When I became a Christian, it was through a church and a campus fellowship group that believed in the “infallibility” of the Bible. Every word was inspired by God, and while they didn’t believe in the literal truth of every last word, we were taught that there was some metaphorical or symbolic truth to all of it.
So when I started reading the Bible, I approached it as I was told to approach it: as infallible truth. I set aside my own inklings about truth, and read with the mindset of trying to understand The Truth.
My own intuition was really competing as a basis for truth at that point. Even as an 18-year-old, my intuition had already been overruled many times by my desire to be liked. More than anything else, I wanted desperately to be liked and accepted and popular. So I already was a master at ignoring those little niggling sensations that were trying to tell me I might be uncomfortable with something, whether it was riding around in a car with a cute guy who was driving drunk or being told that women couldn’t be leaders in the church.
It was actually very comforting to find out that the Bible was the absolute truth, and all I had to do to be accepted and loved by my new group of Christian friends was to follow it.
Here’s where it gets complicated. As I read, I discovered the Bible was full of all kinds of fascinating, beautiful things. But they were mixed in with a lot I didn’t like at all. For example, I thought it was amazing that God SPOKE to people, and told them things about His faithfulness and His compassion. But I also thought it was shitty that God told the Israelites that they could have a piece of real estate that was owned by some other folks. As another example, I hated that the Bible portrayed women as second class citizens over and over, but I loved that this powerful and gentle guy named Jesus prevented some poor woman from getting stoned to death for sleeping with a man she wasn’t married to.
So I asked a lot of questions. Honest questions. I asked fellow Christian students, and I asked leaders in my church or fellowship group. I even argued with them sometimes. I wanted to be ‘allowed’ to only believe the things in the Bible that made my heart sing. But I found out that wasn’t an option. It’s all or nuthin’, baby. Are you in or are you out? And eventually, my need to be liked and accepted was so strong that I acquiesced, and I let them walk me through the mental gymnastics of hearing why it was okay that God said something-or-other. The reason it was okay usually was because of something about the culture of that time period, which sort of made sense…sort of. Or another reason it was okay was because God was making a point in His meta-story, so the individuals apparently didn’t count. For example, there was His apparent meanness to one group of people (those living in Palestine who lost their land) but that was compensated for by the fact that He was going to use another group of people, the Israelites, to tell the redemption story.
I have to believe all or nuthin’? Well, I want in, so I guess I’ve gotta agree. I actually remember the moment my freshman year that I decided I would just accept that the Bible was infallible. I can still feel the weird, weak feeling of resignation that came over me, but at least now I could have unconditional love from my Christian peeps. And once I made that choice, too much love was riding on having faith, and I never admitted my doubts about the Bible to myself again.
But you see, I wasn’t doubting the realness or the goodness or the wonder of the Divine. Even though all I knew at that point was a masculine, transcendent Being who lived outside of me, I felt the tenderness and love of that Being in every part of my being. Year after year, I felt myself being transformed by the energy of the Divine moving through me. I saw the radiance of Jesus. I got it that making a difference for humanity meant self-sacrifice. I KNEW God.
But sometime about 11 years ago, I couldn’t suppress those doubts anymore. Maybe it was because I was in the midst of ‘compassion fatigue,’ realizing I’d spent most of my adult life trying to make the world a better place and it hadn’t done much good. Maybe it was because I was confused about a guy who I thought God had spoken to me about, but who turned out to be not who I thought he was. Maybe it was because I was going through reverse culture shock, living back here in the US after spending 13 years overseas, and feeling like I couldn’t relate to American culture anymore. For whatever reason, I was sitting in a church one Sunday morning (I’ve written about this moment HERE), and I couldn’t bear having a man who was a complete stranger to me stand up in front of all us and tell us how to live our lives. I left church that day and never went back.
And when I got home, I took a red pen, opened my Bible to the beginning of the New Testament, and started writing what I really thought. I didn’t cuss back then, so it seems tame as I look at my notes in the page margins now, but I was serious. I didn’t hold back in that private space between me and God.
It was one of the most empowering things I ever did. I acknowledged my intuitions about what was truth and what was just plain bunk to me. I WAS HONEST!
Do you know how good it feels to be honest with yourself after more than 20 years of pushing something down? I COULD FEEL TRUTH! I didn’t have to pretend something felt like truth if it didn’t!
I felt love for the God that I had known since childhood rising up in me. Freedom and joy…and more and more love for the Divine One that I had known all along…it all came welling up. So much love for Jesus, who suddenly seemed strangely different from the Jesus I had been taught about.
I’m not going to conclude this by explaining what my beliefs are now. That’s totally not the point. I’m not here to convince you to believe one thing and not believe another thing. The point is that when I finally stopped suppressing my doubts, I found a much deeper connection to the Divine. Honesty with myself led me to a deep, flowing well of everything my heart had longed for my whole life. I’m so utterly grateful.
Has your ‘knower,’ your intuition, your gut, been squelched too?
Want to hear about how to use your knower to know truth?
I’m going to be giving a live talk via conference call technology called, “How I Survived the Religion Machine…and Found A Deeper Connection with the Divine.” It’s completely free, you just have to phone in to a number I’ll give you, and the recording will be available afterwards if you can’t be there live, but you have to sign up to get access. CLICK HERE to go to my web page with to register.