When I speak with many of my friends or acquaintances who are still Christian, I believe there remains some confusion about why I have walked away from my faith. Some of the impressions I have received from former brothers and sisters in the faith have caused me to reflect on hurtful memories. Some have expressed that I should make a quick turn around and come back to Christ, whereas others have implied that is was my fault that I no longer hear God, and still others think my behavior is a front or a rebellion directed at God. I have a few friends who are believers who continue to love me for whom I am and who accept me for where I am. You hopefully know who you are, and this post does not reflect upon you.
This update is mostly to recollect my memories and share an experience that has forever changed me. It is also for those who assume they know what I feel, to those who have blamed me in a failed relationship with God, or those who think that this is my opportunity to rebel or offend others. For all others it is an explanation of where I currently am and also where I am not. Many people attest to experiencing a moment in their lives that bolstered their faith, a personal experience that they can attribute to none other than Jesus Christ, their lord and savior. This is powerful when another claims to have a spiritual experience. I cannot prove something that happens within another’s mind and heart as true or false. I myself had an earth-shattering experience, but this happened in an opposite fashion because it confirmed to me that there is not a God that fits the Christian description.
My story begins in August of 2009, about three months before I left to Guatemala. I was heading to this foreign country to reconfirm my relationship to God, to serve others and to be baptized. I prayed harder than I ever had the months preceding my departure. I prayed to be closer to God, I asked him to use my life as a living sacrifice, and soon I would be praying for him to heal my heart. I was having doubts about the church and its intentions in this modern world. I had questions about this God and his purposes, and I believed with all of my heart that this trip would be a perfect opportunity to strengthen my spiritual relationship. I believed I was being called by HIM to leave my broken family and serve his greater purpose.
Three weeks before my departure to Guatemala my wife of 15 years, in the passion of a recurring argument told me that she is gay. She could no longer live the lie that was our heterosexual marriage. Although this news was going to be a shock to those who surrounded us, it quickly made sense to me. Who was it that said “The truth will set you free?” Oh yeah-Jesus, well at least that part was true because it certainly did, and continues to set me free. I hurt because everything I knew was going to change rapidly, and the anxiety of the unknown became overwhelming. What would happen with my children? Would my ex and I remain friends? How would my church community react when they found out? Questions like these plagued my mind, and at the time drowned out my questions, which were poised at God or the effectiveness of the church. I almost did not go on my mission trip, but finally a thought that highlighted others suffering as more powerful than my own pushed me to go. So I managed my pain and boarded that plane, to do what I believed I was being called to do.
Guatemala is an amazing country. It was important to see others suffering and at times it made me feel guilty for experiencing my own suffering. I was still hurting, and at this point a few in my group knew of my pending separation, but had little idea of my soon-to-be ex’s sexuality. I eventually told my closest friends on the trip about the situation, they were supportive but could do little to help my broken heart.
In the months preceding my departure for Guatemala, I had stopped hearing God’s voice or noticing his presence and I have not heard from him since. I associated this with the story when Christ cried out to his father, “Why have you forsaken me?” as he hung on the cross. Why now? In a time I was praying for myself, for my relationship with God to become closer, to the point I was on my knees in tears proclaiming that I could no longer do this on my own. If he did exist why did he abandon me? The day I felt this most acutely was on the last day I was there. This was the day of my baptism. I was being re-baptized because I wanted it to be my choice. I did not remember my baptism through the Catholic Church, and I had felt moved to connect with God in this beautiful country. That night I wrote in my journal and I prayed this prayer:
I have not heard your voice or felt your presence in a long time. I do not know why this is, but I plead to hear your voice again, I left my broken home to follow your will, and to serve these people so they should know you. I have much hurt of my own over a failed marriage and the separation from my children. Please help me transfer my own hurt into a positive spirit that will help the people of Guatemala. I need you to know that I am finding it difficult to keep my faith strong when you feel so far away. Please lord, watch over my ex and protect her from the ridicule that will come from those who will never understand her pain or struggle. Please help my children through this difficult time and help them to know you and your purpose. I long to hear from you, and I have not given up. Tomorrow I will be baptized and I ask you to heal this broken heart so I can serve your kingdom and know you better.
I awoke the next day, and I was excited about my baptism. My good friend Jon was going to facilitate and another friend Mark would help submerge me in the waters at the base of a volcano. When the moment arrived I had a terrible emotion in my heart. This feeling could be described as a mix of anxiety, heartburn, and buyer’s remorse. Jon said his prayer, which was beautiful and heartfelt, as I prayed for God to lay his holy spirit upon me. Jon and Mark fully submerged me under the water, and when I came to the surface I raised my hands into the air as everyone cheered. What I experienced inside was dark, I looked around and everyone was frenzied, happy, and they all congratulated me. Their excitement and joy lifted me for a while, but that dark feeling returned and I felt utterly empty. This was a pain that I could not begin to describe and am just starting to understand. It morphed the pain of my broken marriage, and the woe of the homeless, and I felt so alone even though there were many people around me. A picture was taken to capture the moment and today I can barely look upon it. I have not spoken about this in great detail with anyone, but this was the defining or unspiritual moment I will call “the pivot.”
