Sunday, October 14, 2012

That's me in the corner

Jesus, yo te amo, I sing at my second birthday party, blowing out the candles and beaming at my clapping parents and the rest of the missions group circling the picnic table. The Mexican sun casts haloes over their heads and bathes me in warmth and light. I'm so proud of learning my first Spanish song and I whisper the words over and over, so I won't forget them: Jesus, yo te amo/Yo quiero mas y mas de Cristo.

Back in Canada, shuffling to school in the early morning darkness, I peer at the shadows at the side of the path and push back the fear creeping up my spine, because I'm holding tight to my Jesus' hand and His angels have charge over me. Their wings kiss my cheek, hugging me close in the icy air. In church we dance joyfully, our hands questing overhead, reaching for the magic and the mystery, drinking them in.

Then it's 3:00 a.m. and I'm fifteen and lost, trembling and wiping wet smears of black eyeliner from my cheeks, running a gleaming knife lightly up and down my wrist, trying to get up the nerve to do it. Pacing back and forth, whimpering and whipping my head from side to side as if somehow this will shake loose the loneliness clawing at me. Fear of hell prying the knife from my hand, trapping me in this hopeless life.

Turning dully toward the hand on my shoulder in church the next morning to meet kind eyes. "Jesus sees your pain. Fix your heart on Him and He will lift you out of your turmoil," she says softly. And I do, and He does. Jesus, yo te amo, I sing and lean into His chest, thankful to be home again.

Until one day there nestles a poisonous tale among the newspaper's usual litany of carnage in the unbelieving world. A Christian pastor's family butchered in Anywhere, U.S.A., the 12-year old daughter raped in front of her parents and baby brother before her slit throat fountains a bloody rain over them, so the hammers whistling toward their skulls skid a little before crunching into their brains. The little boy screaming through his mother and sister's rapes and murders before the hammer silences him too, and the jackals turn at last on the man of God and liberate him from his hell.

I look in bewilderment to my Protector. How could He let this happen to His children? A chill steals through me. How could He let this happen to anyone? Free will, say my parents and friends decisively. If God controlled our actions, we wouldn't be free to choose to love and worship Him; we would be little more than puppets. Something's wrong with this, but I don't want to know; I rush instead to my Bible, desperate for comfort.

"I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent" (Timothy 2:12).

"If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them" (Leviticus 20:13).

I slam the book shut and decide to take a break from God for a few weeks. But the weeks become months, then years as the thoughts I've tried so hard to block ooze to the surface: What kind of deity sees the torture of countless innocents as an acceptable trade-off for his creations having a free choice to worship him? A god who sets men above women? Who condemns people for loving each other? Does he or she even exist? The questions burn through me, the answers searing my soul until I howl with grief.

I reach for my kind and loving Jesus, but he dissolves into nothingness under my fingers and there's no one there. There was never anyone there at all.

 

22 comments:

  1. My heart breaks for you. This world can be so wicked. My prayer is that you find your way back to Him (He has never left you).

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  3. (Sorry for the deleted comment - I needed to edit and managed to delete it!)

    I know what you mean about losing faith. I was raised Catholic and I *loved* church and Sunday school as a child, even though I never believed the stories to be literally true. The priest at our church was a charismatic, optimistic, and loving man. He told us how much God loved us no matter what we did, and how each of us had the power to be good people and change the world for the better. I would leave there so inspired. Then, right around the time I was being Confirmed, we got a new priest. He was all about the watchful eye of God, and our basic sinful nature. After a few weeks of the new guy, I was convinced it didn't really matter what I did, because I was a horrible sinner and was being judged every moment of my life. I stopped going to church. I questioned everything. I began to realize that I had never *really* believed in the people or the myths in the Bible. I'd accepted and repeated the stories, but never truly felt them to be any more real than fables about grasshoppers and ants with important morals to live by.

    That's when stopped trying to impress God. "God" isn't well defined anyway. Old testament God is a petulant egomaniac, asking for sacrifices and complete submission to his whims. New testament God is a peace-and-love kind of guy through that Son of His, and He wants you to just love each other, man.

