I was reading a post this morning on a blog I follow, called Smiling Through Tearz. The blogger, Seth Tearz, writes about his life after loosing his son to a drowning accident. This morning he started writing about how he lost his faith right after that happened. How he was angry with God. How he blamed him for what had happened. And it took him years to come back to the point where he can imagine having faith again. (I personally can’t agree with the details on how that happened, but that’s not the point.) I read the comments and everyone told Seth they were praying for him. Or encouraged him because it took them years too, to come back to God after a tragedy had happened. I left a comment and said something to the extend of “Isn’t it funny that we tend to blame God for everything? If there is no one else to blame, well, it must be God’s fault. And isn’t it amazing that despite it all, he forgave all of us for continuously blaming him even before we did it. And he loves us the same nonetheless. Isn’t it amazing to think of this love he has for us and yet we walk around bitter at him.”
That really made me think. And I sort of had an epiphany. We stopped going to church when we still lived in Northern California, almost 5 years ago. At that time, we got “burned” by the church we were attending. That was the second church in a row (sort of the 3rd) where we felt judged and unsupported. So at that point, I was just sort of done with church people. I didn’t want to try out another church to get disappointed again. Incidentally (or not so incidentally), the moment we stopped going to church was the moment our marriage started falling apart. It had seen better days and my then-husband and I tried going to our pastor for counseling, but that didn’t help. Mainly because everything else was more important to him than talking with us, so he referred us to a couple that counseled other couples. That couple was absolutely horrible, commanding us, yelling at us, putting us down. Horrible people. Those experiences are part of the reason why we stopped going to that church.
So we stopped going to church and from then on, everything went unstoppably downhill. And all the while, I was mad at my husband and at God. It couldn’t have possibly been my fault. I got divorced, I lost my son, I lost my status, my nice house, my security, and everything that was in my bank account. I moved to a crappy neighborhood, had a boyfriend I shouldn’t have had, had a roommate to afford rent, lived on a student loan, still in college with no stability other than the hope of graduating and getting a great job right from the get-go. All that happened because I decided that I was better off without God. Because I decided I could make it on my own, and I was strong enough that I didn’t need anyone to tell me what to do, where to go or what to believe.
I look back on this time now and I am ashamed of myself and my actions. I look back and this morning, after reading Seth’s post, I realized it’s been almost 5 years that I had any sort of regular church attendance. FIVE YEARS!! WOW…! And suddenly, that just spelled everything out for me. When you stop walking with the Lord, you start walking with the world. And the world is where the devil reigns. And the devil is very cunning and deceitful and will feasibly make you truly and wholeheartedly believe all kinds of lies. And once you start believing him, he’s got you and turning back is quite difficult. And it took me five years to come to this seemingly simple revelation.
There’s an old song, by DC Talk, called ‘In The Light.’ The opening passage describes these last 5 years of my life precisely:
I’ve been trying to find the light
On my own, apart from you.
I am the king of excuses,
I have one for every selfish thing I do.
Tell me what’s going on inside of me?
I despise my own behavior.
This only serves to confirm my suspicion
That I’m still a man in need of a savior.
It then keeps going with the chorus, what I call a prayer, or a cry for help:
I want to be in the light,
As you are in the light!
I want to shine like the stars in the heavens!
Oh Lord, be my light, and be my salvation,
Cause all I want is to be in the light.
I’ve been feeling God tugging on my heart for a while now. I started feeling him just a little, so little it was easy to dismiss. I didn’t want to go back to being, what I thought of as, restrained. But God was tugging, and I could feel it more and more. Because when your dad keeps calling, at some point, you’re going to listen, however annoyed you might be from it. The devil heard it too, and he was raging, and I felt him raging. He recruited people around me to convince me to stay with my ways (because they had brought me so far?!), he recruited music I liked and listened to (music always speaks to me), he got into my head and told me how wonderful my life was and would be on his side. But God is powerful and mighty and, just like a real dad, he will never ever give up on you, no matter how much you hate him and try to run.
So after a long while, I started listening to Christian music again. And that felt good. It constantly made me cry, because the lyrics hit home so much. I started thinking about going back to church, but I really didn’t see that happening. I was clearly not there. Then I started reading my Bible again. Just every so often. And that’s when I really felt at peace. Those few minutes I actually opened the Bible is when I can honestly say that I actually felt at peace. So step by step God pulled me a little closer back to himself.
Just like Seth, or any of the commenters on his post, I don’t think I ever really lost faith. In fact, I know I didn’t. When you’re mad at someone, you still have to believe that someone is there and exists, otherwise it wouldn’t make sense to be mad at them. I don’t think Seth, or any of the commenters, ever stopped believing either. The pain in their lives, just like mine, just got too much to bear and we blamed it on God instead of seeking refuge in him.
I never stopped believing. We all just chose to be bitter and decided that we’d be better off alone than with a God who would allow us to go through all this drama. Because somehow, the world has instilled into us that our lives must be worry-free and perfect and have a happy ending for everything. (For all the non-Christians still reading, or those Christians who didn’t know this piece of information: The Bible tells us the very opposite. As a believer, we will endure trials and tribulations and we’ll be treated unfairly. The Bible spells out clearly that the world will never truly feel like home, that we don’t belong here, and that, short of the good moments, life is mainly going to suck. Well. Is anyone surprised??) Yet most Christians still go through life expecting to “beat the odds” and pretend or truly try to have a perfect and/or happy life. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t try to be happy, or do everything in our power to actually have a good life. But we also shouldn’t be surprised when sin and trials hit us over the head with a stick… because we do live in a fallen world. As a matter of fact, we should expect it, literally be prepared for personal disaster, and then know where to seek refuge.
So after step by step, after at least a year of slowly working at my heart, God has me at a place where I looked up churches with the right support groups I need at this time in my life. And this Sunday, I am going back to church. And I am actually excited and can’t wait for Sunday to come.