Doubting Matthew

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When Bill first asked me to write down my story to share with you, I was excited.  The opportunity he has given me to share my journey has been a blessing to me in many ways.  First of all, it is very affirming.  In writing out my journey, I have to really wrestle with my true thoughts and get to the bottom of what I believe about my walk with God.  That is powerful in and of itself, but I also find God doing work on me and in me as I write.  I grow with every word. 

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Second, it is cathartic.  I find myself being very honest about what I feel and I know that if I am not, there is no point in writing it in the first place.  As humans, we find it difficult to share our brokenness face to face, but there is still healing to be found in writing it out.  (I highly recommend it.)  Finally, writing about my new life in Christ is giving me strength in knowing who I am and who I want to follow.  That is priceless.

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So first, I was excited… then I was stumped.  How do I share how I came to know God without yammering on as though you cared about every minute detail of my life and how hurt I was by this incident or the words that so-and -so said to me about my faith?  There are so many seen and unseen influences that I could never capture the whole story in a reasonable length, much less in a way that held your interest past page 3.  A storyteller, I am not.

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After mulling it over, I just started writing.  You are currently getting version 4. This is the streamlined version that exhibits far less self-importance than the other three. (you’re welcome).  Basically, what you should know about me is this:

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I grew up outside of Christian teaching.  My family exhibited all of the values of a good Christian home without all of the talk of God and Jesus.  I had a good, solid upbringing with nothing to complain about.  I never knew real suffering and I never wanted for anything, or so I thought… 

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When I was about 10, I fell into the trappings of organized religion and got baptized for all of the wrong reasons.  When the God I imagined didn’t show up for the party, I bailed.  Over the next 20 years, I let the hurt of that experience and a hundred other well-intentioned, but misguided attempts at saving me stir a hatred in me for everything that the church said and believed.  They were all liars and hypocrites and I was better without any of it.

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My self-righteousness only grew as I watched my “Christian” friends in high school and college make every mistake in the book and pull out their get out of jail free card as a way to justify their transgressions.  As I entered the real world, I found many of the “Christian” adults in my chosen profession (education) to be no different: lying, cheating, stealing, venom spitters.  There was nothing anyone could have done or said to make me believe that God was anything more than a weak man’s crutch and an evil man’s cloak.

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I mentioned earlier that I never wanted for anything, but that is not entirely true.  In the first 34 years of my life, I never felt connected deeply to anyone or anything.  There were always things and people I was attached to and wanted to love, but in all honesty, I just didn’t know how to “do” it.  I thought I knew what love was and I attempted to find love, but it was just this emotion that came and went with the tides.  As you can imagine, or maybe you know all too well, this lack of connectedness leads down the darkest of paths.  My life consisted of constant self-loathing, seething anger, utter loneliness, and bone-crushing depression.  I was so empty inside that for the majority of my existence, I wished for death.  The oddity of that statement is that nobody ever knew.  I never told a soul.  I don’t know why or what I was waiting for because I had no hope of ever being content in life.  I feared every day for the uncertainty that it brought and every night for the certainty that it brought another day of uncertainty.  Depression is a maddening spiral and for me there was no hope of ever leaving it behind.

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Then something changed.  I wish I had some idea of how it happened, who said the right thing, what clicked in my subconscious, or what I ate for breakfast that day, but I just don’t.  I have searched the depths of my memory and even asked my wife (who never forgets anything let me tell you!) for clues, but we cannot pinpoint any single thing that redirected the course of my life.  It is as though it just… was.  God became less and less of a distant overlord and more and more of a loving caretaker.

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I think 1 Corinthians 2 describes it pretty well.

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 It wasn’t just a change in consciousness mind you.   His love became unmistakably real to me in ways that were completely tangible.  I found myself engaged in a relationship that was opening doors in my soul that I had permanently welded shut long ago.  I was overwhelmed by the changes happening inside of me.  It was like a floodgate had been opened and every fear and worry I ever had washed right out of me.  For a few months, I was completely new; A literal new man.  I continued healing a lot of past hurts through reading and talking with my amazingly faith-filled wife.  The fear of the unknown became a thing of the past and I was willing to take risks in my relationships that I never could have imagined (like inviting people to church, or praying in public.)  I learned what real love is and found that I not only love my wife, but I LOVE my wife!  Things were going great, but as with all transformations, the raging river of change slowed to a trickle and eventually stopped altogether.   I suppose this is the normal way of things, but it was difficult to get off the ride and wait for another turn.  It seems to be more of a rollercoaster these days.

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I continue to read everything I can get my hands on about Christianity and I try to be intentional about my prayer, but nothing has brought back the waves of clarity and contentment that those first few months brought.  Periodically, I have been able to recapture some of those feelings of closeness and love of the father that I so long for, but it has been a battle to hold on to my infant faith.  Every day is a struggle in some respects.  My inner me is my own worst enemy, but the old me is dying a little more every day.

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So here I am at the end of “my story” which is really just somewhere in the middle.  Despite my best efforts, I completely blew my notion of keeping it short and to the point.  I hope you will forgive me and will come back to read more as there are lots of things I have to say on the topic of God, Jesus, and religion in general. 

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