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Despite loving, Christian parents, I left the faith

T.J. Bengtson April 22, 2015

Once upon a time, not that long ago, the deepest, most venomous anger, hatred and bitterness were eating me alive from the inside out. Nearly a decade of rejecting God had finally caught up with me. The burdens of greed and selfishness were caving in.

I was dying in my heart, and there was no one to blame but myself. In that moment, I faced one terrifying question: What on earth had I done?

On the outside, my image didn’t add up. I was raised in a devout Christian home, went to a private Christian school, had amazing parental examples, and was taught to memorize the Bible from a young age. But by the time I got to high school I’d grown bored with everything that had to do with God and church.

Blah, blah – I knew the stories. Blah, blah – Christ died. Blah, blah – life with God is wonderful. Blah, blah, blah. I was tired of the same old, same old.

One day, when I was about 15, I consciously and purposefully shut the door on God. As far as I was concerned, that was it. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I still acknowledged God’s existence. That’s why I firmly maintained my status as an agnostic and NOT an atheist. My whole thing was, “There’s too much beauty in the world for there not to be a God.” But it didn’t go beyond that. I made sure it didn’t.

Then came college and the long, endless nights of hard partying, downtown clubbing, bar hopping, shameless liquor, girl chasing and unrestrained, recreational party drugs. Even scarier, I convinced myself I was having the time of my life.

Then something happened: I met a special young lady and fell deeply in love. With that relationship came a tight-knit, close group of wonderful, caring friends. I thought I had everything I could ever want. I finally had someone who loved me for me, and a group of loyal friends.

Destroying my life

But I was still the same greedy, self-absorbed guy I’d always been. Eventually, I neglected my lady, took advantage of her love and our relationship shattered in an instant. Once everything was broken, we both fell into a deep, nightmarish, downward spiral. When the smoke finally cleared, she left me. When our friends found out, many of them left too. I was broken and bleeding on the battlefield of a war I’d been waging against myself and everyone around me.

In that moment of poisonous anger, bitterness and hate, I realized I’d destroyed everything wonderful in my life.

And so, I cried out to God in my brokenness and agony – and, for the very first time in my life, I heard Him answer. He picked me up out of the rubble of my self-destruction and from that moment on I promised to never lash out against Him again.

How could I keep pushing Him away after everything He revealed to me? After all the peace He gave me in the aftermath of what I’d done? And what was it specifically that I had done? I tried to create my own definition and meaning, cutting off the only transcendent Anchor who gave real meaning and definition to life itself.

Life on my own terms, the way I wanted to do it – absolutely and unquestionably had NOT worked. Period.

Today, my journey has led me into a world of apologetics, philosophy and theology. Where I once had a passion only for film and movies, though still present, an entirely new pursuit of truth and how it fits in this world, has taken center stage.

Encouragement for parents

I would like to provide encouragement to any parent whose children are struggling with their faith. No matter how hard we may fight against God – the key to us possibly choosing to come back one day is parents who remain solidly firm in their love for us.

We need parents who don’t condemn; who love despite the hell we put them through; who remain compassionately patient while remaining firm in their convictions; who never shy away from or water down the truth and who strongly, adamantly lead by example.

I’m so thankful for my parents’ love and forgiveness. Whatever poison I threw against faith, they always let me know our home would always be a safe shelter of love and compassion. Was it easy? Of course not. Today they admit the hardest thing for them was to humbly accept the fact that my choice in faith had absolutely nothing to do with them.

Tips to help your kids grow in faith

  • When your children start asking hard questions about God and faith, do everything in your power to answer them as honestly as you can. If you don’t know the answers, do everything you can to find them, because if you don’t, they WILL go somewhere else where they might find only dangerous answers, instead.

  • With younger children, get them to start thinking WHY they believe in God and the Bible. Encourage them to ask hard questions so they will begin thinking for themselves sooner. It will help them later on in life.

    J.P. Moreland, the renowned philosopher and Christian apologist, made the point clear: “We have gotten so good at teaching our younger generation what to believe and what the Bible says, but we’ve completely neglected to get children to think why they believe it altogether.”

  • Parents, our journey as young adults is our own and not yours. But, there will never be a time when we won’t look to you for hopeful guidance in the right direction. Parents who lovingly lead by example; are patient with our growth as individuals; and are not ashamed to hold on to the one and only, absolute Truth – will always be seen in our eyes as a strong, admirable example.

Originally posted on Hope for Hurting Parents

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