Image via WikipediaThis website has been great. I really get a kick out of the stories I read on this site and the great insight that you guys have. As a matter of fact, I can relate to many of your experiences in the church. On that note, let me share mine. And before I do that, I must say that my story is a little more difficult and more complicated than yours and hopefully I can get some help from you guys to finally be truly free at last from the depressing mess the church life has provided for me. So here goes:
Well for me, let me start by saying that I was raised in a catholic background. We did not practice it on a steady basis or go to church religiously or anything like that, but I did receive my sacraments like baptism as a baby, communion, penance, confirmation, etc....
And growing up in the catholic religion, I always believed in god and always felt close to god. When I was in a crisis as a kid I always prayed to god. I would make the sign of the cross and I always believed god was with me.
For the most part, I had a good childhood. I was an only child and my mom and dad (though were not perfect) were good parents and good role models.
However, one of the struggles I had as a teenager was loneliness. Though I was very social, I was also very nasty and burnt bridges with many of my friends leaving me with no one to hang out with sometimes. Many times during the summer months, if I was not visiting family, I was home alone most of the day with nothing to do. Even in school, I had some friends, but no one who I hung out with on a steady basis!
But there was one friend of mine who welcomed me in and was someone I felt comfortable around. He was 11 years older than me (when I was 16 he was 27). He was also married and had a couple of young children who I used to babysit and spend time with.
I guess I was kind of naïve to his game at the time cause though he was welcoming and friendly, he was a born again Christian. He constantly insisted we pray whenever we did something (like eat, go jogging, watch a show on TV, etc…). On Sunday’s he and his family would go to church, and I kind of wanted to go (because I was lonely), but I did not (afterall I knew I was a catholic and to be honest I didn’t even know there was a difference).
Well anyways, eventually I went to evangelical Christian church with him and his family in late 1993 / early 1994 and kind of started going consistently to church after that. And since I was a catholic who always believed in god, I always figured I was going to heaven anyway! I say this because when I was a child my mom always told me just do good and you will go to heaven and be with god!
It took a couple of months (about 4-6) when I actually realized that the bible has lots of ambiguity in it and people debate it. You see, growing up I always thought the bible was the word of god and that was that (how naïve I was!!! WOW). I had no idea of holy wars, etc….
It was then that I was told that good works don’t get you into heaven, but you must love Jesus and submit to him. This definitely made me feel uneasy, but since I was going to church anyway, I kind of just went with it!
But through the first couple of years in my church experience at the evangelical church was the fact that I noticed the people at Christian church actually worship god. They don’t just “go to church” like they do at catholic church, but they live for God! They read the bible, they pray, they sing worship music. But this made me feel guilty because, I didn’t have that desire to worship god like they did, and I thought in order for me to know that I am saved, I have to do all of those things! But I kept pressing because it made sense to me since I always prayed to god anyway, even when I was a boy going to catholic church.
Anyways, fast forward to summer 1997, I was a college student home for the summer and still lonely most of the time. It was at that point I reached out to another Christian friend of mine (one my age) to pray for me because I was feeling lonely and inadequate. Me and him started to do a bible study together and I started to develop a love for Christ as a result before I left for college that fall.
Well when I left for college that fall, the first couple of weeks were troubling for me. I had roommates I was not crazy about. But I started to go to a local Pentecostal church in the town.
Eventually that church suggested I go to this college worship conference where I would meet other Christian college students. I did that and I had a great time. But it was here where I REALLY got exposed to all the speaking in tongues, etc…. and I thought this has to be real! I left that conference praising god and I was ready to roll! I was excited about god and started reading my bible all the time, god was my life!
I started going to church with a real purpose and was excited about being there after that. But what happened was though the novelty of it wore off, the memory of how awesome that conference was, remained and I used that as my motivation to stay on course!
What happened in the months to follow is several of the people in the church began to pray for me and do prophecies over me. I was baptized in the holy spirit and started to speaking in tongues.
It was a little overwhelming for me I guess in some ways, but I was fascinated by the supernatural things. It kind of confirmed my belief in god. I mean I remember when I was a boy always being fascinated by things like magic, etc….
The church I went to in college had a pastor who was constantly talking about reaching the lost and the elder always prayed in tongues and focused more on demon fighting and rebuking the devil than he did on praising god, I mean he did praise god too, but more of his time was spent on fighting the devil!
It got to the point that the message became so condemning where the pastor challenged us to do something for the lost, that I decided I was going to start a Christian group on my campus and was going to get people saved!
So the following year, me and a couple of people at my church started a Christian group on campus! This is when I became so anxious. I don’t know what I was thinking. My whole life became that ministry. I became so out of touch with the campus. All I knew was people needed to get saved!
Forget the fact that by October 1998 all those in my classes were having a good time, laughing and being themselves, while I was lonely and miserable trying to figure out how they can ever get saved, since after all, they were having all the fun, while I was depressed and living in denial about it! Deep down I was wishing I could have had the fun. It got to the point where I wanted to leave the faith then, but I kept thinking about my experience at the conference the year before.
During that time span, I was exposed to large amounts of “spiritual warfare,” prophecies and supernatural occurrences!
