It’s been 40 years since I left the church and it’s taken me most of that time to realize I was living in a cult. Under the umbrella of religiosity, I was taught that we are all doomed to Hell. Only if our names are recorded in the Book of Life are we spared. It is God alone who can save us and nothing we do can change our fate.
I spent my childhood fearful of death. Fearful that everyone I know would die unsaved and be cast into Hell. We were taught that to die unsaved meant an eternity in the lake of fire where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. Our God is a god of fire and brimstone. A vengeful god punishing the wicked.
While I trembled at the thought of displeasing such an angry God it was the words of Jesus that brought me comfort.
“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'” — Matthew 19:14 (NIV)
I clung to these words spoken of by Jesus with love and tenderness. My young heart yearned for such a loving God. I wanted to believe that the stirrings in my heart were real. How could I as a child know the truth? There were adults far wiser than I that accepted that we were lowly worms at the mercy of a God who had damned most of us to Hell. Yet, in my childlike earnestness, I felt His grace, His mercy, and His forgiveness. Most of all I felt His love.
Through the years I’ve struggled with my faith. When the roots of your faith are based in condemnation it is hard to accept the goodness of a loving God. What I now believe is that long ago God took my young hand and led me to a place where there is grace, mercy, and forgiveness. A place where I live in His presence under the canopy of His love.