If I had to pick a moment, it would be at the funeral of my friend Dennis. I had been struggling with my faith for months. My personal life was in shambles. My family was under tremendous stress and the church had disappointed me. I felt as though God had abandoned me. And at some moment point during the funeral, a thought was born. Were the hell was god? Dennis was not a close friend, but he had a huge impact on my life. He set in motion a series of events that I had hoped would transform my life and the lives of people around me.
Dennis had sponsored me on “A Walk to Emmaus.” The best way I can describe it is a retreat on steroids. It was a reaffirmation of faith as well as community. I had never felt so loved in my life. It was during that retreat that I had what I still consider my most tangible encounter with God. I felt sure of one thing. And it was just shy of an auditory hallucination. I was called to serve God and others as an ordained minister.
I got as far as completing the candidacy process. And then life happened. A series of tragic events made me doubt my own faith. (insert a huge yada yada yada here)…
…And then Dennis. One of the most devout Christians I have ever known committed suicide. At his funeral I obsessed on one thought, where was God? If God could not be bothered to intervene in someone’s most desperate hour, what good was he? In my brain, a switch flipped. There is no god. Simple and succinct. It was nothing short of an epiphany. In that moment, the universe finally made sense. Life had no intrinsic meaning, it just was. Bad things happen, because bad things happen. Without a personal god, there was no more disappointment. God had not let me down. My devotion to a figment of my imagination did not live up to my expectations. It was a huge release letting all of those 40 years of baggage go.
Now just because I did not believe in god did not stop me from going to church. Culturally I am a Christian and there is no getting around that. My social fabric is saturated with faith. So I kept going. I was not militant about my change of heart. In fact, I only shared it with three friends. I was not going to become a fanatic in the other direction.
So I went to church. I mingled with the people there. I continued to raise my child as a Christian, but I did not believe.
…And then today. It is the season of lent. When I was devout, this was my favorite time of year. But now, it was just another day at church. The pastor was preaching on Gethsemane. Most of it was standard Easter fare. But then he said one thing. When I heard it, I was immediately thunderstruck. Jesus’ most fervent prayer request was not granted.
I found myself crying uncontrollably. My faith has not miraculously been restored. But for the first time in a long time, I wanted to be wrong.