I still remember two instances. One was on Oct. 17, 1998 when I was at a Saturday night youth church service when I was depressed to the point I thought I was having some kind of heart attack! And I was on my way out of the service and I told the elder’s wife that I was going to take myself to the ER cause I was having a heart attack! The elder, who was preaching the sermon stopped and asked me if I was ok? And I told him I am going to the ER cause I am having a heart attack. He said, “ok we’ll pray for you!” Then he had all who were at the service to come and lay hands on me, and the elder started praying, “great and mighty are you lord.” Then as soon as he started saying that my body started to shake out of control. What happened next is the elder and a few of the other college age students when downstairs with me to do deliverance! I can honestly tell you, there was a manifestation! Loud screams came out of my mouth, like demons were leaving me! It’s terrifying thinking about it now!
Then a week later during a worship service for the youth we were rebuking spirits, and my entire body stiffend up and I could not move! From the shoulders down, I could not walk or move my hands or anything! Still to this day one of the scariest moments of my life! Eventually, the elder of the church came to my aid and told the spirit to “go down!”
Anyways, time went on and I kind of lived each day as it came. Then in Jan. 1999 a prophet visited the church. He prophesied over me. What was amazing about him is he talked about who I am and I can honestly say, he was pretty accurate. He knew my business.
Eventually, by the summer of 1999, I came to the realization that my life sucked. I saw that there has got to be more to life than just church and stupid rules. I also had difficulty making sense of the bible and old testament stories of dudes living to 800 years old, so I left the faith and started to live free again. Not only that, but some of those stories were depressing me anyway!
Anyways, I transferred colleges and when I got to the new college, I was living freely. I was so happy and loose, it felt great! It was amazing. I reconnected with friends I didn’t speak to for a long time because I didn’t want to speak to them cause I was a Christian and was insecure! Man, I can honestly say it was very liberating, I was free!
But about two months later, the wheels started to come off. I had been involved with a woman I met on the internet and she was crazy, literally! What happened was she basically took me for all I had. When it was all said and done, it left me depressed. And so I asked myself the question, is god and the devil working in cahoots? Is this punishment for leaving the faith? So basically for the next couple of years (on and off) I had depression. I felt like I was going to be condemned to hell after I die because I left the faith. I felt so guilty. But I also remembered the Christian life I had and I wanted no part of that again. So I walked around most of the time thinking about this guilt and condemned feeling!
I had gone to church a few times here and there out of fear, but nothing ever came of it. I went back for a while to a Baptist church in 2003, I felt ok there, but ended up not staying!
Finally in 2004 I had a scary moment over a personal situation where I prayed hard to god to get through. I did pull through and went back to church and re-committed my life to Jesus in 2004.
I went back to the evangelical church and stayed there for the most part from late 2004 until 2006! I was living for god again! It was not so bad this time. I didn’t take anything too serious this time, it was actually a pretty good experience.
I eventually got a little bitter at the people and left and went to another Baptist church in Jan. 2007 and was there for about six months. That was also a nice church. The pastor was nice and I felt welcomed there. I eventually left because I was a little too busy, and still did not quite feel right.
Since the summer of 2007, life had been pretty good up until now. I didn’t think much about religion and when I did, it was not in a bitter way! I was free and at peace with myself most of the time.
2008 was a very good year for me. I lost a lot of weight and got into excellent shape. I really found peace with myself and was content! Even in the beginning of 2009 I was happy!
But recently I have come upon hard times and the reason for this post!
Back in June, I came to the realization that I have a great life. Me being the nice and grateful guy I am (guilty too), I decided to give god another try (I had been wanting to anyway). Hence I gave myself a fresh start at another church. I chalked up my previous experiences as just me believing false doctrine and taking things too literal. As I matured as a person, I started to understand that some of what Jesus talked about was for our own good (some of it anyway).
Anyways, I joined a bible study group with a book to read as we go along. The first few chapters were ok, but the 4th chapter had some things that did not sit well with me and made me feel like shit. But I went along anyway!
Anyways, something happened where I told a friend something (unrelated to Christianity) that almost ruined my friendship!
After I did this, I asked myself, would I have done that if I was not a fundamentalist Christian? And my answer was no! So I got pissed and suddenly I was depressed. I spoke to my friend and I was forgiven for the most part, but I could not get over it!
Then a couple of days later I read a book by a Christian author that said this life is just practice for the next one! When I read that, I asked myself, “what if it’s a hoax?” What if when we die there is nothing? This made me more depressed knowing I am giving up the only life I truly know of!
Anyways, the next night when getting undressed I don’t know if this was my imagination or something real, but I saw the face of Jesus, he looked at me and rolled his eyes, then turned away. Then I saw the face of a demon appear. Then moments later I saw a man on a road and suddenly there was an earthquake and the road was shattered except where the man was standing. This man was basically hung out to dry with not even enough room to lay down! Very very terrifying!
Anyways, basically I am asking what you guys think? I have been very depressed suddenly. It’s hard for me to truly walk away as recently I remembered those manifestations from the late 90’s! Believe me, this stuff was stuff I witnessed and was a part of! I am not sure what to make of it! Has anyone had a similar experience? If so, how have you coped with it?
I am very interested in learning more as I try to make sense of what’s been going on lately! Some kind of conclusion would help me but this to rest so I can move on with life. Thanks everyone!