You ask me if I go to church. Or, you assume I do and you ask where. But, I don’t go and I can’t imagine ever going back. I don’t want to be a heretic, but the things you say about God…..about me… “God hates divorce”. “You’ll burn in hell forever if you don’t say ____ or do ____ or believe _____ or profess _____.” You promote a God that loves unconditionally, but only once you meet several conditions. You try to explain this to me as if I had never spent years believing, professing and meeting those conditions, or trying to. Let me fill you in….
You told me that the reason I ended up divorced, no family, health issues, no money and continuing to lose in family court was because God was punishing me for unconfessed sin. I was in so much pain. I was desperate for answers. I was vulnerable. Do you know I spent years (literally years) praying for God to reveal to me, my secret sin? I believed in that God You taught me could be manipulated into healing me and cajoled with prayer for the anonymous check in the mailbox. I went into debt because you told me God could be convinced to do miracles if I demonstrated my love with tithes. I kept going to bible studies, the Beth Moore conferences, church every Sunday and Wednesday. Throughout the time consuming and expensive health issues, the family court battles, the silence from my only living relative, my very own mother, who believed I was getting everything I deserved, the debt, the fear, the grief, the ptsd, being tolerated but not included at church and my raging insomnia; my dedication to my religious activities never waned.
Over the months and years, as my life continued to decline, You distanced yourself from me more and more. You still greeted me at the door, but You had that look in your eyes of suspicion and unease. As if, my secret sin was contagious. I obviously wasn’t seeking God enough, as evidenced by my life circumstances. What if my lack of effort, lack of love of God, and my lack in general was something that You might catch? You couldn’t sit next to that at a service or invite that to your cookie exchange. I felt so alone. So abandoned. I continued to beg God to meet me. To help me.
You taught my vulnerable heart was that I was so far gone, that even God had abandoned me too. Hell is not a place you go when you die but it is suffering in this life when you don’t have God. I was in hell. God couldn’t reach me because the ONLY thing I had been conditioned to look for at this point, in the midst of this personal holocaust, was for him to tell or show me what I was doing wrong. Revealing that secret sin that had caused me to lose my health, marital status, family, money, friends, and my dignity. I would have gladly confessed and repented. But God was radio silent. Eventually, I lost all hope and I just wanted to die.
I want to say that I stuck around because I had a young daughter, and that’s at least part of it. The bigger reality is that it takes so much fucking courage to commit suicide. I do not want to glorify suicide, but I do believe it to be the bravest act a human being can do. I simply did not have that kind of courage or strength. I was so ashamed. I wasn’t brave enough to end my own suffering. I was also afraid I would mess it up and be even worse off, if that was even possible. What happens to people when they can’t care for themselves and there is no one, literally, not one human being, who cares enough to take care of you? I was devastated for not being strong enough to will myself to want to live for my young daughter more than I wanted to die.
According to my therapist, most people who lose their health have a loving supportive family. Or, if they don’t have a loving family, they usually have their health. So, all that to say, most people don’t lose it all. I am sure I am not the only one it has happened to (besides Job from the Bible), but I cringe at how many others this has happened to and perhaps lived the same torment I did. If I knew what to call the misfits who might fit into this type of collective suffering, I’d start a Meetup: but I don’t yet know what the title of that would be.
Fast forward many years later. You keep trying to get me to come back. You insist it is the only way. I am still being treated for PTSD for not only the spiritual abuse I endured, but the life events that led up to it. I understand that You were well intended. That’s actually one of the reasons it was so abusive. However, You are still proclaiming terrible things about God and are being believed, just like me. Ultimately, Your God did not save me. Your God was content to let me burn in hell while still on Earth as well as for all eternity, despite earnestly seeking him. Your God probably believes I belong in hell because guess what? I still have not discovered what that secret sin was. Because, there wasn’t one. I spent years looking for something that didn’t exist except in Your beliefs. Believing You took so many years of my life. Believing You took away my ability to be the mother, my sweet young child deserved to have. Believing You almost killed me. Church is a dangerous place for me.
Additionally, no church wants my redemption story because the God that did save me doesn’t have favorites, didn’t kill millions of people, doesn’t require me to profess anything, give money to anyone, doesn’t threaten, doesn’t abandon. He doesn’t ask me to condemn others or police the world for sin or do anything in his name. He just loves. He just wants me to live joyfully. He meets me wherever I am. He is with me wherever I am. He is always there. The God who saved me is so much bigger than what You taught me. So full of love. He is bigger than the box You put him in. My God doesn’t need me to defend him, but I can’t go back to church and pretend he lives in that ridiculous box you’ve put him in. Today, I am free and I choose to live in that. If the rest of the world wants to call me a heretic….well… say whatever you want. I will always have my God, the one who saved me. I’ll never be alone again. I would rather be a saved and loved Heretic than a suicidal Christian any day.