heightened anticipation for the end of this system of things, thankful for the promise that they could be resurrected on a paradise earth with no more death, sickness or sadness.
Those who had raised Chris were resting assured in the belief that if anything happened to them, they would go to heaven and see the face of Jesus and live forever in His glory.
If I died, I trembled inside at the thought that I had absolutely no idea what would happen to me. I wasn’t “good” enough for paradise and I didn’t “believe” enough for heaven. I had never bought into the Catholic teaching of purgatory but almost imagined that was where I would be if I were to die, in some kind of suspended middle place, wandering forever with unanswered questions.
I didn’t know how to explain my angst, but I tried. My friend Brittney and I had many spiritual discussions. I deeply envied her. Despite her difficulties in life, she always had a firm belief in God. She trusted that His hand was in everything. She believed even when it seemed she didn’t. I couldn’t understand why, with such a strong faith like hers, she could suffer as much as she did, but I never doubted her faith. Sometimes, I even thought the reason she suffered was because she was so acute to her surroundings and felt everything.
One night, after the terrorist attacks, we were talking about my latest spiritual crisis. I was reminded of the scripture Luke 10:27 – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and love your neighbour as yourself.”
My heart quieted. I knew I loved God and I knew I had always tried to treat others the way I would want to be treated. For a while, I was calm and my mind stopped chasing itself in circles.
Then, we decided to have children. I had severe postpartum depression and anxiety after my daughter was born. I can remember thinking, “What kind of person would bring a helpless baby into this rotten world? How selfish am I?” “I can’t save her from molestation, rape, murder, heartache, hurt feelings, I don’t even know how to introduce her to the one who can save her from those things or at least help her through them should they occur.”
I have never felt so full of and so lacking in faith in my entire life. I had faith that God was there through all of it, but I didn’t have faith that He would keep us sane and alive.
I knew I had to start somewhere, I needed to be able to connect with God on an even deeper level than ever before, but I didn’t know where to start. We began going to a church in Whitefish of the same denomination as Chris was raised. I was guarded and apprehensive. I didn’t feel like I fit in, I was constantly questioning and comparing teachings in my head. People would raise their arms and hands during worship and I was terrified one of them was going to be struck with a spirit other than the Holy kind and then what would I do?
The pastor at the time was KEY to helping reconnect me at a deeper level with God. Not only in the way he articulated his sermons, but in the way he and his family worked to be servants to God’s people. This pastor could have let it all go to his head, but there were times when even he would kneel at the alter to pray after a sermon had revealed to him truths about himself.
I slowly began to follow the actions of those I saw who seemed happy with their walk with God. I began singing during worship but couldn’t seem to get through even one song without bursting into tears. It was embarrassing. I felt like a baby, immature in my understanding and relationship with God. I couldn’t understand why I was crying so much. Singing to God and feeling his presence so strongly in those moments opened up storehouses of grief, anxiety and anger that I had held onto for nearly all my life. This worship wasn’t about being conservative and proper, this worship was meaningful, raw emotion and connection. I had begun to see him in a new light; I began to feel his hand guiding my steps.
One day, when the pastor asked if anyone wanted to make or reaffirm their decision to turn the steering wheel over to God, I found myself walking down to the alter and I was baptized, again. This felt like an affirmation of the commitment I had made years before.
Today, I am able to enjoy a loving, free, close relationship with God. I wish I could package it up with a pretty bow and give it to people, but it’s personal, for everyone.
Yesterday, I was watching Micah trying the bottle flipping challenge. It is something he’s seen other people do online. He watches in admiration as people throw plastic bottles with limited amounts of liquid in them and sees them land straight up or sometimes gets to witness the even more exciting event of “capping” it.
He begs to go to the park to bottle flip. He would bottle flip all day if we let him. Why? Because of the intense feeling of satisfaction that comes with “landing” it even once! He becomes so intensely excited, he has to make sure everyone around has seen it before he’ll pick the bottle up again.
As I watched, I thought about words our current pastor used today. He spoke about how hard it is to explain to an unbeliever the joy it brings to have a life filled with the Holy Spirit. I was like Micah. I would watch others with admiration of how close they felt to God and how much they wanted to obey his word. I was in awe of the sense of peace and happiness that seemed to go along with it.
I went out into the world and threw myself around a bit trying to “land” it. The few times it worked, the sense of fulfilment, gratitude and satisfaction made all the effort worth it. The only difference is now, I “land” that feeling more often because of all the practice I’ve had.
I felt prompted to write this because of the political uneasiness our nation is currently experiencing.
We were watching the news at my mother’s house the other night and there was a story about a woman who is accusing Trump of misconduct. A clip showed her saying, “and he reached up my skirt and touched my vagina.”
Micah laughed because he is a seven-year-old boy who still finds bodily functions and words for private parts funny. I knew that was why he was laughing, but I couldn’t let it slide. I said, “Micah, there is nothing funny about that story. It is never okay for anyone to touch someone else’s body without their permission.” He nodded his head sheepishly. I said, “You got it?!” He nodded again.
My children watch the news and hear about a candidate for the President of the United States making vulgar comments about women and people who weren’t privileged enough to be born in the right place at the right time. They hear about the other candidate for President of the United States who didn’t help those who needed her and who has lied and had her misconduct swept under the rug. I have seen Christians telling other Christians, “If you are truly a Christian, you will vote for this person,” or asking friends to delete themselves from social media outlets if they have a difference of opinion.
Here is the truth as I’ve seen it set out in the Bible. No human deserves our vote. This world is temporary. God has been, is, and will forever be in charge. This smoke and mirror show the enemy revels in is to distract us from the only one who can bring permanent, lasting and meaningful change – God! I’m sure the enemy is loving the way his illusion continues to tear people apart, especially delighting at the hypocrisy in those who call themselves Christians. This election doesn’t matter in the long run.
Mark 8:36 says, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”
Romans 14:13 says, “Therefore, let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.”
1 Corinthians 2:6, which says, “We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.”
People are starving and dying for a spiritual answer to a human problem, whether they realize it or not. Yet, we keep shoving more imperfect human behaviour at them.
It is incredibly sad to see how cruel we can be to each other.
So today, I choose to leave the election behind and focus on things that can be changed for the better and forever.