Up@dawn 2.0

Friday, December 2, 2016

Why Philosophy Class Scared Me: Installment #1

          This being my first semester at MTSU, I decided to take an array of courses because I wanted to know a little bit about a lot of different things. So I eagerly signed myself up for classes outside my Biology major, and ended up with Psychology, Introduction to Music, and Philosophy, along with my major courses. I never had the intention of questioning my beliefs while in these courses. I thought I was finally a solid Christian, nothing could break the bond between me and my faith. Then I walked into my first ever philosophy class and these doubts came rushing to the surface of my mind once again.
         I grew up in a very Christian home in Southern California, which is actually not that common. Unlike here in the Bible Belt of America, not everyone and their neighbor went to church on Sunday mornings and small group on Wednesday nights. My parents were very well aware of that fact and tried their best to keep me and my four siblings inside this little "Jesus Bubble" they had constructed for us. For many years, it worked. When we moved here to middle Tennessee back in 2005 it was even easier for my parents to keep track of our faith with a church on every corner and religious groups built right into the public schools. We started attending Fellowship Bible Church, which is where my parents still attend to this day.
         Growing up in this "Jesus Bubble" was not necessarily a bad thing for me. It kept me out of the wrong crowds in middle and high school. It got me involved in several community services and helped me make so many new friends. Towards the end of high school though, things started to change for me. I began to question my faith just a little bit, which was extremely scary because all I had ever known as a kid was that God loved me and if I accept Him, I'll go to heaven. But once I actually started to grow up and become my own person, I realized that I wasn't like the other Christians in my life. Once I was expected to become a "serious" Christian, I did not exactly fit into the mold the Church cuts out for their members. Every seasoned believer I ever talked to had one thing in common: a personal relationship with Jesus. My good friend and mentor Nichole Poe once told me about the first time she "heard" Jesus talk to her. We were having coffee and I had asked her how she knew that Jesus was real. She simply said "I just have to listen for Him and He's there". This totally blew my mind. I had no idea that Jesus could actually talk to me! After that conversation, I really tried hard to "listen" for Him. For months and months, I prayed to hear his voice, just once. But by my junior year of high school, I gave up. I felt as if I were pleading with a wall, begging it to say something back to me. Every time I asked to hear His voice, nothing. If anything, I could hear my own subconscious laughing at me for even thinking for a second that God, supposed creator of the universe, who looks after all the other people on this Earth, would talk to me. Did you have to be special to get to talk with Him? Do you have to be a Christian for so long before He communicates with you? Does He even know I exist? All these questions swirling around in my mind made me unceasingly anxious. I wanted to talk to someone about it, but I had been a Christian for so long, what would people think of me if I started questioning my faith now?
          I wanted to hear Him so desperately. I threw myself even further into the Christian culture. I attended church services twice a weekend, joined a new small group, and started a solo bible study. School become very low on my priority list and my grades suffered for it. This was nearly detrimental to my academic career, for I was trying to graduate an entire year earlier than what was planned for me. I still accomplished this goal by the skin of my teeth. Bumped even lower on my priority list was my family and friends. I did not make time for the important people in my life anymore, which cost me several friendships and the connections with my siblings and parents to strain. My while life was consumed by this one goal: to hear Him. One weekend, I decided to attend a conference in Nashville led by a man named Jonathan Morrow. He talked about how Christians need a personal relationship with Jesus, and that relationship may not look the same for everyone. You don't actually have to hear direct words from Him to know His will. Instead, Jonathan Morrow talked about feeling Jesus. I went home that night even more confused about my faith than the day before. How in the world am I supposed to feel someone who isn't even on Earth? Now I don't fit into the Christian mold even a little bit. All the people around me are hearing and feeling Jesus, and I get nothing. Nada. Zip. My solution was to take my faith to the next level. I decided to go on a mission trip.
          This was the best and worst decision I have ever made in my entire seventeen years on this planet. It was the best because I got to make an actual difference in the lives of other people, which not many people get to do often. The trip took place in Lafiteau, Haiti, a place that was especially devastated after the earthquake in 2010. My team and I stayed at Good Shepherd Orphanage, which housed over two hundred orphan children, ages ranging from infancy to sixteen. For thirteen days, we got to focus on loving and taking care of these children and providing for their everyday needs. But I didn't exactly have the same outlook on the trip that the rest of my team did. Every night before we went to bed, we sat in a circle and talked about our day, how we connected with the people and with God. I was so jealous of everyone else. I had no connection with God whatsoever. Haiti was leaving a very bad taste in my mouth. It wasn't that I didn't like being there or the work that we were doing, but seeing so much poverty and devastation made me more than angry. These children didn't deserve the life they were living, without parents or personal possessions or good health. How can a loving God treat so many of His people so poorly? People were walking around with no clothes, no food to eat or water to drink, dying of dysentery and Malaria. My team talked about how they looked around and saw hope, but all I saw was despair and unfairness. I left that trip feeling a special kind a hatred toward God I did not know was even achievable.
  
