A Flailing Anchor

Given that I don’t always have the energy to edit, I am going to write some of my posts in a rather stream-of-consciousness manner.

Anyone who grew up as a zealous, God-obsessed fundie, regardless of the actual religion, will understand the feeling that God really was the absolute center, the anchor, of who and what we felt ourselves to be.  We just couldn’t exist apart from God.  For God not to be the very core of us, the very breath that we breath, was as unthinkable as trying to exist in space without a spacesuit.  Bundled in the core of our psyche was a mixture of adoration of a creator and protector, terror towards one who could enact undreamable wrath against our misdeeds, and a sense of misguided kowtowing rooted in the knowledge that God was the eternal reward giver.  And given the alternative to reward I can’t blame anyone for kowtowing.

Here I use the word anchor, but perhaps the notion of something simply keeping a ship at harbor is inadequate to convey the real meaning.  This kind of anchor is the one that kept my entire world, my universe, stable.  It was the law of gravity to my staying on the ground, the laws of physics that allow a plane to fly, and most importantly it gave me purpose.  It, God, was the very thing that made me feel like I had the whole world and that by serving that God I could accomplish the unimaginable.  I studied to be a pastor for that very reason. It was more than life.  It literally felt like it was connected to my very breath, my passion.  Maybe this will give you an idea of why many fundies of any religion act as they do.

I had my first sexual encounter when I was 22.  I have never been married.  It was not with a girl.  He was also a devout Christian.  The panic of God’s coming wrath towards our actions took the form of a long drive back to his apartment while we watched out our windows for balls of fire to come engulf us.  Hyperbole aside, we were terrified of what we had done.

Apart from the fact that no wrath ever came, it was a tipping point for me.  I first told my father that I had feelings for other men when I was 12.  We expected God to change me.  10 years, fasts, exorcists, prayer retreats, healing conferences, devout worship, bible study, locked-in-the-closet intercession, confessions, screaming, crying, being interrogated over my sexual habits daily by a depressed former monk, wailing, and finally an exodus retreat later it became clear that nothing was changing.  I liked men and it didn’t agree with my anchor.

My faith had already been in a longish phase of deconstruction, but this took it further.  I tried, unsuccessfully, to hold on to my Christianity, but it fell apart.  It didn’t make sense.  I couldn’t reconcile my reality with the codified rules and regulations that my former faith required.  With that I lost my anchor.  The wall that was my faith came crumbling to the ground and my sense of purpose, my sense of meaning, the feeling that I had a direction and that I had something that I was worth was completely gone.  I hadn’t trained to be skillful in anything except ministry.  With the loss of that anchor there went the little confidence I had.  My career no longer existed because I could not minister something that I could neither believe in nor abide by.

Over the past six years I’ve carved a life for myself overseas as a teacher.  I found other ways.  But it still remains that I have never regained that sense of being anchored.  I have never regained any sense of having something to offer that was powerful or useful.  Day to day I fight a sense of defeat and when I meet those who have carved a life out of their passions I am hopelessly jealous.   I was passionate about God and he died to me.  The result is a feeling of empty wandering.  After a life of feeling small and thinking God was going to make me big, the loss of that God was the most devastating experience in life.  I’ve grown in ways that I would never give up because of it, but the sense of empty wandering, of a flailing anchor, still remains everyday.

I write this, not to be discouraging, but because I believe there are other people like me.  I don’t believe their experiences are equal to mine, but I think so many can relate to that sense of being displaced and losing what your heart was really after.  I haven’t learned how to recover yet.  It’s part of the process.  My hope is that by sharing others can share their experiences and find a little healing in the process.  Make no mistake, I also hope for healing for myself.  Can you relate to the flailing anchor?

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About therecoveringtheopath

Post Christian. Math teacher. Living Abroad. Learning and exploring.

2 responses to “A Flailing Anchor”

  1. Johan says :

    Reading this story I can say that you are not alone. I read about how many young western people leave the church and feel a loss of God after leaving university.

