Friday, December 12, 2008

Truth or Sentimentalism?


In a way, I sort of wish I still believed in Adventism. Such a huge part of my childhood, it brings up all sorts of nostalgia when something reminds me of Ellen White, or the Sabbath, etc. How much easier things would be for me, spiritually, if I could just run back to the safe little haven of Adventism, after having said a decisive goodbye to all my lingering doubts.

Except, Adventism wasn't really a safe haven for me, not at all. It was something, though. Something to cling to while as a child I went through the worst kinds of abuse imaginable. Is that a good enough reason to hang on to my old belief system, because it afforded me the illusion of safety when I most needed it? Should sentimentality rule, or truth?

I'm sad sometimes thinking of all this, for as every Adventist knows Adventism is a way of life at odds with the world, and even to some degree with the rest of Christendom. A way of life which would sound like Greek to those on the outside looking in, with talk of veggie-links, The Shut Door doctrine, the Three Angels' Message, etc.

My abuser introduced our family to Adventism. That's no reason to toss it overboard, but it does give me pause when attempting to sort out my belief system. My real father, before the stepfather took over, introduced me to God. Ah, there's the difference! He was so enthused about God and Jesus and Heaven and all the rest, that it was contagious and I too fell in love with my Saviour. While my dad was still a part of my life, loving God was as natural as breathing. I gave my heart to Him at the age of five.

When everything changed and the stale rigidity of Adventism replaced my heart's love for God, it did something to me on a very deep level. Suddenly God had become this being who was untrustworthy, unknowable and to be honest unlikeable. He seemed to hover over me watching my every move, hoping to find something on me to hold against me for all of eternity. It seemed almost as if He was hoping for a good excuse to keep me out of Heaven.

Strange, this turn of events! God had never treated me this way before. What had gone wrong? Was it me? Something I did or said? With squirming shame I knew what it had to be, that my holy God could not stand the sight of me because of the disgusting things my abuser forced me to do in secret corners and darkened rooms. And the stain of my guilt was not coming out ever, of that I was sure. How then to win God's heart once more? How, when I had no control over the perversions of the adult in my life who should have loved me purely as my own father had once done?

Yes, how simple it would be (if I could manage it) to return to what I learned by rote in that long ago land of childhood when questions were forbidden, and my abuser ruled with his fists. How tempting to allow myself to just float back to the nebulous safety of the ark of Adventism, to stop questioning whether I ever believed the whole SDA thing in the first place, or if it was just one more thing forced on me by a sadistic man.

7 comments :

  1. That's the worse thing imaginable, I think. To hurt a child, especially while feigning Christianity. Jesus said it would be better for that one if a large millstone was hung around his neck and he was thrown into the sea.

    About your overall question, I'd absolutely say we always need to choose truth over sentimentalism, feelings, emotions, or anything else.

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  2. Thanks, Todd, for your words of encouragement.

    I'm trying to train myself in the discipline of "bringing every thought into captivity," for I know there's a lot of junk in my head that has absolutely nothing to do with the reality of who God is.

    Truth, by all means. I was thinking yesterday how I couldn't just run back to Adventism for security, especially as I'd be doing so out of fear that just maybe it's the truth and I'll end up missing the boat if I don't get on board now.

    What I mean is that the Bible says whatever is not of faith is sin, and since God knows my heart He'd know that I wasn't embracing Adventism with a pure faith. It would all be a sham, and thus a sin.

    So I'm in a sort of spiritual barren desert right now, uncertain where to step next.

    One thing I know, it's not the first time I've found myself in a wilderness. And unless my perceptions of God are totally out of whack, He will provide what I need now as faithfully as He has always done in the past.

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  3. Absolutely! Probably the most encouraging text ever 1 cor 10:13 "God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it."

    Now that is a picture of our God that I could contemplate forever!

    He has pulled me out of more pits than I care to remember, and praise Him for His Mercy, I'm sure He'll do it again for us both!

    I love the line from that song, "When I call on Jesus, all things are possible, I can mount on wings like eagles and soar! when I call on Jesus, mountains are gonna fall, 'CAUSE HE'LL MOVE HEAVEN AND EARTH TO COME RESCUE ME WHEN I CALL!"

    Oh that's one of my favorite shower-songs. ;-)

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  4. This was my favorite song about 3 years ago. I listened to it over and over again in my car, until I'd nearly worn out the CD.

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  5. I am not sure what to say here. But at the same time I feel compelled to say something. The description that you give of your later years of Adventism just before leaving describe almost word for word how I have described many times my early years in Adventism. I have been on a long journey toward experiencing God's heart since then but have chosen not to throw away my Adventist identity. But I have certainly challenged everything I believe strenuously and I have no regrets about that. God is becoming extremely attractive to me more and more now. I do not draw my beliefs from the church but am trying to challenge those in the church to begin to think and listen to God for themselves.
    I would be willing to dialog with you if you want. I have no desire to pressure you into any denomination but have a growing passion to connect with others who are seeking God and the real truth about Him.

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  6. Just found your blog.  So sorry to read about your childhood abuse and how it has colored your view of God.  It sounds to me like your father shared some precious characteristics with God.  Try to keep that in mind.  Your step-dad was NOT similar to God.  Do your best to separate your thoughts/memories of him and your view of God.  Keep actively searching for the truth and the truth will set you free.  Believe me, you will never forget the abuse, but God can lessen the pain and take the burden, one which you should have never had to carry.

    God loves you and wants a personal relationship with you.  That's where you will find the security you mentioned:  in a love relationship with your Creator, Heavenly Father, and the One who provided the way of salvation for each of us; in Jesus Christ.  Not in Adventism or any other religion.  May God bless you as you find Him again.
    Crystal

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  7. Anonymous:

    Thank you so much for these encouraging comments (I just now came across them on my blog.)

    I know that your words are true, it's a relationship with God that is of primary importance.

    I hope you'll stop by often!

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Comments, anyone? I'd love to hear your point of view.