The pivot was an experience that completely changed the direction of my life. It did not happen immediately but it is where the conversion began. I returned from Guatemala to find that my ex’s reception in the church was not well received. Many people did not speak to her, and those who did kept to small talk. She had come there to pray for my safety, a promise she made before I left. I thought heavily about the kingdom of God and how God works through people. I did not understand how at a time when I was in a very dark place, as I was crying out for help in prayer, the kingdom of God was too busy being offended by my ex’s sexuality, instead of knowing what to do to help. Was it really that crazy of me to think there is no narrative between this God and his kingdom? It seems to me that if God worked through people, this would have been an amazing time to do so. I rarely prayed for myself, but this time I really needed some celestial help. I was not strong enough and at most times my loneliness was too much to bear. I started to notice the way life worked around me. It became more obvious each passing week that this God simply did not exist. If he did exist then how can he be described as loving? I do not mean just my situation, but all situations regarding God abandoning/testing/whatever-ing his people. I had talked to individuals, and I had read of personal experiences of abandonment during their greatest suffering. One of the most convincing was Mother Theresa’s pleading. This is a woman who gave her entire life to help the most impoverished. If there ever was a living sacrifice it was her, and she would not have accepted the credit of that title. I took the time to include a few of her quotes before she died doing this God’s work.
“I am told God lives in me — and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul,”
“Where I try to raise my thoughts to heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul. Love — the word — it brings nothing,”
“In my soul, I can’t tell you how dark it is, how painful, how terrible — I feel like refusing God.”
I came to a point where the Christian story had become ridiculous, and I could no longer see past this absurdity. A God that was not powerful enough to give perfection and free will in the same breath decided instead to first create perfection, and then to give free will that would ultimately serve to tempt us from ourselves. Thousands of years would go by with this God killing sinners. He used floods, famine aweather, and gathered armies who killed women and children before gaining a solution. He would need a blood sacrifice of a human, his son who is actually him. So God impregnates a virgin with his spirit, and Jesus (also God the father) is born on Earth to teach many lessons. Not one of his apostles was ever commanded to be a scribe while he was alive? *strange stare* He was crucified, died and was buried. On the third day Jesus rose again and appeared to many people, yet no one wrote of this until many years later. Jesus came to relieve humans of the imperfection of sin that was caused thousands of years back in a garden. This original sinner was a woman named Eve. She was created from a rib bone, had a conversation with a talking snake and ate from a tree that God originally planted in the first place. Her actions damned mankind to an eternal Hell unless they acknowledged the death and resurrection through telepathy to this God, all the while eating his flesh and drinking his blood to remember him. This talking snake (or Satan) who tempted Eve in Eden is either allowed to run amok or his existence is a calculated one. I do not know which one is more fucked up!
Many people would say that the pain and emptiness I was experiencing was from a broken marriage alone, or that my faith was not sincere from the beginning, or that it was is my fault that I could not hear God any longer. These were and still are hurtful statements that continue to show that God’s kingdom is not serving any will but their own. Yes I felt pain from my marriage splitting, but this experience hurt in a profoundly different way. Anyone who truly knew me when I believed would have never questioned my sincerity. I was devout in my faith, I talked to God daily, and I thought I felt his presence. I named my children Ezekiel, Isaac, Zion, and Israel, which is not a move from someone who is insincere or never truly believed in the first place. This would become a major trigger and a wound that would continue to be rubbed raw by believers in my life. I was a Christian for 33 years, and it was something I took very seriously.
Since this moment, I have moved forward and started finding the true beauty in a random world, in a gigantic universe that does not revolve around humankind. When looking out at the stars, it is not ridiculous in my mind that there could be much more. I think what is ridiculous is that I am expected to understand what that may be. My life is no longer built around allegorical man-made myths, which have destroyed people, relationships and nations through interpretations of ancient writings. I still from time to time speak into the universe asking this God to make himself known. He would know, if he existed, that this is the only way I could believe in him again. A direct conversation in my head telling me he loves me and he exists, but he will not because the Christian God does not exist. Here I am with my ears wide open, he knows where I am, and if he exists he can start speaking at any time.
Mother Teresa, Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta, Ed. Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C., (NY: Doubleday, 2007), 193.