Well, I loathe admitting it, but they are right: I lost my faith because I didn’t “do” Christianity right.
I didn’t go to the right church. Now, I realize that my upbringing in the Presbyterian and Christian Reformed churches was way off base, which is why upon receiving my driver’s license I began attending a Pentecostal church—you know, where God “shows up” each week, and where the promises of God were apples on a tree and I merely had to pick them! I was a charismatic believer into middle age, increasingly overcoming the niggling doubts that plagued me. I realize now that this charismatic belief system was wrong. I probably should have instead attended a Vineyard church, a house church, no church, or a Presbyterian church…and if so, I’d still be a believer. But alas, I didn’t do these things. I thought I was following God’s leading in my life as to where I fellowshipped and worshipped, but I was wrong. I did it wrong. I didn’t go to Just The Right Church.
I didn’t pray right. Okay, I admit it. I prayed a couple of hours a day during my most spiritual years. Now, this sounds like too much/too little. It really should have been more or less. A pastor once shouted from the pulpit that daily each of us spends 8 hours at work, 8 hours sleeping, 3 hours eating, 2 hours commuting, and 2 hours watching TV, etc. etc.….but maybe only a few minutes praying—a travesty if there ever was one. Heck—we should be praying 3-4 hours per day! Yes, I fell short, and lost my faith. But I also prayed too much; I was too much in my head, and listened too much for God in all things. A more toned down version of spirituality would have been better, more sustainable, more grounded in reality. As well, most of my praying was not intercession but worship—I realize this was probably wrong too. I should have been asking God for specific things (things like “Don’t let me lose my faith!”). I did it wrong. I didn’t pray Just The Right Amount and Just The Right Way.
I didn’t fast properly. I fasted only when I felt the Lord encouraging me to do so, which I realize is problematic due to the nature of subjective experience, but I thought (errantly) that my subjective experience was subjected to God’s authority (oops). Fasting is hard for me, and once I even had to break a fast because I was too ill to continue and almost needed to go to the emergency department. My longest fast was 10 days, which I realize is too short/too long. A ‘prophet’ friend of mine fasted 40 days, like Christ; I could never do that and I realize now that I have failed. I realize now, in retrospect, that shorter fasts may have sufficed to incline God’s ear; I was overdoing it by fasting for between 3 and 10 days. A more moderate approach would have been better. I did it wrong. I didn’t fast Just The Right Amount.
I didn’t have the right information. I knew too much/too little to retain my faith. I have read a lot of apologetics books, hoping to close the broken circle in my brain, to make things make sense and assuage the growing cognitive dissonance that threatened my intellectual integrity (not to mention sanity). But I think I read the wrong apologetics books; I listened to the wrong pastors; I listened to the wrong spiritual people in my life. If I had read the right books, listened to the right pastors, and heeded the right words from the right spiritual people in my life, I’d have been better off. Instead, I had the wrong information, and lots of it. I didn’t have Just The Right Information.
I didn’t try the right way. Some say I’m an overachiever; I think I’m an underachiever, but that is neither here nor there, because I really am both. I tried too hard as a Christian. I bent my ear to the throne of God and relentlessly pursued truth and a righteous walk with God. But I tried too hard and it came undone; I tried too hard to make things make sense in my little puny human brain. I also didn’t try hard enough, or I wouldn’t have lost my faith. I should have tried harder/tried less hard. I didn’t try Just The Right Amount.
I didn’t wait long enough. I waited for the Lord on high, but he did not hear my prayer. Or maybe he heard it but is playing Game of Job at my expense. I liken my departure from faith to hanging white knuckled on the edge of a cliff, and finally, the last insult comes and it’s like a foot stomping on those white knuckled fingers and I lose my grip and fall. I should have pre-contemplated this eventuality and installed some climbing protection (a “Jesus Nut”) below me so that my faith would have been spared. But I didn’t, and it wasn’t. I expired before I officially stopped waiting.
I am too smart/too stupid to be a Christian. I guess this is what it ultimately comes down to. I am too clever to be a Christian because I can’t just let things pass that make no sense. My alarm bells go off at all the wrong times, like about how original sin was ‘injected’ into the human race: was it injected into H. Habilis, H. Erectus, H. Sapiens? Without original sin, the cake called Christianity is a bit of a flop. The virgin birth was tough for me too, being as intellectually bereft as I am: I know it should be obvious and/or irrelevant, but whose DNA are we talking about in the case of a virgin birth? And of course, stupidly I could not understand the Trinity, try as I might! Oh, the books I have read, the metaphors I have drummed up, and the prayers I have prayed, but still, the Trinity is a round peg that won’t fit into the square hole of my brain. I didn’t have Just The Right Amount of intelligence.
In a distant life I would go target shooting with my criminal justice boyfriend. We aimed for tight groupings in target shooting, and I used to get some really nice tight groupings at a few hundred yards. This lesson is one that I should have applied to my Christian walk: the need for precision and accuracy. Both high accuracy/low precision, and low accuracy/high precision are recipes for Wrong Theology which can result in losing one’s faith. In my decades of valiant effort at faith, I failed in either (or both) accuracy or precision, depending on the aspect of Christianity I was aiming to get right. With Christianity, one needs the rare combination of high accuracy with high precision to get those theological groupings right where they belong: dead centre of the bulls eye of faith. Without that, you’re simply not doing it right.