I flew back to Asia and entered a very dark month. Of all places, I crashed in a hut made of mud up in the mountains. I would touch the walls, and lay down and cry, searching for the means to continue.
Since I was a little girl, I had derived my sense of being and purpose from Christianity itself. (This was intensified by the fact that I was homeschooled and taught that I was a warrior for God.) The whole “Christian” persona was my identity. Not Jesus. Not God. But a profession in those things, and more specifically, in the whole evangelical persona.
“Who am I?” I had always answered that by saying, “Oh, I’m Lana. I’m a Calvinist-Reformed Baptist-Republican Christian.” (Okay, yes, seriously, my online profiles even said that.)
But then there I was, no longer Calvinist, no longer Reformed, and a Big ? mark on Christianity. There I was in the place I did not want to be, asking, begging, holding onto life.
I had at last been confronted with the fact that Calvinism and hell both made no sense. Europe had collasped my love for religion and my love for history, while simultaneously tightening my love for the world and travel itself. I loved the world. I loved exploring and sharing in it, but I hated the war and bigotry. Now, thanks to travel, my mind was stuffed with so many stories. I cried because I felt so alone. I had no blog at this point, and no one to call. No one in the states would ever “get” it because at this point, my circle of friends was only other evangelicals.
The only way I know how to explain this time in my life is to go back to an old post I wrote: on Foundationalism. This is what my worldview had looked like back when I self-identified as an evangelical.
And now suddenly I stopped believing in Calvinism and hell, and all the building blocks on top had fallen over. Suddenly this was my life:
My whole structure had fallen down.
So I did the only thing I knew to do. I asked all the questions I had been afraid to ask. Why suffering? Why genocide? Why evil? I actually read the Bible. As I told one of my friends, “I feel like I’ve been lied to my entire life.” But see, this was not the first time I had read about genocide or stoning women who were not virgins. It was, however, the first time I read the Bible with an open mind that my entire faith could be crap, that the Bible is probably wrong, and that maybe God isn’t loving. It was the first time I was able to look at it all and say, “I’m willing to be wrong.”
And it was traumatic, and it was scary.
But you know what’s interesting to think about. Most people I know around the blog world (such as Sheldon from Ramblings of Sheldon) tell me they did not want to give up Christianity. As I describe here, in a way I was scared out of my mind, in a way I was experiencing the blow of having been lied to my entire life about God, in a way maybe I didn’t want to give up my faith.
But mostly I did. I simply said to myself, “I hope the atheists are right.” I wanted to be done with it because I was so tired, tired of digging for a good verse, tired of legalism, tired of misogyny, tired of hard questions, tired of the pain of feeling lost. I wanted to be done, so I had some sense of certainty again. I kept gasping for breath because this was not a place I had chosen. It was just a place that I found myself in, against my will.
I think now, looking back, whether I had given up Christianity or hanged in there (like I did), either way, I went through the hardest part. The hardest part is letting go of the toxic theology. The hardest part is admitting that strict gender roles are wrong, that hell is vulgar, and that life is not an easy pyramid after that. It is painful and difficult, but it is empowering. Because once on the other side, I was able to accept doubt and uncertainty as okay. Once on the other side, I was able to find identity outside a belief, and that was exciting.
If you are going through a time of questioning right now, I want you to know that it is okay…it does get better.