It all started when I pulled one loose thread from the fabric of the belief that had been woven around me when I was growing up. This fabric had protected me, warmed me and gave me comfort when I was yet a child and had not yet formed my own convictions.
I guess I was around 14 or 15 at that time when I noticed a few loose ends. It was at a national inter-church summer camp in Baguio City. I tugged a bit at those ends. I had a long discussion with my best friend. We threw around questions like “Why would an all-knowing God create Lucifer in the first place when he knew he would rebel against him? How come God put the forbidden fruit in the garden when he already knew that man would fail the test and take a bite from it? What if you were born in a remote place and you never heard about Jesus? Would it be fair for God to throw you in hell because of that?”
We went back and forth with these questions, trying to find answers from the Bible, from our own experience, and from what we had heard from other church leaders. We discussed these issues until way past midnight and even brought them up to a pastor the next day.
Looking back, my goal at that time was not so much to seek the truth no matter what, but to find a position of defensible comfort within my belief system. And so when the pastor replied with — “You know, I look at it this way. We are like people standing behind an expert painter create a masterpiece. While he is still working on the painting, we don’t understand it. We see that some parts are dark and some strokes look ugly. But when the master is done and the final work is revealed, we will marvel at how wonderful it is” — I accepted that reply even if it really didn’t answer the question. I was contented enough with it and accepted that my puny mind could never comprehend the infinite wisdom of God. I ignored those loose ends and left them there, assured that all will be revealed and make sense when I died and went to heaven.
Fast forward to a just a few years ago. I was in my mid-thirties, had gone through tremendous swings in my spiritual journey, had married and had 3 kids, had experienced dealing with many different kinds of people, had a richer and wider view of reality than I had when I was a pimply teenager. I saw those loose threads. They were still there. They didn’t go away no matter how I tried to ignore them.
So I started to pull again. I started asking questions in an earlier blog I made. So now I had a wider audience — not just Christians and pastors but really different people with different beliefs. And I found out two things — one is that there were many people like me, on their own journey of unraveling the threads of their beliefs, and the other is that the Christian answers to the questions were more or less the same ones I had received as a teen — and they no longer satisfied me. To paraphrase from the Apostle Paul — the answers were milk when what I needed was meat. It was like feeding baby food to an adult.
Because I wasn’t satisfied, I continued pulling and it became a bit scarier because the fabric was beginning to tear and my skin was showing beneath it. I worried about how others would see me. I wondered about those who read my blog and what they thought about me: “Oh he’s backsliding” or “he’s being deceived by the devil” or “he should really stop this or God will stop blessing him.”
I think I stopped pulling for a while when I began to get numerous reactions, even calls from close relatives and friends who were “concerned” and “praying for me.” I didn’t want to rock the boat that much yet.
But in the end, my desire for truth outweighed everything else. Jesus rightly said, “the truth will set you free,” and I wanted so badly to be free. And so I decided to pursue the truth — even if that truth said that the Jesus I believed in was a lie. I started pulling harder at the strings and the fabric unraveled faster. I might have lost a few relationships because of this but those that have remained no matter what, I cherish as true friends.
Now, only a few tatters remain from the tapestry of faith that once covered me, but I have never felt happier, have never felt more joy and at peace with myself. I no longer wonder whether what I do is God’s will for me or not. I am no longer tormented by guilt that I have not prayed enough or have not nurtured my relationship with God enough. The responsibility for my life is mine alone. I accept it and lay blame at no one’s feet when things go wrong. No more asking, “Why God?” No more clutching at false hope and prayer, but simply accepting what comes today and then moving forward to create a better tomorrow.
My only regret, perhaps, is not pulling those strings sooner and having tasted this freedom earlier in my life, because the unraveling of my belief has left me stark naked to all the wonder the universe has to offer.
The truth has finally set me free.
This article also appears in filipinofreethinkers.org