One of the unexpected perks of entering the Christian blogosphere has been finding a sense of community. The people I have met through this online world challenge me, hold me accountable, stretch me, and support me all at the same time. This post is not the easiest one for me to write, but I’m sharing “My Hazardous Faith Story” as part of a synchroblog connected with the release of Ed Cyzewski and Derek Cooper’s new book Hazardous: Committing to the Cost of Following Jesus.
College, the undergraduate flavored years, were some of the most rewarding and challenging times for me as of yet. On the plus side, I have some fantastic memories: borrowing cafeteria trays to go sledding, midnight walks across the quad with friends, discovering the joy of Lucky Charms for dessert. I studied abroad for the first time, discovered my passion for Spanish, and made lifelong friends.
But on the minus, my anxiety and depression were diagnosed. I was sexually assaulted for the first time, and struggled to process–much less admit that–to anyone.I was ashamed of who I was and what I had “let” happen to me mentally and physically. My campus is small, and gossip spread quickly. Many of my friends were supportive; others were not. Worse, I didn’t have the faith community who had walked with me since childhood to get me through this.
I knew I needed a new church, stat. I liked the first one I found–intially. They worshiped on campus (excellent), they met at night (even better), and lots of people from my dorm were there (safety!). But it didn’t take long before the community learned about my illness. Suddenly the tone turned from loving to insistent. Clearly, I wasn’t Christian “enough.” If I did more in my faith life, God would heal me. This illness was lack of faith–nothing more.
I stayed with them for months. Christians turn the other cheek and advocate for others. This was my chance to stand up for others in my position!I knew it was my job as a Christian to forgive all who hurt me. I was to love these people as myself, forgive those who thought I wasn’t worthy of love, to demonstrate that Christ has a heart for all–including those with the very real and biological illnesses of the mind.
Finally, I’d had enough. I formally renounced my baptismal promises, my affirmation of my baptism, and the faith that had sustained me since childhood. If this cruelty was part of Christianity, I wanted no part of it. I joined the 60% of lifelong Christians who leave in college, according to this study. I put my Bible on a high shelf and slept in on Sundays and went out during church times. It seemed like the right decision. I have never felt more alone in my life. Our promise in Deuteronomy 31:6–“God will never leave or forsake you”–suddenly rang very hollow.
But the Christian friends who had sustained me all my life stepped up with phone calls and care packages. I found college students who had been watching for me all along on campus gently nudging and supporting. I found my faith again and a new strength in our Biblical promises.
It took time and a lot of prayer, but I was able to treat those who hurt me with love and to forgive. I learned that Christians make mistakes too, and that we may disagree on what it means to be Christian. Now, I can and do speak openly about how Christ loves us ALL. I firmly believe the poor in mind, body, and spirit have a home in the church too.
Is being a Christian an easy thing? No way. Is God’s timeline the same as ours? HA. I only wish. But can God abandon us or leave us alone to struggle? Not for a moment.
I challenge you this week to reflect on your own faith journey. When did you feel that God had abandoned you? What happened to remind you that we serve a God of love and cannot escape that love–even in struggles? I pray that you would sense that embrace and go forth strengthened in His love. Amen.
There are more stories of Hazardous Faith.