I case you missed my last post, I am sharing some of my spiritual path here in the next few posts. This is where I begin my story...
We'll skip over the gritty details of my early childhood, and just say that my parents started attending a church when I was seven, and from then on I grew up attending too. I was active in all the events and youth group. I knew the Bible and believed it whole-heartedly and tried to live according to all that I was taught. As a teenager, my friends and I hung out at church and Bible studies several nights a week. I knew little of a life outside of faith. On the outside I looked like what might be called a "good Christian", but I had my struggles as everyone does. I was haunted by past abuse which through some twisted thing I was made to feel guilty about. It ran so deep that now, looking back, I see that I never really allowed anyone- even God- into that place in my heart. I've just never known how. Maybe that aided my eventual turning away. Maybe I'll never know exactly what did it.
One thing about me: I never really do anything partway. I give myself to what I pursue. So I couldn't just be a Christian on Sundays. I believed it so strongly that I had to devote myself to it 100%. So I went to a Christian college and majored in ministry. I loved to travel and felt called to be a missionary. I did missions work in Africa with a team from my school, and I loved it. Immediately following that trip I took six months off from college and did a course with YWAM (Youth With a Mission) in Colorado, with field training in Bosnia and Romania.
When I got back to school the following year, something in me began to change. I had a full load of courses, more than half of which were religion. Every day I read and studied and discussed the Bible and God. Somewhere along the way I began to question. I spent much of my free time seeking answers to my questions and nothing seemed to answer them. I just more and more questions, until one day (and I remember it specifically- it was just at the end of my junior year of college) I was no longer sure if I fit into the category of "Christian". So I called myself a seeker, and therefore suddenly the rules I'd allowed to guide my entire life up until then, no longer applied. Truth was subjective. Right and wrong, sin, hell, faith, the purpose of life... were interesting philosophical questions that I pondered with friends all of that summer while shelving books in the university library and over beers in apartments late into the night. I met very cool people who were intellectual and philosophical and worldly. I decided religious people must be misguided or un-enlightened, not really thinking for themselves. I told myself was okay with being non-religious. I really tried to be okay with it. But here's thing: for me it was really always more about the relationship with God, and I missed that with every fiber of my being. When I was a Christian, it was a real interaction- so real I could almost hear Him. It brought me peace and helped me make decisions, and affected how I interacted with people. I loved everyone more. I didn't do anything out of religious duty- I did it because I wanted to be close to God and because I believed His words were true. Later I thought perhaps I'd fabricated all of that in my mind, but part of me desperately hoped that it had been real and that I could know for sure one day. But there was a block in my heart. I felt like God had just stopped talking to me, when in reality (I see now), it was I who had built the wall. God never forces a single person to follow Him, believe Him, or love Him. He waits.
That was six years ago. For six years I hardly spoke of or to God. There was no relationship between us, and still I tried to pretend I didn't mind that. I tried to avoid even thinking about God much because if I did I would feel this anxious feeling- kind of like dread, or longing. Even though other aspects of my life have been happy, spiritually those six years were the darkest of my life.
I wanted to be in relationship with God again. Once I was finally able to admit that to myself, I was still convinced for quite a long time that it was somehow too late. I pictured Him looking down and shaking his head at my lack of faith. Disappointed. I knew from my past Christian life that He is forgiving, but I felt like having once known and then turned from it, that I was outside of that forgiveness. I didn't know how to get back to God even if I wanted to. And I still wasn't completely sure if I wanted to. I just wanted what was true.