Recovering (From) Faith: No One’s Coming

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I was in my early 20’s before I ever got angry with God. I’m sometimes surprised in retrospect that it didn’t happen a little sooner but anger has always been difficult for me. And what was even the point of being angry with God? After all, he obviously knew all the answers and whatever I was upset about was probably just me being childish and throwing a temper tantrum anyway. With people it’s totally possible you have a right to be angry at them but with God you never have that right. God is of course merciful and gracious and understanding and all of the things but you’re never right. The only happy endings from those stories in Christianity come when you realize that God was right all along, that he used this time or event to teach you something important and that he kindly allowed you to futilely kick and scream at him in the meantime. It’s not super appealing.

But you see, I was molested as a kid and spent a lot of my life suppressing that. I remembered it in my mid teens but I waffled on it for a lot of years. And in my early 20’s I had it confirmed rather unexpectedly and then there I was. There was no getting around it. This thing had happened to me and nothing had stopped it and no one had done anything. My parents had looked the other way, no one had protected me. In some ways that was much more difficult for me to handle than the assault itself. So in the midst of these things, one day I was in church during worship and one of our leaders had written a new song. This was pretty common at my church; a lot of our songs were written in house. He stood up there and he explained the meaning of the song, this song about protection, about gratitude to God. How he had been at a park and someone had been throwing like a discus or some insane thing. It had gone the wrong way, hit him in the head. Instead of hitting him straight on, it was glancing. He got stitches but the doctor told him he was so lucky and that if it had been just an inch or two differently, if it had been angled differently, he almost certainly would have died. And so he wrote this song, thanking God for saving him. And those were the words. I used to know it by heart but I don’t remember it anymore. I just remember standing there singing like I always did and we got to this line, “Thank you God for saving me” and suddenly it came to me so abruptly that I could not breathe – “but he didn’t.”

No one did. He knew what was happening, according to every theology I knew he watched it happen. He did nothing. Not only that but he gave me to my parents, who did nothing. No one saved me, no one protected me. In my slightly over two decades of life, I did not remember ever feeling like God had protected me or saved me from much of anything. And you cannot possibly know how badly I wanted to feel protected, to feel loved. To be honest, those words were interchangeable to me. I clung to my parents insane attempts to shelter us, even when it was misguided or worse, because maybe it meant they were protecting me, maybe it meant they cared. And in that moment it seemed so perfectly clear that I was alone. He had not protected me, he would not protect me. If I walked out of church that night and someone grabbed me and assaulted me, God would not protect me from that. And neither would anyone else. I was as alone now as I had been at four years old. What was the point? I remember I stopped singing, I sat down. I came to church a few more weeks. When they sang that song, I refused to sing, I refused to stand. I didn’t yell at God, I didn’t rant and rave. I simply stopped talking to him. I stopped going to church for over a year. Stopped trying, stopped talking to him.

Unlike many things in my life this was not something I talked about to much of anyone. I knew what the answers would be. I knew the explanations after all, I had been hearing them all of my life. God gives people free will. Sometimes they do horrible things. That doesn’t make God less good, it just makes people evil. I tried talking to my best friend about it, he did not know what to say. What could he say? I wasn’t wrong. God wasn’t going to protect me. Terrible things very possibly could still happen to me. Terrible things had happened to me. God apparently arbitrarily decided to protect you from some of them and some of them he did not and either way he comes out the good guy. After all, if he does not protect you, then he comforts you and you get to learn and grow. If you escape the horrible thing, then praise God, he has protected you from it.

I’m going to be honest, I don’t think I got that far in my thought process at the time. The last part is more my thinking now. At that time it still would have seemed too blasphemous. Because you see, in spite of everything, in spite of my devastation and rage and completely impotent anger, I never stopped believing in God. In fact, I took this year or so as a sign that clearly God existed to me because after all, I could never be so angry at someone I didn’t believe existed. It didn’t occur to me that maybe I was angry at other things. I was nowhere near those hurts yet, they were a long way off. At the time I was just trapped, so completely trapped. Because I believed in God, I believed in him implicitly. There was no choice. And I knew, whenever this ended, I would go back to him because where else could I go? It didn’t cut me off from God but it made me think of him as significantly less trustworthy, much more like my parents. Of course I would always go back but he would not protect me, he would not stand guard. I would have to watch out for myself. I would watch my own back and pray the right prayers so that Jesus would still love me. Because the world was a dangerous and frightening place where bad things can always happen. And if there was one thing I was totally sure of, it was that no one was going to save me.

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