5/28/2012 | Share this article:By iwonder ~
I was born into a super-strict church. Outward appearances were the most important things. Not only dress-wise, but attitude-wise also. The church preached 2 works of grace: salvation, then holiness.
Holiness was huge. That was when you emptied yourself of yourself, and were filled with the holy ghost.Proof of this was loss of any negative emotions, the biggest of which was anger. The root of sin was removed, and after receiving the baptism, people did not sin. I had THE WORST time achieving this. Salvation could be lost, and there were so many things that were sins that I couldn't stay saved long enough to receive the holy spirit. I perceived myself as more sinful than most (step over, apostle Paul!) because no one else in my church had the trouble I did.
All I wanted in the world was for god to love me, and for me to be holy. Beginning in my very early teens, I got serious about my soul, but I could not quit sinning. The church had an altar where praying was done, and I was there all. the. time. People began to take notice. It was a very small church; they couldn't help but notice. I was told that my struggles were a result of my unwillingness to die to myself. I began to plead for god to break my will.
I began praying and fasting everyday, and in fact, made myself sick. I thought if I were miserable enough, god would see how much I wanted to be good enough for him to love and fill me. I was miserably unhappy all through my teen years. I thought that was what I deserved.
The church advised me to "pray clear through". When I did that, and my will was broken, I'd know that I'd achieved holiness.
In 6th grade, my sibs and I began attending the church school, and now I was receiving a double whammy of my unworthiness. I was being preached at there about my sinful heading-to -hell-self, then hearing it at church.
Nothing I did worked, and by the time I was a Senior in high school, I'd just about given up. I had high grades, though, that earned me a scholarship to the church bible college. I thought maybe being surrounded by holy people 24/7 could only help me die to myself. It didn't. It only made me see my badness more starkly. At the end of my first semester, I had my first suicide attempt. I mean, what did I have to live for? I was never going to be good enough for god. I could never be as holy as the church said I should be.
I hung in for 3 years. Then, the depression and the desperation to be good enough became too much. I left school, and gradually the church.
In the years since then, I have also slowly let go of my belief in god. I've come to love myself, and realize that dying to myself was just moronic. Ironically, the more I've let go of god, the more peace and joy I have. I never thought I'd experience these wonderful things!
This is a scary journey I'm on, I'll admit. It's also exciting. I have more freedom now than I ever did before. Not freedom to live hedonistically, as the church told me I would, but freedom to love and be loved. Freedom to accept friends that the church never would have allowed me.
It wasn't easy leaving the community the church afforded me, but I'm finding that I belong to a much bigger (and better!) one: humanity.
I don't know where on this journey I'll be tomorrow, but I'm just so glad I am indeed on it.
Filed Under: Testimonials