    Sometimes I wonder if I should try it all again - Catholic guilt is strong - but I just can't accept the current views of my old Church. I'll just keep doing my own thing in my own way.

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    1. I wasn't Catholic, but I'm surprised at how the feeling of guilt has hung on. I feel the same way as you do though - I just can't accept major sections of the Bible (both testaments). In fact, I disagree with 90% of it and I don't see that changing.

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  4. I've asked myself these questions so many times, and I think that's one of the reasons why I remain religiously unaffiliated. I just do my best to live a good life, and I hope I can make the world a better place.

    Thanks for sharing this! I'm glad you decided to participate in my blogfest!

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    1. Thanks for hosting! I had a blast - you had a great group of people linking up.

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  5. I never had any faith to loose. I always knew "nothing was there". There is still nothing there.

    But you know what, and this ties in with my own blog's beginnings, is there is freedom is knowing this.

    Normally I don't do this, but stop by my blog, The Freedom of Nonbelief. Embracing my Atheism has been one of the most intellectually liberating thing I have ever done.

    --
    Tim Brannan
    The Freedom of Nonbelief

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    1. I enjoyed your three posts about discovering your atheism - thanks for sharing them and joining up here.

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  6. This is a tough one to share and even tougher to answer. I've been there. I've asked. I've searched and I've found my answers. You're very brave. All I can say is that no search is useless.

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    1. I like that: "No search is useless." Thanks for stopping by.

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  7. This is a great post, in the sense that it embodies a lot of the reasons why some people choose to be atheists, and not believe. It's also very thought provoking. I believe that there is something or someone out there, but I don't believe in the stories of the Bible, or any religion fully.

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    1. Growing up I thought atheists were the enemy and people who just blindly rejected God for no reason. I should have written out my thoughts clearly like this a long time ago. Writing it down just crystallized everything for me - that there were real, specific reasons why I didn't believe in God anymore.

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  8. very powerful. thanks for allowing us a peek into this window.

    i, like timothy, always knew there was 'nothing' or at least that the god of the bible didn't exist. even at the age of 18 when i decided getting baptized was what i should do, surrounded by my friends as some pastor and i stood waste deep in a pool under the dome of a megachurch, i knew. my parents weren't there, i didn't tell them, because i knew. wearing a blue plastic coverall over my clothes and as he dunked my head back into the water, deep down in my gut was a giggle because it was all rather silly, wasn't it? i'd have felt more emotion, more connected with something greater than myself, had i taken a walk and dipped my toes in a creek.

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    1. that would be *waist* deep. ahem...but i kind of like the funny i made there :p

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    2. Haha!! This struck me as hilarious for some reason. I'm interested in the back story of why you decided to get baptized though. I never did - I must have known deep down where I was heading.

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  9. Hi... I've (finally) made it over from L.G.'s Beginnings Blogfest and wow... this was a truly profound beginning that you've shared. I can relate on many levels and must say that I really enjoy your blog and what little I've read so far. I hope to stop by more often... but until then, thank you for sharing this and the most important thing about the beginning of a journey is being at peace with where you're headed... and it sounds like you are.

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    1. I love that: "the beginning of a journey is being at peace with where you're headed". Words to live by.

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  10. I had to come over and check this out. This is absolutely beautifully written. I have struggled with many of the same issues you've described, and continue to. I find myself ignoring some things of the Bible because I don't want to deal with them or it's too much work. I know what I've experienced with Jesus and that's my main reason for clinging to Him. I still can't reconcile a lot of the Bible and it irks me when people will try to give me pat answers to my questions and struggles. I just keep trudging along...

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    1. Thanks so much Kate. I have many family and friends who have had these doubts co-exist with their faith. My dad says he's accepted his doubts as things he can't understand, but he trusts in God's wisdom. I just couldn't get past it and it progressed to losing any belief in the existence of God at all.

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  11. I can't imagine the pain of having a strong belief dissolved - or in this case torn away - like this. I never have had a religious belief in my life, as it's always seemed far too illogical to me. I guess I was lucky to come to my "non-believing" state a lot easier than others, like yourself.

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    1. It was horrible. The foundation of my whole existence seemed to have fallen apart, before the sense of freedom sank in.

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Lend me some sugar!