I have read a number of books in the last year or so, written by men and women who were brought up in very religious surroundings—some Catholic, some Jewish, some rigidly Protestant. The common factor in these particular narratives is their outcome, which is rejection of the early beliefs imposed on them by parents and teachers. As adults, they now are secular humanists or only vague believers in any faith, if not agnostic.
I had hoped that each of them, or at least some of them, would persist in their search for light and truth until they awakened to the fact that God desired more than mere rule-keeping. I thought that the stories of their finding the way through darkness and difficulty would give me insight for my own journey. They disappointed me, so I will declare it myself: “There is a way through. God will be found by those who seek Him with their whole heart.”
I spent almost twenty years of my early adulthood in spiritual bondage inside cultish extra-church groups (two of them, one led by a woman). I spent fifteen more years in marriages (two) that were stifling and abusive. It has been a long, difficult road of recovery from these damaging relationships. I have not only to recover from injury by these experiences, but perhaps more importantly, I also have to become the Christian woman who knows she is not meant to be a non-person, who refuses to accept abuse as what she deserves but instead takes her rightful place as a child of God.
I want to say to anyone, man or woman, who may be in a similar tormenting situation, “You do not have to become a humanist or an agnostic because your early adherence to the Jewish faith or the Catholic church or the fundamentalist rules did not work for you. Don’t throw everything away. Don’t give up. Persist. Persist. Persist until you find light and truth. But actually, He finds you.”
I do not pretend to know how other people should handle their situations. I do know that God makes a way. He promises that. He does not intend for us to live in bondage, or else the words of Jesus mock our predicament, “God’s Spirit is on me; he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor, sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to set the burdened and battered free, to announce, “This is God’s year to act!” ’ Luke 4 MSG