16 years ago today, I wrote this in my journal:
There are so many “Christians” who aren’t living for God. They’re afraid to give up worldly pleasures. Their faith is so weak it’s sad. Then again, I’m not so great myself. I could be so much better, but sometimes I just don’t know what else to do. My faith is weak, too.
“Lord, forgive me. I don’t want to ever hurt You again… Help me to be strong and stable in my faith. Jesus, show me what I need to do with my life to glorify You.”
– September 15th, 1998
Dear Former Self,
What do you think faith is? It usually means a belief in a particular religion, regardless of whether there’s any evidence for it. It seems pretty clear that you have faith. A lot of it. So much that you’re not bothering to go to college or planning on ever having a family because you believe Jesus is going to return soon, anyway.
Rather than dwell on the fact that millions of people before you made the same mistake (for example, there’s a book called “88 Reasons the Rapture Will Happen in 1988”), I’m going to ask a question: Why are you getting so down on yourself? Your faith isn’t weak at all, so why do you feel so guilty?
I suppose it’s because your religion teaches that you are evil and broken. Sure, you believe you’ve been forgiven, but you still think you are sinful and deserve to go to Hell. You can try to shrug off that guilt and rejoice in God’s grace, but every time you sin you’re going to feel guilty again. Every time you think a lustful thought, every time you tell a lie (however small), and every time you indulge in “worldly” entertainment you’re going to hate yourself all over again and beg God to help you be a better Christian. This is no way to live.
You need to accept that you’re not such a bad person and escape this cycle of mania and depression. I would also recommend seeking professional help for your mood disorder. When you take Psychology 101 in a few years, you will learn that mental disorders are actually physical disorders because they involve physical chemicals inside the brain. Asking God to help with your emotional problems will do you no more good than going to a faith healer for a broken arm.
– Matt, September 15th, 2014
This is part of an ongoing series called Letters to My Former Self.
Also reminds me of myself…when I was trying so hard to live a blameless life. It’s pretty hard when you can be convicted of thought crimes, and I took the whole “guard your mind” concept to another level. No R-rated movies, secular music, hell, I even stopped watching non-Christian movies aside from an occasional animated one. It took me far too long to learn that it was never something achievable, and in fact was the cause for undue pressure and guilt, just for being human.
It’s funny that we’re told that it’s not us sinning anyway, it’s the flesh, and if we can just tap in to the power of the Word, we’ll be more like Jesus. I memorized hundreds of verses, had them accessible to me for any situation, lived a pure life, yet still felt worthless…and that’s exactly what I was supposed to feel, according to the Bible. If I did right, it was Christ through me, it was nothing that I did myself.
Now as an atheist, I actually know I’m a good person…because I choose to treat other people fairly, not because I’m trying to please a god above or because a book said I needed to. I’m now not overcoming my true nature, I’m embracing it. I hold my head up high now, because I AM a good person.
Good for you! Yea, you sound a lot like me, especially where you mention thought crimes. I definitely feel better about myself now that I know there isn’t a religious dictator watching my every move.