When I was in the height of my deconstruction I used to take these long walks. I would listen to podcasts like the liturgists, Rob Bell, and The Life After.
It was so scary, and yet I couldn’t stop. My entire life of being in evangelicalism had ingrained deeply in me that even if the truth was scary it must be faced. I was taught that the truth was universal, so if it was true for me it had to be true for everyone. I had started to realize that was not how the world worked. So many people who were also christians had it so much worse than me. Their prayers go No’s when mine got Yes’s.
So this desire to know what was actually true kept driving me forward. I figured that if something was deeply and undeniably true, then I could look around the world at every view and I would end up back in the same place.
I prayed deeply on an international trip that I would really know god, deeply. I asked god to break the walls down around what I thought I knew and show me who he really was. My heart began to open and I started to see god in everyone I met. I started to feel god as good and none of the harsh angry vindictive behaviors of god fit any more. I started to believe god as good, and that led me to the question of hell.
Oh boy let me tell you. My first memory on earth is of the fear of hell and “demons,” so taking apart the fear attached to those ideas took awhile. The funny thing is I actually prayed about it (I now believe that this was me communicating with my inner mentor and wisdom),
The conversation went something like this:
Me - “So, you love me right?
God - “so much.”
Me - “and you literally gave up your life to save mine.”
God - “I did.”
Me - “So after all that, you wouldn’t just torture me forever for questioning things right?”
God - “No. There is nothing you could do. Even you not believing me would make no difference. I am here, loving you, undeterred by your thoughts and beliefs.”
It sounds weird, but if you’ve been deep in toxic religion you know that me “getting permission” here was what my mind needed to move forward.
It felt so dangerous to let that belief go so I eased my mind with very helpful facts. Rob Bell has an entire book dedicated to debunking every verse on hell in the bible. And there is a whole podcast episode done by Chuck Parson on The Life After Podcast on the subject.
These were very helpful for me. The truth is though that the fear lingered for over a year after that. I had 26 or so years of having that fear drilled into me, so it takes time to fully heal.
I can now honestly say I have no fear of hell. At all. Not an ounce. The things that scare me now are systems of oppression, hate, and the damage that toxic religion is still doing.
I know what it is like to step out. I know looking back that I could trust myself. Something that comforted me deeply during that time was maintaining control with this thought:
I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do. If I had found it wasn’t true and I wanted to stay, I could. If I had found I wanted to find a different way of practicing my religion that caused less harm, I could do that too.
You are in control of your journey. Trust your body and what feels right for you specifically and you will know. When you have found the right space for you, you will feel it all the way down to your toes. If you are not quite there yet, you will feel the pull to keep considering, that something is off still, and to keep moving. Only you will know what is right for you.
You can trust yourself with you.
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