When I grew up in church, there was a lot of talk about Jesus filling “the hole in your heart.” The implication was that before becoming a Christian, you were empty inside, and after, you became full. This is an incredibly dangerous theology, because it is absolutely not true.
In middle school, I went through a period of pretty significant depression. I would pray for God to kill me, because thankfully I was too scared to do so myself. A lot of my pain came from the fact that I carried an enormous amount of guilt. I was a Christian, so why wasn’t I perfect? If God had filled me up inside, why did I still want so much? Why did I long for a perfect life, perfect relationships, and perfect experiences? If Jesus was the answer to everything, why did I still feel so empty?
I wrestled with these questions alone, because I worried I was the only person thinking such things. My doubts seemed to fly in the face of the salvation narrative I had been taught, so naturally, I thought perhaps I was not saved at all. The combination of adolescence, evangelical guilt, and suffering alone put me in a very bad place for a couple years. And honestly, I didn’t heal so much as I ignored my doubts in favor of legalism and distraction. Continue reading
I grew up in two worlds: the postmodern culture of my public education and the isolationist culture of my church. Although I was not consciously aware of the secular culture in which I grew up, it influenced me all the same, both implicitly shaping me and as I explicitly reacted against it. On the positive side, postmodernism taught me to value individual experiences and to look on the world with wonder at the multitudes of cultures and belief systems around the world. On the negative side, I internalized a belief that I could never fully be sure of anything. This applied to friendships, family members, and truth. I became a cynical person who doubted people’s love and wondered if I had any purpose in life. Although I was a loud-and-proud Christian at my public school, the theology I parroted rarely took root on an emotional level to counteract these fears.
In fact, although my church tried to offer hope in the face of a “sinful” culture, the theology I learned only exacerbated the loneliness and detachment of postmodernism. I was taught a theology that was centered upon the cross in hope of a future in heaven. I learned about the depth of love Jesus had for us by dying a horrific death in atonement for our sins. I had a guilt-based relationship with God in which I feared every new sin I committed would crucify Jesus all over again. The only hope, I believed, was in heaven. This world was entirely awful, and I certainly was not capable of making things better. Therefore, I looked forward to the day when I would be dead and blissfully happy in heaven, a nebulous place of whites and golds where I knew my sin-stained self would be able to see Jesus face-to-face. Continue reading