I Was Traumatized by Fear of Hell ALL MY LIFE
Hell was a real fear of mine from the early ages of 2–3. I used to come home from church every Sunday, run into the house, hide under my highchair in the kitchen, and ask Jesus to save me from my sin again, just in case I didn’t say the right words or mean it enough last time.
How could I not? Between church and eventually Christian school, it was constantly preached at us as the most important thing. They said this life doesn’t matter, eternity matters. Only what you do for eternity in this life is going to go with you. So that would be asking Jesus to save you and then telling others so Jesus can save them too. So none of y’all go to hell. The end. Happy Ever After… That’s ALL this life was said to be about.
I was terrified of accidentally going to hell someday.
I lived my whole childhood terrified of this possibility. That I could die and go to hell if I didn’t believe right or say the right words. And we were taught hell is forever. And it’s horrible. And we will burn and cry and be separated from God and our family forever if we didn’t ask Jesus into our hearts.
On top of that, we were told we wouldn’t be with our friends in hell. You would be isolated. By yourself. No God. No people. Lots of pain. On fire. No drinks to quench your thirst.
Add to that, you had to know “beyond the shadow of a doubt,” that you were going to heaven. If you didn’t have that confident assurance, you needed to be saved again. It wasn’t uncommon for me and my friends to get assurance of our salvation. (praying the sinner’s prayer again — which isn’t even in the Bible, but we were taught that it was — just in case!).
I usually felt relieved immediately following the prayer. I felt that was a blanket covering for the sins I had unknowingly committed…because Christians weren’t supposed to keep sinning. If you kept sinning, you might not be saved. This struggle continued intensely through college.
I went to church camp every summer. Between that and church revivals, I was constantly re-dedicating my life to God, in effort to do better and be a better daughter and sibling. I was always deeply convicted that I was constantly messing up and hurting my parents with even minor disobedience, and shame on me for how I struggled to get along with my siblings.
I lived in constant guilt because I could never measure up.
CONSTANT FUCKING GUILT.
I would wake up heavy every morning. Like a demon was sitting on my chest taunting me. I had no idea this was depression. But looking back, who wouldn’t be depressed being terrorized that they could be going to hell since the age of 2.
I remember being little and trying to understand the King James Version of the Bible, because that is all my church used. So much of it didn’t make sense to me. I was told that if I had the Holy Spirit, it would make sense to me — that he will explain it to me. Well that never happened.
When I was a senior in High School, I was given a New International Version of the Bible because a previous pastor had approved that it was okay. It wasn’t as good as the KJV, but it was okay. I remember being so excited because I could understand the wording better. I also remember feeling somewhat self-conscious and like a rebel because many people saw it as heresy or forbidden to read anything but the KJV.
I read and searched the Bible to try to relieve the oppression I was feeling, but reading the Bible actually increased the oppression even more. So much so that I had to stop at times so I could breathe. How could something that was supposed to be such a comfort, suffocate me at the same time. I had no idea. But I also had guilt for not reading the Bible because that, too, was what I was supposed to do.
When it comes to fundamentalism…you can’t win. Fundamentalism is defined as “extreme ideas or actions, adherence to traditional views/practices esp in religion, and an unrealistic belief in or pursuit of perfection.” (Thank you wordhippo.com :D). Well defined for sure.
No wonder a child born into religious fundamentalism can experience so much trauma, depression, and anxiety well into adulthood over their perception of indoctrinated childhood beliefs.
Once again, I’m going to put my disclaimer…that I am not angry or bitter. I love my family, friends, church family that I was raised with and have enjoyed life with! They didn’t know any better. They weren’t trying to hurt me. :).
But I have woken up, and I am daily moving on and helping others be okay in their confusion and pain...letting them know they are okay ♥.
I have no more fear of hell, because I do not believe it actually exists. And I definitely do not believe that a God who claims to be love would send anybody there.
Best of all, I have no more guilt. I am love, and I am peace. I am good.