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Wandering In...


Guest wayfarer2k
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Guest wayfarer2k

Long, long ago in a galazy far, far away...

 

I was the firstborn child to a very young, very poor couple in a small farming community in upstate New York. My childhood was filled with almost constant turmoil. My parents seemed to always be fighting and I spent most of my time simply trying to avoid my angry father and his tendencies to take out his anger on me.

 

When I was twelve, my father decided I needed religion. I remember thinking that if either of us really needed religion, he was the more likely candidate. But by this time, I knew better to argue with him. Right or wrong, he was the supreme authority. So in the summer of 1972, he sent me off to Vacation Bible School at a small, independent Baptist church. I listened with rapt attention to the stories about this Jesus who loved all the little children of the world. I saw him as the Great Shepherd who would cradle and protect little lambs in his arms. At the end of VBS, I said the "sinner's prayer", accepted Jesus as my personal savior and trusted that Jesus would stop the abuse I was suffering at home.

 

Teen angst...

 

Contrary to my hopes, Jesus didn't protect me from the abuse I suffered at my father's hands and I began to experience doubts about my faith. As I read more and more of the Bible, I really wanted God to speak to me just like he did to Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, and the apostle Paul. I wanted God to be my best friend.

 

Because my religion had told me that I needed a personal relationship with God and Jesus, I expected God to be personal with me. I wanted him to, as the old song says, walk with me and talk with me and tell me that I was his own. I was disappointed that God didn't personally talk with me or answer my prayers. But because I didn't want to question God (he was becoming my authority figure in my father's place), I felt that the problem in my relationship with God lay on my end.

 

Ask me no questions...

 

After high school, I felt that if there was ever a place where my questions about God and my life's direction could be answered, it would be in Bible School. So I went off to a small Pentecostal Holiness Bible school in Pennsylvania. I loved the spiritual atmosphere, being amongst others who were seeking God's will for their lives, having spiritual mentors that, unlike me, were sure of what God wanted and of all the answers they provided to our young, impressionable minds. I enjoyed studying the Bible as a literal history and morality book. I found I had a knack for scripture memorization and for pondering things about the Bible deeply.

 

But I also sensed that all of my questions about God, Jesus, and the Bible were not necessarily welcomed by other Christians, even in a Bible school. I had begun to see some inconsistencies in the scriptures and even in the lives of Christians. Whenever I brought these up, I was told to "go pray about it" or that "God ways are not our ways." It even got to the point that my raised hand during question time went ignored by some of my instructors.

 

Digging in...

 

Through my twenties and thirties, I tried to foster a real faith in God by taking the Bible more and more literally. The concrete answers and absolutes that fundamentalism offers were very appealing to me. I believed that the Bible was an "owner's manual for life" and thought that if I could just understand it and apply it, it would guarantee me not only heaven, but the good life down here. In retrospect, I focused mainly on pet scriptural passages and constant confession of sin to try to keep myself forgiven.

 

On the outside, I looked pretty good. But on the inside, deep down, I still felt that although God might theologically love me, he didn't like me very much, if at all. Fundamentalism, while offering concrete answers, also sets standards that can never be met. Add to that, I actually started using the cross-references in my study Bibles and I began to be bothered that, despite the claim that every word of the Bible was God's words, there were alot of discrepencies and outright contradictions.

 

To be continued...

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Guest wayfarer2k

The last straw...

 

My wife and I tried for seven years to have kids. Those attempts resulted in two miscarried children. When my wife and I sought counseling and comfort for our loss, I was told that those babies were burning in hell because of "original sin". I wondered, was this the way of the God of the Bible?

 

We finally did have two wonderful kids. But when our church showed my 4-year-old son a picture of a man burning in hell as my son's possible fate if he didn't accept Jesus as his personal savior right then and there, that was the proverbial straw that broke this stupid camel's back.

 

Standing at the crossroads...

 

These experiences brought me to a crossroads. They caused me to ask questions of my faith and of myself -- to seek for truth. In my quest for truth, I wonder:

 

Is God a god of requirements and rewards or is he a god of steadfast love and grace?

 

Is God an angry judge "out there" who wants to destroy the world or is he a loving spirit all around us who wants to save the world?

 

Is Jesus the face of a God of wrath or the face of a God of love?

 

Was Jesus' message about how to get to heaven or about God's desire to bring heaven to earth?

 

Is the Bible a list of laws by which we must govern our lives or a collection of the experiences of others who sought and found God's grace?

 

Is the Bible a blueprint of the lives of others that we must mimic or an invitation to develop our own relationship with God?

 

Should the church be guardians of the gate to God's kingdom or simply lights to shine the way?

 

Should the church be condeming the "enemies of God" or, as Jesus taught, loving God's enemies?

 

Is the Christian life about getting and staying forgiven or about being changed into a new creation who loves God and others?

 

Is Christianity about believing now for the sake of gaining heaven later or about being transformed here and now by God's spirit?

 

Is life about the destination of getting to be with God someday or is it a sacred journey in his abiding presence everyday?

 

I asked myself which of these options are the most inkeeping with the example and teachings of Jesus? Which views were the most consistent with the two great commands of loving God and loving others?

 

The road less traveled...

 

There are two main reasons, besides my negative experiences, that influenced my desicion to leave fundamentalism. The first is that my nature is, and always has been, that of an explorer. Fundamentalism discourages exploration. Asking questions is not encouraged. Rather, defending already-held answers becomes the focus. Truth is thought to be something one should posess, not something that should be continually sought after.

 

Secondly, the answers that are given to the questions of God and our life here, at least for me, make little to no sense and often contradict other so-called answers offered within that belief system. I've never been one to blindly follow authority "just because." And I happen to believe that knowledge and reason are not the enemies of faith.

 

I was (and still am) grateful for my conservative, evangelical heritage. My religious roots instilled in me a love for God, for the church, and for the scriptures. I encountered many loving people within that movement and, in retrospect, had alot of positive experiences. But thirty years of fundamentalism brought me to the place where I was trapped by the letter of the law and barren of the fruit of the spirit - love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

 

Making all the difference...

 

What difference has it made in my life to take "the road less traveled"? How has this turn affected my faith?

 

Probably the biggest change to my relationship with God since the crossroads is the decrease of worry in my life. Taking this path seems to fostered in me a trust in God that I have sought for all my life.

 

I no longer worry about whether I (or someone else) will make it to heaven. We were born into God. We die into God.

 

I no longer worry about having all of my theological i's dotted and t's crossed. God loves me and accepts me, as the old song says, just as I am.

 

I no longer worry about every sin I have ever committed or will commit. God's grace is greater than all my sin.

 

I no longer worry about being right. It is more important that I be loving.

 

I desire to live by faith. This doesn't mean giving mental assent to a list of doctrines or creeds. It means having a radical trust in the one to whom the doctrines and the creeds point. It means being concious of my relationship to God 24/7 and trusting that that relationship can make me the kind of person that helps others to see God and his kingdom more clearly.

 

I had to chose which path to take. I chose the latter. And I'm glad I did. It's making all the difference.

 

wayfarer

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Guest wayfarer2k
w2k

 

You are a very intelligent and wise human being, even if your looks aren't so hot.

 

WELCOME TO THE BOARD !

 

flow.... :)

 

Thanks for the welcome, Flow! I'm enjoying alot of what I read here!

 

wayfarer

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This forum is fantastic and wonderful and I welcome you to it, Wayfarer. You are afantastic and wonderful person! Thanks for sharing so much of your journey. Meaning and joy are always found in our responses to the events of our lives day after day after day. You are certainly one who is seeking and finding. I am inspired and moved by your story.

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