Religious Deconstruction & Identity Crisis
There are so many hard things that I went through when my faith deconstructed into absolutely nothing, and it's really hard to say there is one specific thing that was the absolute hardest. But definitely, right there, at the top of the list would be the intense identity crisis that I faced when my faith fell away and didn't come back.
I always knew who I was growing up. I was taught that my identity is in Christ!
I was a Christ-follower. A child of God. My mission and purpose in life was decided for me - by God - I was called to be his ambassador. I was called to live a holy, blameless life, and to tell other people that Jesus saves and invite them to pray the sinner's prayer to receive their one way ticket to heaven too.
I took a lot of pride in my God-given, Christian identity. I was special. God had chosen me. I served him fervently, whole-heartedly, with reckless abandon. I worked harder than anybody else I knew to live my life for God with my ENTIRE existence. I knew that if my life was ever threatened in the name of Jesus, I would take the bullet, because that was the ultimate sacrifice.
So when my ability to believe in ANYTHING fell into a black hole last January, I majorly freaked out and panicked inside. I couldn't believe in God anymore. I couldn't interpret the Bible literally. I couldn't pray. I couldn't sing. I couldn't even think. I would try to process what had happened to make my whole mind go blank in relation to everything, and it literally felt like my brain was fuzzy and I was staring into a black hole. Nothing left to go in - and certainly nothing coming out.
EVERYTHING I knew and based my entire life, purpose, and identity on was gone.
I kept waiting for it to all just come back. Surely this was just a temporary thing. Right? I mean, I had had doubts before, and I always managed to push them back down with "If we could understand God, God wouldn't be God..."
My therapist kept trying to encourage me by telling me, "you're still a Christian. You need to reconstruct. It will come back." But he didn't know. He hadn't been there. And I kept insisting....
"NO I'M NOT A CHRISTIAN ANYMORE! YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT HAS HAPPENED IN MY HEAD AND THERE IS NO WAY TO GET BACK WHAT I'VE LOST BECAUSE I DIDN'T MAKE IT DISAPPEAR IN THE FIRST PLACE, AND I CERTAINLY DIDN'T WISH FOR THIS!"
It was utterly and completely beyond my control. It's like when a kid stops believing in Santa Claus - you can't convince them that Santa is really real...Even if they see him at the mall, there's an inner knowing that it's just a story that people find joy in. That's how it felt with the whole God thing - I didn't choose to not believe - but there was no way to process that any of it was absolutely true anymore...I could not even pretend to believe that it was literally, absolutely 100% true.
To say I was devastated would be an understatement. After a little over a month of waiting for God and my faith to return to me, and having nothing happen other than a deeper sense of loss. I realized that my identity was not coming back. My God, my faith, my way of living in this world, my world view, MY ENTIRE IDENTITY WAS GONE.
There aren't adequate words to describe this intense, inner turmoil I felt. WHO the heck was I now? and what is even the purpose of being alive? and how can I ever be okay again?
I listened to deconversion podcasts, browsed hashtags such as #exvangelical & #exchristian on twitter, lived on secret exvangelical groups on FB, listened to youtube channels relating to what I was going through, searching high and low for how to make it through this deep nothingness that I now lived in all by myself in my real-life community. Nobody understood the depth of my loss. Some tried...but you cannot know what it's like to completely lose your faith and identity ON ACCIDENT unless you've actually gone through it personally. We're not talking doubts here.