We all experience a different faith journey, even though our destination and travel partner are the same. This is simply a tid bit of my journey. I found it necessary to write this as I need to know how I got to where I am right now...
In the Beginning...
It started as it does for many Christians - as a baby. I was baptized in a Lutheran church when I was only a few weeks old. Of course, I don't recall this event. If it wasn't for a picture of it, I wouldn't have a clue it even happened. To be honest, I don't recall much of a church life at all between the ages of newborn to 8. I don't recall much of anything from then. Due to certain events in my early childhood, much of my memories have been buried. I vaguely remember that I attended Sunday School. In fact, I believe it was there when a friend of mine revealed the truth of Santa Claus. But, that is all I remember.
When I was 8, we moved from a small town to a larger city. With this move came a new church... and a slightly new denomination. We joined a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church. I don't remember attending Sunday School there, but I do remember I attended a few years of pre-Confirmation, followed by a few years of Confirmation before being confirmed the end of my freshman year of high school. It was during the Confirmation years that I began to form my faith, and lose my faith - kind of all at the same time.
The first time I remember really feeling the affects of depression was when I was around 12 years old...just a little before I would have started regular confirmation classes. Before this time, I blindly followed a God whom I was taught to follow. I wasn't against God or the Church. I simply learned what I was taught... memorized creeds and prayers and Bible verses and the 10 Commandments.
The Affects of Depression on Faith (and Faith on Depression)...
It was when I started to slip into depression that I realized the God I was being taught was a cruel God. If you don't behave - you're going to hell. If you don't listen to your parents - you're going to hell. I was taught that parents are supposed to beat their children. I was taught that as a female, I was to submit to a man in every way. I was taught I am nothing, and will be nothing. These lessons were drilled into me by my parents and by my Church.
I remember a battle going on within my own mind. I desperately wanted to follow a God I thought should exist. I desperately wanted to learn about that kind of a God. I started reading my Bible and studying. I started volunteering at the Church more. I helped in the Church nursery. I taught Sunday School to mentally handicapped children and adults. I went to church. But things just never added up. The God I was taught at Church was one of fire and brimstone. The God I was taught at home was one of anger and vengeance. The God I saw working in my life was cruel and cold. But the God I felt inside was not this way.
And that really made no sense. The God I saw on a daily basis was one whom abandoned His children in their time of need. He allowed children to be beaten and bruised and broken. He didn't protect. He didn't love. How could I even consider that there might be kindness and care and a gentle love in this God? In frustration and anger, I talked myself out of this concept of a good God. God was nothing but a cruel master, and we were but pawns. I made a pact with Satan... he could have my soul, if he only save me and my siblings from the pain we were going through. Of course, Satan was just as responsive as God had been.
Since that didn't work, I determined that perhaps God was a good God - I was just not deserving of His kindness, care, and gentle love. So, I tried to kill myself. A few times. I'm still not sure if I just didn't truly want to die, if I was seeking attention, or if I was just really lucky - none of my attempts worked (obviously).
God - Who Needs Him?
Eventually, I just stopped caring. I didn't care if I lived or died. The suicide attempts were replaced with reckless behavior. And, I didn't care if God existed or not. Studying, praying, bargaining, and seeking the truth were all pushed aside. At 18 years old, I left home and my Church, and didn't look back.
From that point until a little over 2 years ago, I would attend a United Church of Christ church with my in-laws on Easter and Christmas. That was the church I got married in, and got most of my children baptized in. My in-laws took the kids to church most Sundays, and they attended Sunday School. The older three children were confirmed in that church. But my attendance was 3 times a year at best. I didn't see church attendance as important. I didn't see faith in God as important. I believed in Him. But was not about to concern myself again with seeking the truth or a relationship with Him.
About 6 or 7 years ago, I began to get interested in religion as a whole. I studied mythologies. I studied the "lost books" of the Bible. But, I still wasn't interested in any kind of relationship with God. My interests were strictly intellectual, not emotional or spiritual.
Just over two years ago, this dismissive attitude about God began to diminish. I found myself driven into His arms. I had a sudden hunger to learn more about Him, and to let Him into my heart. I wanted to study, and go to service. I felt Him and wanted more. It was sudden, and impulsive, and crazy.
I changed churches, back to the Lutheran denomination I started with. God became the center of my existence. I started reading and studying the Bible and theology; attending Bible study; attending service every week (twice a week during those certain times of the year); listening to Christian music; praying;turning to a pastor for guidance; taking part in the Church life; writing a Christian blog; having theological discussions.
I was certain God was responsible for this change in me. I was also certain God had a need for me... a purpose. I wasn't sure what that purpose was, but knew there must be. Perhaps He was calling on me to become a pastor, or a teacher? He needed me for something.
And Again the Results of Depression on Faith (and Faith on Depression)
These past two years, I have been in that strange place yet again... my heart knowing my God is an awesome, loving, merciful God; but seeing a world which does not seem to be ruled by this kind of God. This time, however, my Church tends to agree with my heart on the matter. But those I speak to online - not all of them are in agreement. Many still follow and teach that God I fell away from when I was younger - the God of anger and uncaring.
Perhaps it is this battle which has me sinking. Or perhaps it is that since my sudden hunger, my depression has increased tenfold. It turns out God had no purpose for me. And He continues to beat down those I love, knowing it is the surest way to beat me down. He took away the one who'd helped bring me back to Him. He ignores my prayers and pleas. The harsh judgements of those around me have come back. Dissension, discord, and friction grows - sometimes caused unintentionally by me. My faith in mankind, and God, and myself has dwindled to almost nothing. I try to reach out for help, but either a) find nothing there; or b) bite the hand reaching back. Of course, it might help if a) I were better at asking for help; or b) I hadn't already bit those who used to try to help.
I truly don't know what to do or where to go from here. I feel lost. I've stumbled off that path, and haven't a clue where I am. I haven't a clue which path I want to find. Is this the end of my faith journey?