“The God that holds you over the pit of hell… abhors you…He looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire…You are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked…You hang by a slender thread…” ____Jonathan Edwards/Sinners in the hands of an Angry God
How about a big ole dose of that three times a week. Now imagine swallowing it three times a week for years. Well, let me tell ya…it was no spoon full of sugar! Non-the-less the medicine went down and straight into my impressionable young brain.
I’m sure the harm wasn’t intentional. On the contrary, it was meant for my good…meant to keep me out of hell. After all… the messages I heard from the pulpit were straight from the Bible…wasn’t it… I mean….I was there…I remember my little finger moving under each word as the pastor read aloud.
We always sat at the front, my Mom and I, the second pew from the alter. Like a sponge I absorbed teachings that would often grip my soul with fear. This fear would take root, grow and spread like a weed until it meta-morphed and became a terror that haunted me everyday.
Not a day passed that my little mind wasn’t filled with doubts of my eternal security. I was never sure about my own salvation. No matter how hard I tried to believe I always thought I would do something wrong. I was afraid of not having enough faith. How much does a mustard seed hold anyway? Maybe I would believe “too hard” turning my belief into a work; therefore dooming me to Hell…”for by grace are ye saved… NOT of works…” I lived in constant fear of the Rapture and fear that I would be left behind; alone to face the Antichrist and the woes of the Great Tribulation. I was afraid that any moment my family and friends would disappear, leaving a heap of clothing on the floor. Panic welled inside me when all was quiet in the house. It’s amazing how loud silence can be. I would go from room to room hoping to see someone. If I didn’t my fear would send me outside knocking on the neighbor’s door hoping someone was home. Their presence would comfort only a little. ,After all, they weren’t members of my church so how I could I be sure they were really saved? I kept this inner turmoil to myself because doubting was also a sin and I didn’t want them to discover my unbelief.
To further complicate things, at the age of five or six, I began to suspect something was different about me. I didn’t know what but I knew that somehow I was not like everyone else. At that age the thought of being gay never entered my mind. I’m not even sure I had even heard the word “gay” let alone to know what it meant. However, as time passed, childhood turned to adolescence and with adolescence came the suspicions of my sexual identity. Of course, I naturally became attracted to women and developed painful crushes that I hid and kept secret. I was horrified and somehow excited at the same time with the thought of being a lesbian. Excited because it felt right…it felt normal… but horrified because I thought it damned me to hell. Thus began my “cover-up” and my journey to try to pray away the gay.
It’s taken me almost half a century to come to terms with my identity and to reconcile that identity with my God and my faith. I had to re-question everything I learned as child. Questioning “why” became more important than blindly following and for the first time in my life I began to think for myself. I began to see Jesus for the first time with my own eyes and not through the lenses of those who preached behind a pulpit. My faith slowly became a relationship instead of a religion. I discovered a God that I had never known. Unconditional love became mine for the taking when I realized He loved me for me and for no other reason…just because…just because He loved me. With this knowledge came a peace that began to quieten the fears that had possessed me for so long.
I am presently reading, “God Is Not Mad at You” by Joyce Meyer. In it she writes, ” Fear that God is angry with us is rooted in the fear that we have not performed as expected…The truth is that God already knew that we wouldn’t perform as expected when He chose to love us. God is never surprised at our failures… Love is stronger than fear, and if we respond to God’s love, it will cast out all of our fear.”
I have to confess, the old fear threatens to resurface and I suppose it always will. How can you totally rid yourself of something that was so much a part of your past. You can’t. However, you can put it to work and make it the very catalyst that prods you to learn, grow and mature. My fear lead to me to seek relief, which led me to ask questions, which eventually (albeit 50 years) led me to a truth that literally sets me free. You can never truly escape your past but you can refuse it the power to control your life.
Fear is misleading and therefore a liar. Don’t believe it. See it for what it is and then use the bastard to make you a stronger person! That should piss it off!