I lost my face but found peace
Hi, welcome back. And if you are reading for the first time, Bon Arrive! I have written about a couple of topics in the past, romance, hope, grief, gyms (this is a hilarious one), and much more. Most of which are based on my personal experience and opinions. Today, I decided to explore a topic I generally shy away from. Before I continue, here are a few things to note:
- It’s best you to read with an open mind and to the end; It’s long, I know.
- I talk about religion from the perspective of Christianity because that I what I have experienced, known, and understand.
- I might offend some of your sensibilities, primarily if you actively practice the faith. If you can’t handle it, please stop reading now.
- I am not trying to convince/convert anyone; it would be best if you tried not to do the same with me. But if you insist on discussing it, my Twitter dm is open.
- I will swear a lot; I apologize in advance and hope you excuse my ‘French.’
Born a Christian
Before I was born, my parents were Pastors, and as you might have guessed, that didn’t leave me with much of choice (which is very interesting but let’s talk about that later). I did the whole work; I was a part of everything. It was my life. But even as a child, I had questions and didn’t know how to ask them without appearing weird. I distinctly remember several times my mother complained about me having my head buried in other books that weren’t the bible. “Why can’t you be more like your younger brother?” she asked. My brother has always loved everything about Christianity and still does, and I love it for him.
I remember one time I was reading a book by Dan Brown, and my then choir director (don’t be too shocked, yes I can carry a tune) saw it. He immediately reported me to my dad, advising that they take away the book from me as it would fuel “demonic inclinations.” Of course, my dad obliged. So instead of trying to understand and guide my curiosity, It was suppressed.
There was a time when a young woman I cared for deeply died during childbirth. The most common rhetoric was The “Do not question God” narrative “because he knows best. It confounded me as I couldn’t understand why a God who loved us was okay with seeing us in so much pain. But I obliged and obeyed, and I stayed faithful.
Then University happened.
I intended to be as lukewarm and lackadaisical as possible when I got into University. I had had enough of the whole church thing while I was at home, and I was done. But somehow, I again found myself in that world. I guess I was looking for something familiar in a place where I knew no one. At that time, I came to love it, enjoyed it, and found friends and community. I stayed and grew so much in it that it became my identity. People only recognized me because of my association with the church. My life revolved around it, and I knew no other way. I accepted it and made it my own. Being a Christian became the focal point of my identity. I met people and went, “Hi, I am Keyu; I am a Christian. In my dad’s words, I was radicalized (at that time, my parents were happy about it. At least I didn’t go to University and forget the home I came from, LOL. They aren’t happy about my current disposition, but they are lovely people who try to accept me regardless).
It became my face.
However, the deeper I got, the more questions I had buried began to resurface. The more I fought to bury it like I had been taught, the harder they fought back. I should have known better, it isn’t my way to let things go.
Then my reality happened.
I won’t attempt to be some “intellectual” who suddenly had a eureka moment. This was personal. This was emotional. Life hit me in the worst ways and kept hitting me for the longest time. I tried to hold on to my faith and struggled to accept my reality for what it was. The more I clung to my faith, The more I suffered.
People tried to tell me that my faith was being tested. TF?!?!?! Tested? Why? How? Isn’t just simply existing (without my consent, by the way) testing enough? One of the stories of the bible I hate the most is the story of Job. I HATE it so much! (Yes, hate is capitalized because I want you to feel my hatred of it). I won’t go into the details of his story, but if you are curious, you know where to find a bible. Job’s story reeks of tyranny, narcissism, and cruelty. If God (the Father) ‘allowed’ the devil to be cruel to me just to prove a point to a fucker who shouldn’t matter in the first place, what does that say about him? Safe to say I won’t be returning to such a father; he is abusive (again, my opinion), and I am not a masochist.
There’s a scripture that says if you fail in the days of adversity, your strength is small (Proverbs 24:10, Paraphrased). Well, I am glad to admit with my full chest that I am fucking weakling. Cos Mehhhnn, My strength failed, my doubts won, and my anger grew. I resented everyone — God, pastors, my parents, and my friends, and I struggled with so much pain for a long time.
Then one day, it hit me; the best way to feel better was to let it all go. To not care anymore. If I didn’t care, I would not feel anything- I wouldn’t feel love, and there won’t be hate and anger either. If there was no faith, there was no disappointment either. I think faith requires a form of delusion, you know, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). Delusion has its benefits; It is one of the driving forces of faith, hope, and ambition.
I like ambition.
But now that I had let go, I had lost my identity. Who was I if I wasn’t a Christain?
I had lost my face.
The tiny straws that broke the camel’s back
A friend asked me recently if I ever made it mine. I don't know what he meant by that. But I know nothing could make a thing more ‘mine’ than wrapping my identity and sense of self around it.
Experience really is the best teacher. Maybe not necessarily a teacher. But it gives you a broader perspective.
Allow me to rant a bit.
When I was Christian, I always tried to convince people why they should believe in God and trust him (yes, I evangelized too. Is that a shocker?) Now I realize that it was a form of arrogance on my part. What makes one so sure that their way is the best? What gave me the right to invalidate their decision to live the way they chose?
