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?