I’ve grown up in the church. Every time the doors were open, my family was there. Of course, that was, in large part, aided by the fact that my dad was the pastor and my mom was the pianist. Sunday School, Sunday morning worship, Sunday evening service, and Wednesday evening prayer meeting. Usually there was choir practice on Sundays, as well, that brought us to the church building an extra hour or so before the evening service. Add that any and all special events, like youth group meetings, revival services, church picnics, etc., and it’s safe to say that most of my young life was taken up by church-related activities. I usually enjoyed the picnics, and the revival meetings were usually fun because special speakers would come in, many of whom had special talents like singing or playing the glasses or other novel things. I even enjoyed the regular services sometimes.
Mostly, though, I found church to be a real drag. I hated losing so much of my free time to something that was, for me, so terribly boring. I have to wonder now if I didn’t, on some level, think of church as rather pointless, even then. I think I might have, even on a conscious level, have considered that fact, but that was so long ago and kids tend to dismiss a lot of their own thoughts and forget about them. I just know that I hated getting up on Sunday mornings to go to church when I would much rather have stayed in bed for an hour or two longer.
I envied my non-church friends who got to stay home and play and watch cartoons and play their video games when I had to be dressed up and in a boring building, sitting in uncomfortable pews for several hours listening to messages that I’d already heard a dozen times before. I knew that I was supposed to think of church as important, but for me, ‘important’ was equivalent to ‘boring’ in much the same way that ‘vegetables’ to a kid usually means ‘gross.’ My parents believed church was important and drilled into my head that it was so, but the gravity of that importance was always lost on me. I didn’t know why I couldn’t just stay at home while they went to church. But I think part of the ‘importance’ of my being in church had as much to do with public appearance as it did with making sure I was indoctrinated properly.
I lived almost two lives throughout high school. On the one hand, I presented my Christian face to my parents and church, but I was less faithful when I was with my high school friends. I was never a party animal, never took up (or even tried) smoking, alcohol, or drugs, even though I was offered all those things several times. Part of it was fear of discovery by my parents, but most of it was simply that I never wanted to dump those poisons into my body. But I did use swear words and took the Lord’s name in vain on many an occasion. At one point one of my peers even confronted me by calling me a hypocrite. I was thunderstruck, of course, by both his boldness and by the truth of his words. I admit I was ashamed at the time, but it never really caused me to change the way I was doing things.
I repented of my ‘sinful’ ways in college and for several years made a concerted effort to live a more righteous life according to both the doctrines I grew up under and according to the greater understanding of Biblical doctrine I was learning at my university. My faith was energized and fresh. I was excited by my newfound closeness with God. I got involved with several ministry teams, and even found myself heading one up during my fourth year.
But then I burned out. I found myself weary of the faithful, Christian life and its rules, regulations, restrictions, and expectations. I still tried to put on the brave face, but underneath it all I’d given up. I’d put my daily routine of devotions and prayer away, and I just never found the energy or desire to pick them up again. I even began to really question whether I ever wanted to have those back. They had never provided me with any lasting strength or change in my life, and so I just didn’t see the point in laboring over something that had so little lasting impact.
Now I’ve come to the point of agnosticism. I’ve been disillusioned with the Church, Christians, and religions of all shapes and forms and want nothing to do with the lot of them. I look at Christianity and see inconsistency in the doctrine itself as well as in the behaviors and beliefs of its followers. I’m not willing to rule out the idea of an intelligent creator of the universe, but if one truly exists, I’m not sure it actually looks like the God of Christianity. I’m more inclined to think that something created the universe then sent it spinning away to fend for itself. I’m not sure that it would even still care that this universe exists, having grown bored with it long ago.
Ultimately, I’m left with a personal sense of contentment now that is greater than anything I ever experienced as a Christian. I’m free to live my life the way I see fit, to live as good a life as I can before I die. And I think that’s the most that anyone can ask. I’m seeing more of my goals accomplished now that I’ve given up Christianity; I’m getting more done now that I’m free of the ridiculous restrictions I’ve been burdened with for most of my life.
It’s strange, really – I never knew I could be this happy and content with my life, but I feel peaceful and even joyful. Mind you, I’m not singing-and-dancing-in-the-streets joyful. I still have my share of hardships and daily struggles, but that’s part of life and I’m happy to confront them and deal with them one by one. I’m just happy to know, finally, who I am and who I want to be and to be able to see things falling into place to achieve those goals.
I have a lot of years ahead of me, and I’m looking forward to seeing where life takes me.