This was one subject I have been wanting to post about for several months because religion played a huge part in my early life. Actually, up until I was nearly thirty-nine. After posting my previous post about getting bullied in my church youth group, some people will say that the bullying I suffered at the time contributed to my straying from God a few years later, although most of those people would still rather believe that it was heavy metal music or the evil heathens I met while serving in the military. Those are just easy cop outs for those who don’t want to come up with a more appropriate cause.
Let’s explore this then. I will start with when I first became a born again Christian when I was eleven. I was afraid of an eternity in hell and according to what I was being taught at the time, accepting Jesus as Saviour was the way to avoid it. Therefore, I did. I didn’t have any epiphanies or white light experiences and it took almost a year before full realisation of my choice actually kicked in. When it did, I became committed to serving the Lord.
Anything I read in the bible or explained to me by a minister or Sunday school teacher was incorporated into my beliefs. My Asperger’s mind took the teachings quite literally. I became a spiritual sponge soaking up all the knowledge about God that I could. However, on the flip side, I never quite had the courage to go out and convert the world to my beliefs and while now with hindsight, I see this was probably the good thing, at the time I felt that I was failing God on this part.
I carried my faith all through my high school years and there were times I thought the Lord came through for me. Unfortunately, there were also many times when he didn’t and it left me pondering God’s will. Often times it seemed that it didn’t include me and I couldn’t always find the answer in the bible though I managed to find some sort of explanation most of the time. For instance, I attributed the bullying in youth group was the world resenting for being one of God’s chosen and the bully leaving the church as God rescuing me from said problem.
Where it all began to unravel was my senior year of high school. Up until then, I did my best to serve God and most of the time, it seemed to pay off. For three summers, I worked at a bible summer camp for children, I had been a camper there myself before that. I was in my element, serving the Lord with all my heart and hearing that my service would be rewarded in heaven only spurred me on. That third summer before my senior year, I thought God had blessed me more when I had a Christian girl friend who also worked at the camp. That was probably the best summer of me pre- adult life.
It all came crashing down when the summer ended. When I got home, no matter how hard I tried or prayed, I couldn’t find a part time job in spite of working three summers for the Lord. When I did, it was delivering newspapers in my car and while I was grateful for God for getting me this job, I still felt silly being a seventeen year old paper boy. While I kidded myself that I was doing right for not letting pride get in my way, my self esteem was still low. In fact, going off topic for a sec, I can say that I hid my low self esteem behind the Christian belief of not thinking too highly of oneself. Then there was the girl friend. I actually remained faithful to her because I was told by a minister that one night stands and short term romances were against God. Therefore, I thought I was only doing right by him. Unfortunately, members of my family and even the girl herself didn’t think that way. The girl’s belief was that she didn’t own me and I was free to go my own way. Family members thought I was wasting my time with someone who was so far away. As a result, I believed that I was being condemned for living Christian standards by the very people who I thought were supposed to be on my side and while I wasn’t looking for praise, I didn’t expect that. The whole thing sent me into a state of total confusion and though I tried, I couldn’t find anything in the bible to enlighten me.
I wasn’t questioning God or even faith, what was going through my mind at the time was whether it was worth it trying to work so hard to serve God. After all, came one set of reasoning, we were saved by faith and not of works lest any many should boast according to Ephesians 2: 8-9. It began to play on me big time and my saint like behaviour began to slip. I did have a period where it went back up. When I enlisted in the marines, I needed a lot of faith to get me through boot camp or at least I thought. During those twelve weeks on Parris Island, it felt like I was going from one mishap to the next and my Asperger’s gave me some situations there too, but I’ll save that for another time.
Eventually, I did backslide in the eyes of many Christians. Though I went through the motions of reading my bible and praying, I no longer went out to live for the Lord. Many things contributed to this beyond the events already listed but I will say that one major event that hastened my downfall was when I was in the marines about six months. I was still in love with that girl I mentioned and we still had a relationship going, even if it was long distance and I did most of the work. Therefore, I was convinced that she was the girl God chose for me, so I proposed. Well, she turned me down rather bluntly and that really sent me off the rails in many ways. I’m not blaming her, but it sent lots of conflicting thoughts in my head to which I had a near melt down. I believed God had set me up for a fall and the whole thing didn’t make sense to me for a long time.
I could write volumes about this subject alone and since there is more material in my brain, I will save it for the next post. Before I go, let me just say that I have no problem with people who follow religion or a spiritual belief, especially if they draw comfort from it. But for me, it messed my head up more than drugs or heavy metal music ever could.
Next post: Part 2