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Why I Walked Away From My Faith

September 28, 2011

I’ve heard that college students abandon Christianity with alarming frequency. They leave home, they get a taste of the real world, and they suddenly grow disillusioned with all of the things they had once believed, so they turn around and walk away from their faith. I just never thought that it would happen to me. 

I was always the good kid, the Christian who knew what he believed and why he believed it. I read my Bible, I prayed, I went to church and even wrote curriculum for the youth group. Then I went to school at Moody Bible Institute where I was surrounded by Biblical teaching, godly friends, and a general atmosphere of all-around Christian-ness and I fit right in. I have a great vocabulary of Christianese and a way with words, so I can talk Bible with the best of them. That’s exactly how the trouble began.

At Moody, I talked a lot of Bible. Sometimes I felt like I ate, drank, and breathed Bible, yet the one thing I began to do less and less was actually read the Bible. I started taking God for granted, as if the walls and the chairs and the professors and the books were oozing excess Christianity and I could just absorb it by osmosis.

Trouble is, I didn’t absorb any Christianity. Instead, all of my sincerity drained slowly away, and a counterfeit passion slid in quietly to take its place. At first, I didn’t even notice the change. God and I were still close, He was right next to me, I had never lost sight of Him, and I comforted myself with that fact.

The comfort didn’t last long. I was still convinced that God was right there with me, but I was beginning to feel restless, pointless, like having God right there with me wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. I fought off those kind of thoughts for a long time, repeating to myself that I couldn’t just walk away from my faith but never answering the nagging question of why not.

Finally, I’d had enough. I decided to just turn around, look God in the eyes, and break it to Him that this just wasn’t working, that I didn’t want Him standing there looking over my shoulder anymore. So I turned around and found myself staring at a dummy, a figure built from my own preconceptions and opinions of what I thought God should be, dressed up in a robe and halo and looking altogether ridiculous.

With a shock, I was forced to face the truth. Somehow, one little twist at a time, I’d spun myself around 180 degrees, convincing myself at each step that I was still facing forward. I’d begun to play a part, performing the right actions, saying the right words, praying at just the right times with just the right affected tones and humble terms and earnest pleas. I’d been strutting the stage and reading my script for a deity of my own making, placing my faith in my own ability to appease my distorted perception of God and pretending that was the point.

The growing feelings of emptiness, fruitlessness, and pointlessness suddenly made sense, and I realized that I wasn’t disillusioned with God after all. I was disillusioned with the worthless life I’d built for myself, with all the strutting and the reading and the acting. I felt my self-sufficiency dissolve, and in its absence an aching hunger remained.

I wanted the real God back.

And, incredibly, impossibly, undeservedly, He wanted me back, too.

So I turned around and walked away from my twisted, counterfeit faith, away from the wreckage of the stage and the script and the stand-in god, into the welcoming arms of the One I’d abandoned but who never abandoned me, the One who had watched every frivolous scene and wasted moment of self-indulgence and still waited patiently to lead me back and make me whole again. If that’s not love I don’t know what is, and if that kind of love doesn’t drive everything I do then I’m wasting my life. I’ve been there – I’ve tasted substance and shadow, passion and apathy, life and death – and I’ve made my choice. I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Mel permalink
    September 28, 2011 12:12 pm

    The truth in this article is uncanny. It speaks in my life, as well as many other Bible College students. I love reading your guy’s stuff!

  2. September 28, 2011 1:00 pm

    This situation doesn’t just happen to Bible/Christian college students. I think everyone who has grown up in church faces this point in their life at some time. I know I have. Every experience you described I can relate to. It just gets so much harder to overcome at a secular school, when you have so many influences pulling you so many different directions.

    I really enjoyed this post. I shared it with some friends. Thanks for the openness and honesty. You guys are awesome.

    • September 28, 2011 7:40 pm

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Adam (nice name, by the way). This post was really hard for me to write, so it’s a huge encouragement to see people being uplifted and challenged by it. Thanks for reading and commenting, it’s great to hear from you.

  3. Lisa permalink
    September 28, 2011 1:58 pm

    Tim… I appreciate your open and honest comments. Every believer has experienced this… That’s why we are of flesh and Jesus had to come. You give hope to those stumbling on their path and a “new look” for those searching. You are grounded because you are in HIS hands, even when you wander. I’m much older than you and wandered many times but I know HE has me in HIS hands at all times. Thanks for sharing… and thank you, Adam!

    • September 28, 2011 7:42 pm

      That’s one of the most wonderful things about following God, isn’t it? Knowing that He’s always in control, always setting us straight when we go wrong. Glad the post encouraged you, Lisa.

  4. Cole Swensen permalink
    September 28, 2011 9:49 pm

    Wow. I feel that this blog is gonna be huge. Keep up the good work guys! I will try hard to keep you in my prayers!

  5. September 29, 2011 12:45 am

    I really enjoyed this. I have also “liked” every post so far. I am not trying to be creepy, I have genuinely liked what you three have had to say so far. Anyway, I look forward to reading what you three come up with in the future.

    Also, I know Adam Keeton and that he has liked every post is a HUGE deal. It means that your blog is worth reading and founded on truth.

    • September 29, 2011 1:28 am

      ^ umm, can you delete my previous comment and this one? I still like the blog, but I am not sure my previous comment was appropriate.

  6. September 29, 2011 10:07 am

    LOL! it’s okay, susan. your comment wasn’t inappropriate. i take that as a compliment! 😉

    • September 29, 2011 10:41 am

      Phew, that’s good to hear 🙂 I was really worried for a while there 😛

  7. Dad permalink
    September 29, 2011 2:39 pm

    It is far too easy to re-make God in our own twisted image. It happens so subtly and slowly, and seemingly without effort… I love you, son, but nowhere near as much as our Heavenly Father does! Keep seeking Him and He will always let you find Him.

  8. September 30, 2011 2:38 am

    ^- This song has been convicting me for the past week. It will likely continue to do so for some time.

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