By Ian Runge
I stared apathetically at the man in front of me. Occasionally he would point in different directions, and other times he would gesture to certain students in the room. He was speaking words that I had heard before, words that I had regularly adhered to.
But suddenly these words were meaningless. At first I was confused, but as I stared intently at my youth pastor and the surrounding students I started to become frightened at the thoughts running through my head.
Church and religion are a natural part of my life. Almost every Sunday I attend an hour and a half service with my family and listen to lessons we are then supposed to apply to our daily lives.
Almost every Tuesday night I gather with friends of my own age to discuss topics of Christianity more closely related to our personal experiences. These gatherings are routine in my life: I had never questioned them until now.
The reasons for my doubts came from several factors: my transfer from a private, Christian school to public school, a change in friends, my father’s unemployment, and the constant shifts occurring in my church youth group.
The full effects of these events culminated one particular evening. The seeds of doubt previously sown during times of confrontation had been dormant. What provoked their initial sprout was the change in staff in my youth group, an event which had already occurred three times. These continual changes had caused the dynamics within our youth group to become confusing rather than reassuring.
At the outset my reaction to this newfound doubt was confusion, but it quickly developed into panic. I could not understand how quickly I lost faith in something I thought I would believe follow. I had heard stories of doubt and struggles with faith from tales and parables in the Bible but had never comprehended them.
The panic that I faced was accompanied by the fear of what my parents would think if they discovered my doubts. They had raised me with good intentions and to begin doubting the beliefs they had instilled in me felt mean. However, my parents are sympathetic individuals and would understand that I had some doubts.
I have reached the conclusion that the doubt I experienced was a perfectly natural part of life. To question beliefs one has been brought up to accept is a milestone in the adolescent years. Indeed, choosing one’s own beliefs, religious, moral, and personal, is extremely important to development and growth.
The struggle I experienced in my doubt is also a normal reaction: it shows that I have come to respect what I have been taught. However, doubt need not be feared; it is a natural process in human experience.
Though I continue to attend church and youth group on a regular basis, I feel disconnected from the people I interact with and the ideas I am taught.
There are many wonderful and kind people at these events, but I no longer share strong, spiritual bonds with them. I still have friendships at these meetings, but they are no longer based on common religious principles.
The fear I experienced in my time of doubt now seems so far away, and I feel as if I no longer have anything to fear. I now feel as if have been put on a path that will take me to new places and people, people from whom I can learn more about the world and more about myself.
My time of self-discovery is at hand, and I look forward to each step, each challenge, and each discovery along the way. Even if I am led straight back to where I began, to Christianity, the journey there will still have been enlightening.