I've been asked by somebody to briefly describe how I found some measure of emotional healing. Okay, so they didn't use the word "briefly," and that's fortunate. Brevity finds no mention in my list of personal virtues.
WARNING: This is my highly subjective and personal opinion. What I may not apply to you. It is not my recommendation for other people, just an observation of what worked for me.
FURTHER WARNINGS: If you are an conservative Evangelical, this may upset you. If you don't want to be upset, please stop reading now. If you are not a Christian, feel free to continue but you may have no idea what I'm talking about.
A major thing that helped me to achieve emotional healing was to quit reading the Bible so often, quit being involved in ministry, rarely attend church, and start drinking a few beers.
You have to understand my background. I was raised in a deeply religious, deeply conservative Christian home. I started to read the BIble (the real thing--not a children's version) from the time I was 7 years old. I was strongly encouraged to read the Bible every single day, and I did so for many years. Later on, I attended a four year BIble college and after that I went to seminary.
I am highly intellectual, extremely analytical, and also prone to depression. This is a dangerous combination. I got myself all freaked out by the Bible, stressed out by the Christian world, and full of guilt and depression about all the things I should be doing but wasn't able to do.
Freaked out by the Bible: I had a wonderful honeymoon with the Bible from when I was about 12 to 14 years old. I'd pull out my two front teeth to be able to return to that state of mind. I read and found all the beauty, peace and inspiration. I was fed by the Bible. Later on, things changed, particularly as I began to seriously struggle with difficult doctrines, especially related to hell. Nothing upsets me more painfully than the thought of hell. Strangely, I've never worried I might end up there myself, but I worried myself sick about all the other people who might end up there. Those of you who don't know what this is like, please be thankful you don't know. This is still THE major barrier to me being a "normal" Christian.
Stressed Out By the Christian World: Whether rightfully or not, I felt enormous pressure from other Christians to maintain a righteous looking exterior. Maybe this was just my perception or maybe the people around me truly were pressuring me. Probably some of both. I have good speaking skills, good writing skills, a certain amount of charisma, a degree from a well-known Bible school plus several years of education (but no degree) from a well-known seminary. On top of that, my linguistic skills are excellent which tends to impress people too much. Thus for about the past 10 years, no matter which church I attend, people are quickly "inviting" me (read: pressuring and manipulating me) to "minister."
It's great that people like and trust me, though I always wonder what kind of drugs they must be taking. But on the dark side, I've had no room to struggle. And God knows, I need to struggle more than average. I am the only person I know who has mananged to either doubt or dissect the hell out of every single major doctrine while still remaining a Christian. It would be nice to be an atheist for awhile just to get a fresh perspective. And don't even mention minor doctrines.
Full of Guilt and Depression: I seriously felt I ought to be awake at 5 AM everyday, reading the Bible for an hour, praying for an hour, and then living a perfectly righteous life until I went to bed at midnight after a long day of selflessly serving the poor and evangelizing every person who came within 100 yards of me. My failure to do all of these things drove me to feel guilty the moment I woke up in the morning. No joke. I actually have experienced hearing the alarm clock go off and then feeling guilty for my pathetic existence before I even managed to open my sorry eyes. This is not exactly the "come to me all ye who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest" kind of life that Jesus promised.
I never made a decision to quit going to church or quit reading the Bible. It was more of a "mañana, mañana" delayal. For various reasons, I ended up moving frequently for more than five years. Every time I moved, I had to find a new church. That's tough in normal circumstances, but my state of mind/soul was far from normal. The result was I just didn't go to church often. And I didn't read the Bible often.
As time went on, I began drinking a few beer with heathens and sinners. It helped me be less anal-retentive.
Part Two will be posted later. Hasta mañana.