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  • Writer's pictureShannon Makujina

Where Am I Now?

I’m not gonna lie--this week has been a rough one. I’ve never pretended to have it all together for my social media and I’m not about to start just because I have a blog. Vulnerability is important to me and it was a virtue desperately lacking the spaces I grew up in.

I’ll get right to it: I have trust issues. Every friend I’ve ever made has left. Some of them have come back. Most don’t. My parents disowned me. My church stabbed me in the back. I have “daddy issues”. I struggle to love, to trust, and to not push well meaning people away.

And I know that these set of problems are not unique to me. Many who have left fundamentalism, especially women raised in patriarchal homes, struggle with similar things. How many of you can relate to the statement, “I’ll never trust again?” The church has left wreckage all along a path that should have been paved with grace.

Many of my readers ask me, “What does your relationship with God look like now?” I’ll answer that for you right now, but it’s not a simple answer.

It depends on the day. It really depends on the day.

Some days I sit and bask in worship music for hours, an open Bible on my lap, my hands raised in a silent song of praise. Other days I lay on the floor and pound my fists into the carpet, screaming at God.

It’s not about the feelings though, it’s about what you believe, right?

Here’s the thing. I want to believe. I try very hard to believe. But there are days when I don’t believe at all.

During my last few years in IFB, I went through a lot of emotional trauma and fell into a very severe depression. I was living with what I now know to be PTSD. For almost half a year, I lived in a hellish nightmare of a condition called ‘dissociation’. There are many different clinical subcategories of it, and I’m not sure exactly what I had (since I wasn’t able to see a doctor), but the basic idea is that you are so traumatized your brain does not allow you to process what happened, by removing you from your reality. You cease to associate your consciousness and experiences with reality. The connection between the two is severed. This is your brain’s way of protecting itself by not having to deal with trauma.

I dissociated for months at a time while I was in fundamentalism. There was one period of time I went through at 16, where I did not feel like I was living inside of my body. I went like that for months, feeling as though my psyche and my physical body were not connection. It was a terrible feeling and I was terrified of it. I remember one night when I briefly came back to reality and I was sitting in a chair in the living room, beaming, rubbing my arms feverishly because they were attached to me and I could finally feel it! I was so happy because for just a few minutes, I was back inside my body again.

(No, I am not crazy or demon possessed. I was living with untreated PTSD and depression and was experiencing a very normal occurrence for individuals with trauma. I am stable, and have been for a while now and am not longer experiencing that.)

One of the effects of my dissociation was I struggled to believe the universe was real. I would look around at my surroundings and not be able to connect them with reality. I felt like I was floating in a nightmare, something not real but hellishly similar, and waiting for myself to wake up. Again, this is one of the effects of untreated trauma and it’s a protection mechanism for the brain to distance itself from the traumatic event.

Today, praise the Lord, I no longer experience that severe dissociation. However, some of the effects of it still linger, and one of them is that I have a very hard time considering anything as “real” if I am not directly experiencing it. I struggle to make that connection between something that did happen to someone else and something that happened to me.

What that looks like is that I believe the Revolutionary War took place, because it’s a historical fact, but there is absolutely nothing in me that feels like it was real. Did it happen? Yes. Inside do I really believe it happened? No. My brain just does not make a connection between something I didn’t experience and reality. However, I still choose to believe and live as if it was real.

It’s the same with my faith in God. I believe Jesus came 2,023 years ago, lived a perfect life, and died for my sins. I believe it all in my head because it is a historical fact. However none of it feels real. And it’s not because I’m not spiritual enough or I’m not a true believer. I just have lingering effects of trauma.

So yeah, I really struggle with faith. I struggle to believe. I struggle for any of it, even a little bit of it, to feel real. That’s probably why I gravitate towards theology, because it appeals to the intellectual side of me that wants to figure things out. It’s easier to make my head ache over nuances in the epistles, than blow my mind with awe at Jesus walking on the water.

Jesus wanted his followers to have the faith of a little child. I don’t have that. I don’t have faith in much of anything.

Here is where I am at. I know I have an emptiness inside of me. And I know, I just know, that only Jesus can fill it.

That is not just a belief. And it’s not an act of faith. That is something I know all the way down to the core of my being: I am not enough for myself, no one else can be enough for me--I have to find Jesus.

I have my fights with the Bible. I have moments where I am very angry at God. I have days, even weeks, where I run because I am hurting and feel trapped and wounded. I have passages in the Bible, that no matter how many times I read them, or how many explanations I hear, my stomach churns every single time.

I still know I need Jesus. He is the only hope I have. I have seen enough brokenness in myself, much less the rest of the world, to know that I don’t have all the answers. So I will trust that he does, even if I do not see them.

I love how C.S. Lewis says this, much more eloquently than me. “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

He promises something that I’m not sure He can do, but it’s something I know I can’t do, and that is enough to make me run after the hope He offers.

I struggle to see God as a loving father, because of my own dad. I often see God as a angry, revengeful tyrant, due to my IFB upbringing. I have all the questions that people leaving high control religious groups have. You name it, I have probably yelled/sobbed/screamed that question sometime at some point.

Even in all of it, all of my unanswered questions, and my rage, I keep coming back to Jesus. I have this emptiness and simply nothing else is working for it!

There are not many things in this life that I feel like I really know. I know there is truly nothing that I need as much as I need Jesus.

I can figure out all the details later.

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Oct 05, 2023

You can’t get any more real than this! I appreciate your authenticity, especially about the stuff that many in Christian circles would condemn. I served on staff in IFB churches and was shamed for thinking biblically. My greatest critics from those day have apologized for the manipulation and legalism, but many aren’t so lucky. I have no doubt you are connecting with more people than you realize. Many are in cultish sects of Christianity and need to hear/read your words. Keep up the good work!


Aug 07, 2023

The experience you share is so similar to most leaving cults. Very similar to me leaving the seventh day Adventist cult. I left finding all I had believed for over 30 years a complete lie. So I too went out on search for good church. Not finding one my heart grew cold hard and I got angry with God. I threw out my Bibles and walked on in my own for many years. Leaving me wit many scars of my own doing. Praise God He drew me back melted my heart. Well then I got into seeker friendly church God opened my eyes and I moved on only to wind up in ifb. Two years of wrestling with my soul…


Aug 07, 2023

Thank you for sharing your feelings honestly. All the trams, Dad issues and GOvD issues I dealt with as well due to the way GOD is portrayed as well as their shaming of young women. What you do is never enough no matter how hard you try. My breaking point came in 2007 when my Mom was dying. I did not care what I was taught or believed anymore. Then GOD showed up. My friend prayed with me to be filled with the spirit which is surrendering your will and life to GOD for Him to control. I felt that nothing mattered anymore. He changed me from the inside out and has healed me from the mess of my pas…


Aug 06, 2023

This is such an amazing way to put it!!! Thank you for writing this and sharing as it resonates deeply with my story and current feelings when I’m asked that question. People who haven’t been through the recovery/healing process of the trauma caused by the IFB will never understand how long of a process this is and how everyday is different. I honestly, wondered what was wrong with me and why everyday was different and I couldn’t just feel settled in my relationship with God. It’s a journey and everyone needs grace through this. Most importantly God knows and He gives grace.

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