Coming out of darkness
It was an easy decision to leave the catholic church.
“ You are a bad child, you will go to hell.”
I heard that often during my five year sojourn in boarding school and believed it. I was that child that was always in trouble: the one who never missed from a noise makers list, the one who never did their homework; and even dared to unveil the nuns in public. Supposedly, these childish pranks merited hell in spite of my belief in Christ Jesus; my reception of the sacraments; my weekly confessions; numerous ways of the cross; my supplications to Mary and all the saints at least eight times a day, and the countless liturgies and feasts. I was a doomed case, unless of course a miracle happened.
However at the age of twelve after a rough time with the nuns, I came to the end of myself. Tired of trying and failing and constantly being reminded with beatings and revilements that I would not make it to heaven, I resorted to a last act of desperation. Eyes turned on a night resplendent with stars and constellations known and unknown, I prayed, out of fear than love, ”God, my heart is desperately wicked and at the risk of falling into the hands of the devil. I hear he is deceitful and has even tricked some people into selling their hearts to him. I’m afraid I might do likewise. I know that my heart is not good enough for You, so I am asking You to take it for free. Do what you may with it.” I had read a tale about a man who sold his heart the devil. I wanted to make sure that if ever the devil came looking for something to buy, he would find my heart sold. You might think that at this point my heart was regenerated, on the contrary, my heart became hardened and callused against Christianity as I played out my doubts for the next twelve years.
The first fear I lost was the fear of God. No longer did I care about committing sacrilege and becoming the object of his wrath. So I began to ask: Where did God come from? Who created God? Why must I worship Him? As you can tell, they were kind of questions that no devout catholic asked, and ones that convinced those around me that my soul was in great jeopardy of entering hell. Also, I knew in the deepest part of my being that I was treading on shaky ground. So even in my rebellion, I knew I needed some cover. I remember once asking a carmelite nun, whom I talked with through a peephole to pray for me and of course I had a dear sister who prayed for me with rosary beads and in Novenas.
By the time I was thirteen, I joined another Catholic institution for my secondary school. Then, I became what I may refer to as anti-God: I could not worship a God who sent people to hell for paltry reasons; allowed evil to thrive and could be angered by the poor choices of weak humans. My rebellion against this God was by forsaking heaven and choosing hell on my own volition. So I stopped fearing hell, if hell was my destiny, I might as well start gearing for it. I joined others like me who collected and cracked jokes about how heaven would be boring whereas hell would be full of all the fun people from all time. We made a case for hell that made the Holy Joes bereft of words.
By the time I joined University, I became a feminist. At this point, I began to ascribe to the feminist ideology. I began to see God, Father, Son and Spirit(all referred to in the masculine) as a creation of the patriarchy aimed at subjugating women and the poor masses. I could not accept their creed as a true feminist unless of course they showed a different trinity that included the Mother person. The trouble with Christians I realised even at such a high level of learning was that they did not know how to answer me. All they told me was that I needed to stop questioning God and believe.
I consider my journey to unbelief as not unique, but one some people have undergone. There are people who were “born in church” and yet ended up in the dumps. In reviewing my journey, I notice at least three things that contributed to my falling away and even making me suspicious of the Christian you.They are the: home experience, Church experience and my lack of knowledge.
My parents and family were by all counts Catholics. My parents were educated in Catholic institutions and had basically received all the sacraments for this life. My parents also did their duty by sending us to church, catechism and even Catholic institutions where we would be taught to be good catholics. They tried their best, however, they failed in modelling the faith outside the cathedral stained windows: we never prayed as a family, read the Bible together or recited the rosary. Religion was extraneous to life, something that was taught at church. So when the “church” failed, I was ready to abdicate.
When I refer to my experience in the church, I mean my interactions with the nuns, catechists and priests who were to us examples of holiness. Before I entered boarding school, I knew nuns as kindly people who gave you sweets and promised to pray for you. But in boarding, I encountered termagants. I saw them mistreat children under their care and abuse their power: a nun almost strangled one of my classmates and many showed favouritism. In my childish mind, I could not reconcile their behaviour and what they taught us about love, gentleness, kindness, goodness. There was none of the fruit of the Spirit.So I decided I could be everything the Bible taught without being a Christian. I think Christians who misrepresent the gospel by living contrary to its teachings repulse many from getting to know Christ.
The other Church experience that kept me in the dark longer than I should have been was the reluctance for people in the church to engage with dissenters. The average Christian is usually unequipped with the tools to give an answer for what they believe. Most people just believe without asking questions. But for those who have been confused by science, rationality, new philosophy, postmodernism, feminism and other ideologies that cause one to question, christians lacked the eloquence in answering them. The word exhorts not one Christian but all Christians to be ready to give an answer as to why they believe. When they don’t prepare, it leaves a lot of people in the dark.
But the one thing that kept me out of Church walls for the longest time is the lack of knowledge. I knew a lot of Church liturgies and traditions and the gospels, however, I knew very little about Paul’s teaching letters.Also, when they were read, it was as if they were veiled from me notwithstanding the fact that they were poorly read and exposited. As a result I knew more about the various apparitions of Mary and which saint had appeared from purgatory to ask for prayer while being completely ignorant about: salvation by grace alone, assurance of salvation and heaven, or the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit. Above all else I knew nothing about the goodness of God. Without knowledge of this attribute it is impossible to trust in God for eternal redemption. It is not the wrath of God that leads men to salvation, but His goodness. Goodness shown that while we were sinners, Christ died for us. And this goodness is extended in his assurance to “finish the work he began in us” and present us as “Holy and blameless”in His sight.
Consequently I believe the thing that kept me in the dark and far away from God even after “giving him my heart free of charge” was my lack of understanding of Him. Therefore it was not until I attended a Bible teaching church and began attending various bible studies that I gained understanding about God: he does not want any to perish but for all to come to the knowledge of salvation. His word has dispelled the darkness.Therefore I am no longer afraid of losing my salvation every time I fall short. I have come out of darkness into this great and marvellous light.