Content Note: brief mentions of a suicide attempt/suicidal thoughts
Last year I got sick of Christianity.
I got sick of Jesus and heaven and God and the Bible and the whole deal.
Last year I was sick, and that didn't matter to my Christianity, so I got sick of Christianity.
Two years ago, my depression reached a point where it was so severe that I attempted suicide, and I spent nearly all of my time last year (and most of my time this year) struggling to mentally recover from that. My faith almost didn't recover. In fact, in a way my faith didn't survive that suicide attempt and the long period of depression, fear, shame, and self-hatred that followed.
My faith didn't help me through that period. It wasn't there. It meant nothing.
I'm looking over a post I wrote last year in which I wrestled with these feelings about my faith:
When you start asking questions, they give you Faith to cling to. I never really knew what that Faith was faith of. Faith that something magical happened on the cross that we don’t understand, I guess...
...If our salvation has nothing to do with this world and with these bodies, than why did God come to this world? Why did God become a body?
I couldn't take this kind of faith seriously. This faith that was all about living forever (which was a horrifying concept for me while I was struggling with suicidal thoughts—living forever sounded like torture at the time) somewhere up there, but that never intersected with my life down here.
I couldn't live with a faith where my sick body didn't matter. I didn't want a faith where my chemically imbalanced brain and my self-injury scars and my exhaustion and my body memories from PTSD didn't matter.
It frustrated me to hear people tell stories about Jesus physically healing people and casting out demons, only to end these stories with “Jesus can heal you today, too...by healing your SOUL!”
That's what it always seemed to come back to—this idea that once God cared about bodies but now God only cares about forgiving souls.
My faith was intangible, and it couldn't survive when depression killed off all of my hope. That was tough—losing my faith. But I think it was a good thing.
It's given me space to explore a theology that starts with my body and with my experiences.
I've been thinking lately about a wonderful piece Alan Hooker wrote, My Body is My Bible, in which he asserts that our bodies can be the “text[s] from which [we] pray.” We don't have to start with the Bible to understand God and ourselves. We can start with our bodies.
What theological insight can I gain from my body and from my bodily experiences?
In my depression, I can meet with the suffering God who weeps and mourns and will not be comforted.
In touching my own self-injury scars, I can touch Jesus' side. I can stop doubting and believe.
In my pain and anger at the injustice that's happened to me and others, I can wrestle with God and demand something better.
In surviving and healing and beating death, I can find solidarity with the risen Christ, the surviving God.
My body is not just extra baggage that I have to carry around until I get to go to heaven. My experiences are not just tests and trials that I have to overcome so that my soul can someday be free. My body and the things that happen in it lead me to God. They are important, essential theological texts, as Alan Hooker puts it.
This is a faith I can live with, because this is a faith where my life matters.
Sarah Moon recently graduated from Oakland University with a degree in Women's and Gender Studies. When she's not reading feminist theology, playing the Legend of Zelda, spending time with her husband and her cats, or trying to figure out how to be a responsible adult, she blogs on Patheos at Sarah Over the Moon.