Posted by: amharmon | May 12, 2009

4 years of Faith Challenging Experiences

When I first arrived at SLU, in no way did  I envision that I would experience so many situations throughout my career here that would cause me to question my faith. Having been raised in the church, I dealt with many troubling situations (from severe poverty to abuse) in which I was taught to just handle them and that God would never let me suffer more than he thought I could handle. It was only during my time at SLU that I began to truly question whether a God was there and if he actually saw me.  For example, my freshman year I began to suffer from intense physical pain all over that was so debilitating, that sometimes I would not be able to get out of bed. Later having received the diagnosis of Fibromyalgia, I was forced to try and cope with the pain as best as I could, because my insurance would not cover all of my medications. At the same time, my family was going through their own troubling situations. My step-father having been diagnosed with Lou Gherig’s disease (ALS) a few years before was becoming more and more sick. I watched him go from a walking, talking, piano/organ player, runner, and attorney to a depressed, moody, yet still brilliant person who could no longer do basic things like feed himself, much less walk. This had a profound affect on my family and caused much tension and sadness within the house. My mother became diagnosed as manic depressive, fell into a deep depression, in which she was basically unreachable by anyone. My older sister, suffering from her own Post-traumatic stress, became suicidal and deeply depressed. Also causing problems was my step-sisters son, (who was living in our house) who was basically a true problem child. Angry at his mother for abandoning him, he took out his frustrations in many ways, from destroying rooms of the house, to lying, stealing, hiding knives in his room, to hurting and abusing his younger brother. This further created tension within the house, though I thought that at college I would not be as affected by these situations. I dealt with my pain silently during this first year, but managed to surface with my faith basically unscratched.

My sophmore year proved to be one of the most challenging, as the situations at home worsened and I was asked to be home as much as possible to help out. At the same time, I began to struggle with many personal issues including my health, troubled relationships, and coming to terms with those childhood memories that I could no longer ignore. I began to ultimately question why God would have had suffer through of all of those experiences for no benefit or reason. I wondered if God meant for some believers to suffer more than others and at the same time, began to doubt that God had ever been there at all for me. I became consumed in a lifestyle that made no place for a God to exist within it and began to turn further away from my background and faith. It was also during this year that I took two theology classes that forced me to question my upbringing and understanding of the Christian faith. I took Sexual Ethics with Rubio and Christianity in Africa and Asia with McClymond and by what I learned in both classes, I came to my own conclusions that God existed but that he was nowhere near me.  These thoughts were furthered by my experiences duirng my second semester. I returned from abroad ready to face all of the problems and situations I had openly ignored for a semester. During the second semester, in the first month, my stepfather was put on life-support following a collapsed lung and was tranferred throughout numerous hospitals in IL. At the same time, I underwent many doctors appointments and consultations/tests, as my doctors became suspicious that I suffered from lymphoma. Thankfully by the end of the semester these tests were found to be negative, but due to all of my appointments and trying to visit my stepdad I missed a lot of classes, which forced to me to take one incomplete in a class and to withdraw from another.

That summer, I visited my stepfather more, as his condition worsened. At that point, doctors had performed a tracheotomy on him (meaning he had to use an artificial ‘voicebox’ to talk) and he was being weaned off of life support. By the end of the summer, the family dynamic had grown increasingly weak, though most of us held onto hope that my stepdad would be able to eventually return home and be in more peace there than in the nursing home type facilites that he had been kept in. In the beginning of August following a long, fun day of celebrating my sister’s 15th birthday, my mom received a call that night that changed everything. My stepfather had died of a heart attack on the ONE night where no one had gone to visit him. We all felt different feelings of pain, guilt, and abandonement and were forced to continues on in our lives. No less than 4 days had passed since we had attended my step-father’s funeral in Atlanta, when I had to move back in in St. Louis. I struggled to begin my senior year as unchanged to my friends and as a great student to my teachers. I found it difficult, however to relate to people and to be able to talk about my life’s events without making the situation akward.

In the first semester, I found most everyone to be very understanding and sympathetic, yet could no longer relate to any of my friends. I found myself seeing all of them less and less and becoming more distant. Then during the my second semester (this semester), my family seemed to be being torn apart due to how each person was dealing with their grief and stress. On top of that I had a growth that looked suspicious to three doctors, the final of which basically told me that I had stage -one melanoma. I became worried and thought about death itself and my own mortality and of God’s relation to me. I thought of al of the dreams that I had and of all the things that I could possibly never do and became increasingly worried and sad. Following the surgery, the growth was found to be abnormal and atypical,  yet non-cancerous! I was ecstatic to say the least and geared up to finish strong in a semester in which I had missed a lot classes.

At this point, I find myself on the edge of my college career and becoming ready for life in the real world. I feel that my faith is slowly creeping back into my life, yet I still lack a feeling of closeness with God. This lack is no longer due to me associating all of the trials of my life with a God who failed to act or care, but has become a belief in God who is distant perhaps by my actions. I know that life is only going to bring more trials and rough spots to me, but at this point, while maintaining my faith in God, I feel that I lack closeness to him, leaving me to question his role in my life. I am curious if anyone has had any similar experiences, leading them to question their beliefs and faith. I am also curious if anyone has any advice for regaining that close, personal relationship with God that I once had.

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Responses

  1. Allyson- thanks so much for sharing your story, it must have been hard. I will say though that I definitely know what you mean about not feeling close to God. I have not been through things nearly as traumatic or painful as you but seem none-the-less to believe in God but often question his presence in my life.

    I’m not sure I have ever questioned my beliefs as much as I question my role in the greater scheme of God’s plan and if I am somehow supposed to “follow his will” when I don’t have a clue what it is; since my prayer life has pretty much led me nowhere close to God. So, I don’t have any advice for regaining that personal relationship, but hang in there because I find at the times I least expect it, my faith is renewed in interesting manners.

  2. Thanks for your comment Kelly. I am glad to know that I am not alone in my feelings of separation from God. At this point, I am at peace with everything that has happened in my life, but still feel that God is distant. My mom told me to pray, re-read my Bible, and ask God to show himself to me again. I have been trying for the past 5 months, but still feel alone. I am patient though, and I will not give up on Him.

  3. Allyson this was incredibly powerful and I greatly appreciate you sharing. I myself have never had experiences like you have however I like Kelly have had times where I do not feel close to God. For me this has been long stretches at times and at other times days at a time. One day I will feel incredibly connected to God and the next I will feel as if I am so far apart from God. I like Kelly have often questioned my place in God’s plan. For me the problem has often been, not feeling like I am part of a plan.


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