Friday, June 6, 2014

Searching for God After Scrupulosity

    It started on a walk around our neighborhood. Accompanied by my mother and my sister, we were just about to turn back onto our street when a disturbing thought I'd never had before popped into my head.
    Shocked and upset, I was trapped because I couldn't un-think it.
    And so unwanted thoughts kept a-popping in my head for pretty much most of middle and high school. I hated these thoughts, hated myself for thinking such atrocities - you name it, it's probably flown in my head. And I was so disgusted at myself, at my apparent lack of self-control.
    So I prayed about the thoughts, but they kept coming. Randomly, without warning.
    So I prayed more.
    And more.
    Speaking of praying, good heavens, why was I only thinking of my problems? What about my friends and family? What about everyone, for that matter, even the people I glimpsed on the street - surely they needed prayer, too.
    So I made a list, an ever-growing list, and then memorized most of it. I repeated names of people and situations over and over to God, every night or morning. If I sped through the list without thinking, I'd make myself go back, repeat it slower. I had to mean every word, because Jesus didn't like empty prayers.
    I added the Lord's Prayer at the end, too, because that's how Jesus said to pray. I even went in a small bathroom and knelt and closed my eyes.
    I read every word of the Bible, looked up every word I couldn't immediately define. I made sure I found meaning in every verse. (It's hard to derive meaning from temple dimensions, but I'm telling you, I tried).
    Any untruth was a lie, correct? I had to tell the whole truth, every last bit, and confess every time I hadn't. Even sins I'd committed years ago, I had to confess to someone.
    Eventually the urge to obsessively read the Bible and confess began to stop, when my family told me how irrational I was. Slowly, I learned to let go of my need to confess every last sin.
    But the praying? I kept at it. Even when I told God I'd rather be anorexic than have Him in my life, I kept  praying.
    Even when I started following Christ again in college, I kept up the praying. I kept up church attendance and quiet time, especially before exams - lest God punish me for not putting Him above studying.
    Apparently, religious OCD is a thing: scrupulosity, in fact.
    It sucks (I just had to say that).
    But discovering the name - guys, I'm not alone. We're not alone. Funny how learning a name can shift your whole perspective.
    I got tired of the compulsive praying, of the never-ending list. I ended it sometime mid-freshman year.
    And, honestly, I wasn't praying as much anymore. More sincere, yes. But much less. My pride in how much time I prayed died a quiet, painful death, replaced by still relief and stiller guilt.
    Quiet times I altered sophomore year, when I became too busy to be compulsive. But, yeah, I'm still not sure if my quiet time legalism died as a pleasant side effect of my busyness, or if that busyness was a gift to kill my compulsive quiet time.
    This year, due at first to depression, my church attendance and time reading the Bible became spottier and spottier. Later a combination of (admittedly) laziness and fear of returning to my compulsive rituals contributed to my spotty church attendance and briefer Bible readings.
    I like not having these compulsions. I like freedom, fancy that. I like true connections and communication, with God and with people.
    But, I ask you, how do I maintain a functioning relationship with God when quiet time, praying, or reading the Bible - when church itself - reminds me of my compulsions and sometimes even induces full-blown panic attacks?
    I want to keep learning about God - mentally, spiritually, physically, even. I desire God. I'm just not quite sure how to keep experiencing Him, how to reach out to Him.
    Maybe I'm hoping He'll reach outside to me.
    Hi there, God, you said he who asks shall receive. So I'm asking for you to help me, guide me, find me. Amen.
    P.S. - Thank you.


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