    In my own life I have had the same experience from a young age. I have always been torn between my love of the sciences and my love of the mystic. The two never really seemed to blend well. Growing up in a very christian community and feeling a strong call on my life I made God the center of it all and from that point forward He not only gave me meaning, but was my meaning. “To live is Christ…” Yet, once I hit some major bumps in the road and finally left the harbor where I was anchored it all went stormy really quick. I was out there, un-anchored and unsure.

    Over the past six years I had to dwell on the realization that i am no longer secure in what I believe and in who I believe God is, saying that if he really is. (He might be a psychotic episode I had from birth or I might be trapped in a lucid dream after a bad fall when I was 16)

    It was actually only when I read your post that I dared to look at the question in my mind and heart that was buried deep down. I stopped and had to admit that yes, my anchor is gone. I am out of the harbor where I acted like a sailor, because everyone there were sailors. Then once I realized I was to be a captain of my own ship I got purpose and direction. One day I will sail away and do great things. Then it all happened. I left the harbor. The other ships, gone. The other sailors, gone. The anchor, lifted. And life became a whole lot more complicated.

    But for me, it is this place, this place that you are writing about that is actually the best place to be. I have come to realize that God was never the anchor. He did not want to be the anchor in my life. I and my culture and the people around me made him this because it made him a tame God. Not the wild one I read about in the Bible. I acted like those around me, not because that was really me, but because that was the trade, the place, the culture I was submerged in. It was needed as it gave me a taught me things that I still rely on today, but it was not who I am. Once I became captain it gave me purpose and reason, but was not my only purpose, it was but an assignment. “Where people put a period, God put a comma.” (Stole that from TD Jakes) Everything around me said, “You are now a Captain.(PEDRIOD)” God said, “You are my called Captain, (Comma) navigator, friend, son (flamboyant), mystic bunny…” and so forth.

    It was once I have been floating out there on the seas of the world for a time that I came to realize that God was not my anchor. He was not even the ship. (That is again me boxing him) He was not the ocean or even the destination I had to go to. He was definitely NOT the harbor (or the cuties standing around it when you come ashore). I finally realized that God is not boxed in anything. The question remained, What was he then? The answer, (when I read this post) blew me away (no pun intended but fitting). He was the WIND.

    Once I lifted my control of him and let go of him as my anchor. Once I realized I am not called to be a just a sailor or captain. Once I entered the real un-bubbled world away form the harbor and found that God is not a place I go to, a mere destination to achieve and trade and bargain with or fight with. It was then that I found Him in the WIND. Something that drives me to many purposes, many destinations. Something that is the driving force in my life. A moving living force that is vital to my existence, but an existence that is not bound in one culture or perception. A personal force that strokes my cheeks and whispers in my ear. A force that will take me to places, but not bound me with a rule book and maps of destinations I HAVE to get to or tell me where I HAVE to go, but a force that interact with me as I sail through life. A force that I know and not just any wind that blows me to and fro, but the more I sail the more I know this wind from the rest.

    The second par of “To live is Christ…” is “to die is gain” It was in dying to God and God to me that I gained a whole lot more of that Christ; a resurrected one. (Look at all the Christianese!)

    So I guess what I am trying to say is this, it is really good that your anchor is gone. It is really good that you find yourself afloat out there. It is in being that we find true meaning and purpose. You say you feel empty, like that deep meaning is gone. Might it be that you long for a controllable, anchored Joe that was safe and sorted because he was anchored? I think God want you to be who you were made to be. The Joe out there sailing and exploring and learning and discovering. In your blog you said that “After a life of feeling small and thinking God was going to make me big, the loss of that God was the most devastating experience in life” Maybe this is God setting you afloat, because he knows you will never truly reach the greatness that is already in you if you stay anchored.

    PS: Sorry for beating the whole boat analogy to death, I just could not help myself. You know me, Sailors get me going. 😛

    Like

    • joecoylekr says :

      1. Yes to uniforms.

      2. I needed your response. You know me and where I am at better than almost anyone, Johan, and the anxiety and self criticism as of late has been rather icky. I appreciate the bigness of what you’re talking about here. It’s funny how I can be living abroad and doing what I’m doing yet feel so small still. :p

      3. I need more coffee. Adjusting to a work schedule again is… a challenge.

      Like

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