          Coming back from those thirteen days in Haiti made for an unsettling rest of the summer. I did not know what to do with myself anymore. I had spent so much time trying to hear and feel God that without the pursuit, I felt stuck. School had ended for the year, many of my friends had drifted away, and I was becoming an overall bitter person. So I decided to take a step back form all the spiritual turmoil and just take a beat. I started working full time at my job, picked up some summer classes to help with my early graduation process, and reconnected with my church friends. Most of my friendships were not the same though, which made sense to me because we weren't really on the same page anymore. So I faked it. I pretended to be a devote Christian to please my friends and family, the biggest lie I've ever told. I kept going to church, I stayed in my small group, but in my heart I knew I was a big phony, and if anyone knew my real thoughts and feelings then my facade would come crashing down. Not only did I lie to everyone around me, I lied to myself as well. I kept telling myself that yes, while I didn't really believe in God anymore, I was still listening and waiting to feel that feeling. I wasn't. I took this act so far that I even ended up going to Haiti for a second time the net summer, after my senior year. But this time, it was a little different.
          To be continued in installment #2...

7 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing your story so honestly here, Catherine. You're describing a powerful spiritual journey, along with the pain and confusion that can come with confronting one's own experience and admitting that it does not jibe with what those around you say you should be feeling and thinking. I look forward to your next installment.

    ReplyDelete
  2. (H3) I cannot wait to read the second installment. I completely empathize with your situation. When I was an early teen I found myself stuck in the same obsessive cycle of what a "true' Christian should be and why I did not seem to have enough faith unlike my other friends, and I honestly suffered mentally and emotionally for years because of it. Granted I doubt we took the same paths afterwards, but regardless I am really looking forward to part two and I hope the story ends well for you.

    ReplyDelete
  3. (H3) This was an absolutely fascinating thing to read and I am looking forwards to reading installment two for this. I did not have a religious community like you did but I remember having the same sort of moments with my family when my parents would talk about "feeling Jesus in their heart" and I'm just there not feeling anything of the sort in my own heart. Similar to what you described I just had to take a step back and consider my own beliefs, values, and person feelings on the matter until I came to a conclusion I was comfortable with. I'm curious to see what your own conclusions were!

    ReplyDelete
  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is a very intriguing story! I always love to hear people's paths by which they found their very own beliefs. I praise you for thinking for yourself and seeking proof despite being surrounded by others who are Christians through and through. It speaks a lot about your individuality! I look forward to hearing the conclusion.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Cat I didn't realize what your story was and the struggles you had gone through. I am glad that you haven't taken God at face value and question your beliefs which not many Christians do. Cant wait for the second installment.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I honestly loved your first installment. I felt like I could identify with it. I too grew up in a pretty religious home and as I continued to grow and learn about the world around me it became more evident that I didn't really fit the cookie cutter Christian mold. I'm eager to hear how your second installment goes.

    ReplyDelete