I had two speeds...Hell and Hell faster. A few thoughts on my dirty dances with religion.
| When people ask me when I was saved, I generally don’t know what to tell them.
Some people have those thunder-and-lightning, blood and tears and saliva experiences, like you hear on the 700 Club. They reach a point in their life where a beam of sunlight pierces through the overcast sky and doves burst out of hiding to announce their Pauline, life-altering epitome, where they drop to their knees and talk to the ceiling, and become a different person on the spot.
Not me. I never got the privilege of a lightswitch conversion. Maybe I used up all of my supernatural experience vouchers on the hundred or so times that I false-started (spiritually high on church camps and youth retreats, no doubt), so God shrugged and said, “Looks like you’re overdrawn. Tough luck, kid. Now you get to do it the hard way.”
See, part of what kept separating me from God was my fear. My religious compass relied on fear like magnetic north. I was scared of Hell. I was scared of myself, because my inability to be perfect was going to send me to Hell. I was scared of my fear, because that meant that I lacked faith, which was what I was counting on to keep me out of Hell. My fear produced guilt, which produced fear. A perpetual motion machine of condemnation existed inside of me, and it only had two speeds: Hell and Hell Faster.
I said the words. Maybe I believed them for a bit, eyes shut and hands raised, but it just didn’t take. I liked to re-convert approximately every other day, and hope that I died on a “recommitted day,” so that I wouldn’t even have to check my baggage before boarding the 7:45 flight to the afterlife.
I think the irony of it all was, the fear that drove me to look for a god became an impassable divide between me and the God who sought after me. I was so concerned with my own eternal safety that I entirely missed the point of the message; I sought to find the God of selfless love out of pure selfishness. I could not relate to God because I was so focused on finding him on my terms that I couldn’t recognize Him any longer; but God had already found me, and thankfully, He never took my ignorance for the insurmountable obstacle that I assumed it to be.
There never was a moment. If anything, I can remember a few times when I could feel God provoking me in His playful, relentless way. The drive was so persistent that I eventually had to give Him the spiritual equivalent of “I give up! You win! What do you want?”
My walk with God has been more like a dance – the awkward high school kind, not the beautifully-choreographed ballroom kind. I spent years watching the party with my back to the gymnasium wall, and it took a decade of gentle waves and coy smiles from God to coax me out to the floor.
Even now, I’m only starting to learn the steps, but He keeps me in rhythm.