I’m grateful for the life I have now. This one life you’ve given me. Since I handed my life over to you, it has not been easy. I feel peaceful this morning though. Leaving my beloved church behind has been enlightening. I lived that way for 35 years because I believed with all my heart that there was no other way to live but our way, but you showed me the fallacy of that thinking.
It’s like being told all your life that a particular lake has thin ice, and the moment you step out onto that lake you’ll fall through to your death. And then one day, you get the courage to try those words and you find out that the lake is solid through and through and you can walk across. Initially, you’re incredulous at the fact that the lake will hold you. Then, you get angry at the lies you were told– whatever the reason for it–even if the perpetrator said it was for your good. It still wasn’t true. And then, you regret the fun you could have had figure skating or playing hockey. You believed the lake was a certain deathtrap and warned others not to go to the lake as well.
That’s how I feel sometimes Lord, trying to reconcile my past with the present. Deprived of some parts of life, some good parts, and trying hard to catch up. Waking up and trying to rebuild my life. Yet, I’m no longer regretful.
You’ve helped me to see the good in my life past and present. I was so hurt when you showed me what I had believed about so many things were wrong, and I knew it would be a lonely road moving forward. I knew when I left more than a year ago, the disconnect that would happen, you warned me of that, the suspicion, the ugliness, the isolation, villainization and rumors, being branded as dangerous. Though, I wasn’t ready emotionally for the brutal anger, the comments accusing me of lying (that I refused to post), the threats that something bad will happen to me, and the unkind note left in my porch mailbox–all but one of these anonymous. Anonymous to me anyway–not to you. I know they don’t understand and some will refuse to try. But I have to leave that with you.
I do miss that safe feeling sometimes, even if it wasn’t based in total reality. It’s just a feeling–a feeling that became a habit. I was used to it. The comfort of community and feeling that you’re certain in your religious beliefs. Refusing to listen to anything that would disturb that assurance–afraid to. It was an inflexible trust that if I follow this way of life, obey all the rules, sacrifice for the sake of the church, I will surely end up in heaven. But it’s a feeling and that’s all it is. True religion must be from the heart and not coercion.
Blessed are the pure in heart:
for they shall see God (Matthew 5:8)
You showed me that faith is not based on emotion. People can be content and find out their contentment is misplaced. I do know that following someone’s rules does nothing for the soul. You taught that in your word, throughout the New Testament. You came to bring us liberty and grace and not the law. You showed me that unequivocally.
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. (Galatians 5:1)
I had become no different than the Pharisees and you wouldn’t let me ignore that. One day you revealed to me things that actually had been in the Bible all along. You shattered my safety with questions. Questions no one was willing to answer; questions about the fundamental flaws in our beliefs. I had looked at any ungodly actions and attitudes among our ministry as anomalies–fallen stars who were part of the prophecy about the great falling away. It wasn’t until I realized that the flaws were deeper than individuals. That sadly, it was not just my personal problem but a systemic one. One I could no longer try to fix or was even able.
You wouldn’t let me go. You wouldn’t let me just ignore everything, shut up and just go to church. So I started asking questions and then I became an enemy not just for asking but for finding answers, and worst of all for sharing those answers. But it’s ok. I’m going to be ok.
One thing that has kept me close to you is that I cannot deny that you saved me in my room at my Dad’s house. That from that moment on, you cleansed and changed my heart. I no longer had the problem of compulsive lying. You cleansed my heart from cursing and changed me from an agnostic and borderline atheist to a believer in Christ. So here I am with you, waiting for you to lead me and guide me, with my faith intact, as you promised. I know our experience together is real, but you have to promise me some things: Stop me if I’m going to far the wrong way. Help me not to get caught up in toxic churches for the rest of my life, and keep me close to you.