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A Fall and A Rise from Christianity

By Zephram Harrison ~

"So, because you are lukewarm,
and neither cold nor hot,
I am about to spit you out of my mouth."
-- Revelations 3:16 (New Revised Standard Version)

I was raised Christian. My church was near Indianapolis, Indiana, and was non-denominational.

My family was relatively devout. We all volunteered often at the church. My siblings and I were even in the drama team. We acted out skits to help teach lessons to the younger children.

I can't remember when I committed my life to Christ. But I can remember a moment, after doing it. I was riding home from a Sunday service in a white pickup truck. I was very young, about seven or eight, and I was very happy. My parents believed in God, and I wanted to be like them. It felt like the right thing to do.

The fall started quietly when I was between ten and twelve years old. I began having strong sexual thoughts towards girls. This is lust, a sin in the Christian faith. The Bible is very clear about this, in numerous places. Guilt is common with any sin, but I felt a deep shame for lusting, in particular. Not due to a single thought, but due to the unrelenting frequency of these thoughts. For the next six years, I would add into my prayers..,
"Please, God, help me to resist the temptation of lust."
I wanted to grow closer to God, but every time I had sexual thoughts, I felt like I'd taken a step back from Him. I doubted God's existence, for giving me a clear, biological compulsion, and then telling me not to think about it.

Then, my fear got the better of me. And a curious thing happened. While eavesdropping on a conversation between my mother and a visiting friend, I heard a story about a kid I knew from church. The child was walking through a hallway in his home, when a grotesque, green ogre with horns appeared. It was a demon staring down the kid.

The demon went away just as quickly as it appeared, and the kid was unhurt. The story was concluded by the fact that if you said, "In the name of Jesus Christ, get out of this house," then the power of God would force demons to leave.

The idea that demons can visit children is utterly terrifying, especially when you are a child.

I'm a nervous person, and my first clear memory involves:

  • being afraid of the dark, and
  • not being able to fall asleep.

I would often think I saw faces in the dark or that someone was going to hurt me after I closed my eyes. I know, now, that those irrational fears are known as common paranoia. But when you're a kid, you don't know important stuff, like the mistakes you tend to make.

I was afraid of a great many things. The existence of a higher power that could protect me, was thoroughly appealing, especially at night.

When trying to fall asleep in bed, my eyes would close, but I would also listen intently to soften any lingering fears. After hearing the story about the demon, I'd preemptively whisper,
"In the name of Jesus Christ, get out of this house."
for a few rough nights.

One night, I was startled awake by a voice. The voice spoke in gibberish, and it was deep, guttural. Opening my eyes, I could only see two feet past my bed. Further out, it was all black.

A clock sitting on a brown hutch near my bed read "12:03 AM" in its green liquid crystal display. It was that time of night when you think no one else in the house is awake. The gibbersih might as well have been another language. It continued.

Closing my eyes, I weakly mumbled, unintelligibly, "In the name of Jesus Christ, get out of this house."The voice grew louder, yelling, as if emboldened.

Then I screamed,

"In the name of Jesus Christ, get out of this house!"

Then the voice went away, on the exclamation point of that yell. I was wide awake, sweating like a runner, and breathing hard. Throwing the covers over my whole body, I hid underneath for the rest of the night. I was scared worse than ever before.

I knew it was not a nightmare. The feeling of sweat on my back and the crystal clear memory are indicators that I was awake. I'd never had a nightmare with such strong details. In a nightmare, there is often a startling moment that forces one awake. Here, something caused me to wake up.

This event caused two critical things to happen:

  • I continued to believe in God.
  • I took pride in the fact that a demon had visited me.

The reasons came later:

If I heard a demon, then at least one exists. If the words worked, then Jesus's name has power. I was a witness to that power. For a time, Christianity ceased to become a matter of faith. To me, it became a matter of fact.

I kept repeating inside my head, "If God allowed this to happen, then I was not meant for a normal life." I felt unique, at those times in youth when you are so desperate for an identity, even a bad one will do. It lead to feelings of destiny. Along with feelings of entitlement and superiority. I continued to beat myself up for lusting after girls. It was a drain placed underneath my self-esteem. My self-worth could so easily be washed away by a single thought, an image, or an erection.

There is no immediate consequence for lust, in one's heart. Parents are not mind-readers. No one but me, knew how much of a sinner I was... unless I told them. And I'm not as honest as Jimmy Carter. God could forgive me, but I could not forgive myself.
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction."
-- Proverbs 1:7 (New Revised Standard Version)
Around this age, I started reading the book of Proverbs, because I wanted to be wise. I wanted more than simple knowledge, like 3+3=6. I wanted to be mature, to understand people, and to know what to do next. I wanted to see the inevitable when one truly understands a situation.

In high school, after more reflection about that night, the question ceased to be whether or not God existed. The question became whether or not I could trust my own ears. I was still lusting; God hadn't answered my prayers. The more I questioned His existence, the less happy I felt. But I knew I'd rather be right and a little sad, than be happy and wrong. When long term benefits outweigh short term costs, the choice is easy.

During my first year in college, I made a deal with myself. I would stop believing in God for one year. Like a test. If I didn't feel God's presence, or I could live without Him, then I could permanently stop believing.

Without God, I thought I was free,

  • to believe what I thought was right, instead of what the Bible says is right,
  • to exist with the uncertainty of what happens after death (in place of a looming, final judgement)
  • to think sexual thoughts free of shame or regret

Old habits die hard.

I still felt shame when thinking about women. I was so ashamed, I virtually stopped looking people in the eye. I looked down at the floor as often as possible, and stopped enjoying the act of sight. In my later college years, it became worse.

I stopped getting a full night's sleep. I stopped brushing my teeth twice a day. I stopped showering daily. I stopped focusing on my studies. Due to stress, malnutrition, and a lack of sleep, I started to easily forget things. Most importantly, I forgot who I was.

After a few years, I got two cavities, and I failed a class. This left me at about the level of a seven year old in personal hygiene, and I lost good schoolwork as a critical source of self-esteem. A strong sense of failure began to spread through me.

Throughout my early life, I would think about a women, and feel ashamed from the thought. But then I would receive a good grade on a worksheet. Then the next hour or the rest of the day might turn out OK. Then night would come, when that type of thought is at its strongest, and the cycle began again.

I used to be a good student, but I started procrastinating and making poor decisions with my time. I wasn't good to my friends or the people who depended on me. At times, I made simple tasks more difficult, just to mess with myself. I was so tired

  • I forgot to smile.
  • I was on edge, constantly shifting between angry and afraid.
  • I didn't want to talk to other people.
  • I didn't want to eat.
  • I didn't want to think.
  • I looked for short-term pleasures: TV, drinking, etc.

I had many of the disadvantages of vanity, without the crucial benefits of self-esteem. It's a weird mix, but these two conditions can pair up in folks, especially in "my generation". (I'll expand on this in the next document. There is a link to the document at the bottom of this testimonial.)

I wasn't living; I was only surviving. I was stumbling through life with a useless depression, a useless anger, and tired eyes. I hated myself. I wanted to die, but I didn't know myself well enough to realize it.

Too much of my self-worth was tied up in a relationship to God, a being that may or may not exist. With the daily sin of lust, I felt like a wind-up toy, constantly running into the same wall, and quickly running out of energy.

I do not know, for sure, if Christianity is right or wrong. I know Christianity is not right for me. I know if I stay, I would keep hurting myself.

I am neither hot nor cold. I'm just tired.

Go ahead, God. Spit me out.

A Rise from Christianity