I think I now see what people say about some Christians. There’s this arrogance that they can change people. And sometimes they win. So I guess it keeps them going.
I pride myself on being quite thoughtful and intentional, so it is insulting when people ask me questions like this, especially those who should know me better. I think to myself, you should know me better than this. Do you think I made this decision very easily? Do you think I didn’t think this through? Weighed the pros and cons and decided what was best for my sanity.
I don’t hate or disrespect anyone's faith, and I would appreciate it if others extended me the same grace.
Ok, end of rant.
I can’t talk about everything, but here are a few thoughts I struggled with.
One of the concepts I battled with mentally was the concept of eternity. I had friends born into a different faith, and I came to understand that people are very inclined to stay on the religious path of their parents. Millions of people are born into different families with different religions every day. So all these people will end up in eternal damnation because they decided not to stray from the path they have always known and accepted as their own?
Another one was the concept of predestination.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. — Jeremiah 29:11
Expected end? Wtf, do you mean ‘expected end’ !? So what does my free will mean? I could quote other scriptures discussing this predestination, but why bother? I know he said the thoughts are peaceful and good, but what if his definition of good is not the same as mine? What if I don’t like his idea of good for me? What happens then? I find it quite upsetting because if the end has been determined from the beginning, why bother? What the ‘creator’ wants is going to happen anyway. We are living in a simulation, and this is the matrix. Therefore, My free will is an illusion? I would think not, and I absolutely refuse to live that way.
Then there was Church Politics. I have watched it happen all my life, so trust me, I am very familiar with that game. As I aged, I quickly understood that it came with being human. A church is very much like every other human organization. Probably even more powerful, especially in ensuring compliance. Unlike laws and regulations that bind your body, Churches have a hold on your mind and soul. The anchor is deeper. We all know how the church has been used severally to influence people, wage holy wars, and justify the most gruesome actions. Why am I talking about history? It is still happening, especially in Nigeria- religion is a tool for control.
When the story of a sexual assault of a famous Nigerian Photographer by an even more popular Nigerian Pastor broke out, I was already one foot out of the church. But the handling of that story and situation by many pastors was appalling, and it pushed my other foot quicker than I expected. Different teachings around that time alluded to “touch not my anointed.”
Wow? wasn’t the victim an anointed too? Loved and considered special by the same God. Was one holier and more important than the other? I would think not because that’s certainly not the vibe I got from the scripture I read. For me, crimes against Humanity are unforgivable. God may forgive you, but I won’t, and I definitely will not forget. But hey, we are not talking about rape and sexual assault today, so I will refrain from digressing.
However, all I am trying to say is that Christianity isn’t free from the infusion of human influence.
I found peace.
It took me a long while, but I did it. I stopped being hurt, angry, or questioning. I started to rebuild the foundations of my identity without any overly looming ideas or faith. I started to rebuild my ideologies, opinions, motivations, and views on the world. I formed my principles to guide and govern myself and then gained Peace.
I believe in the existence of an intelligent being based on the design of the world. I think there’s too much order and beauty in this world for it not to have a designer.
However, I don’t think that entity necessarily involves itself in the daily affairs of men. At least not enough to require my eternal gratefulness or reverence. It/He exists in their world and me in mine.
Mostly, I am uninterested in proving or disproving its existence to anyone. I don’t think it is in my place to do that. I have tried to understand it/him, but the consensus has been that he is too mysterious for me to comprehend in my tiny human mind. So, I stay disinterested/ apathetic since my curiosities will never get any answers, it seems. I try to keep an open mind, though.
I think some people need faith- People who need to believe in something higher than themselves for life to make sense to them. Without it, they are lost. I never try to poke holes in people’s faith. In fact, I actively shy away from it, especially with my loved ones. I see how important it is to them. To their sense of self, identity, and hope for the future. I barely survived my identity crisis without losing myself and my way. So I always avoid being the one who tips people over the edge by sharing my thoughts.
However, I have come to understand that I am not one of those people who needs faith in a higher power. Not in the conventional sense, anyways. I am content with the idea that there’s no rhyme or reason to anything, and we simply exist. I am comfortable with simply focusing on the tangibles. I accept the things I can’t change, I try to find the courage to change the ones I can, but most of all, I try to be discerning enough to know the difference.
People have asked me if I am not worried about heaven or hell. Like everything else about religion, I have decided not to care about it. If we are being fair, I don’t know how or why I came to exist here in the first place, so how am I supposed to know or care about what happens after? I only know here and now.
Recently I tried to explore the whole idea again. I even went to church (can you believe it?). It didn’t last a month before I started to lose my peace. I like a lot of principles in the bible. I live by a couple of those ideals. But that’s where my curiosity ends.
Maybe one day, I will return to the faith, although for my loved ones, I advise that you don’t hold your breath because as long as I am at peace with how I am, I am unlikely to change. But if/when that happens, I will make sure to write you an update on what has changed.
But till then- Vivere Con Audacia!