I woke up at 5am this morning feeling dizzy and lightheaded. Because of this, I decided not to go back to sleep right away, but instead stayed up and read.
I don’t remember if I was reading, or if by this time I had graduated to lying on my back in the dark, staring at the ceiling wishing I could fall asleep when all of a sudden it hit me: it would have happened anyway.
Back when I was in 8th grade, I had what I thought was a major life decision to make: where to go to high school. I had already decided against the public school for personal reasons I won’t post here, so the choice was down to the local Baptist school and GLAA. Great Lakes Adventist Academy. I visited both schools, write down the advantages and disadvantages in a little notebook I carried with me (I still have that notebook, those notes.)
It was at this time that, despite all my previous K-12 SDA schooling, I learned that Adventists have distinctive doctrines. Yeeeeah. 8th grade, for an Adventist born in the church, is a little old for that, but I digress. And so, I chose Academy, because I wanted an Adventist education. I did not want to get confused with wrong teachings.
My first year of Academy, I believed I had it all figured out. In the first few months of 9th grade, there was a week of prayer, preached by pastor… we’ll call him CJ.
Pastor CJ preached for a week about a life of total devotion to God. It was during this week of prayer that I realized something: I was only an Adventist because I was born that way. I had yet to claim Adventism, and Jesus, for my own. I was a cultural Adventist. That week, I vowed to give myself completely to God. To live totally for Jesus. I was no longer an Adventist in name only, I was well and truly an Adventist.
Also, I became a fanatic. I threw myself heavily into it, headfirst. I started reading Ellen White in earnest and put into practice her counsel. But I did so without asking myself why she would counsel such things. I didn’t take into account cultural context, and that things were different now. Cheese was “an article that should never be introduced into the diet?” Well, that wasn’t the reason I became vegan, but it definitely confirmed me in my decision. However, cheese is made very differently now than it was back in her day. It is not safe to consume. I did not know that, then. Ellen White forbade tea? Ok, I’ll give up tea. Not that I drank a whole lot of it back then, but I didn’t understand, in the 9th grade, the difference between the caffeinated tea popular in her day and the herbal mint tea I drank in the 21st century.
As most of you reading this well know, this type of existence cannot continue indefinitely. When a person is living such a life, full of fast and furious devotion to God, when a person has dived in headfirst and taken things way too fast, it cannot subsist forever. Something will happen that will halt you in your tracks.
And so my world crumbled around me, and rather quickly. In 9th grade, I only thought I had been questioning things. Really, I was only looking into why Adventists believed the way they did. I was not, however, challenging it. I was just assimilating their way of thinking without really stopping to question why they thought that way, why they interpreted certain passages the way they did.
The scary part was, when I challenged things, not just researched them but really got into the nuts and bolts of the issue, they weren’t there. The answers, I mean. I couldn’t find them. Actually, that’s not true; I did find answers, they just weren’t the ones I was looking for. Not everything, but a great many things, that I had believed to be true throughout my childhood were revealed to be lies, or at best carefully contrived and shaky truths.
When the foundation crumbles, the whole building shatters. My life, my religion, my world, everything shattered. Great had been my pride, now great was my fall. I will not post it here, but what I did I now refer to as “Candyland,” and have resolved never again to tell another living soul so long as I live.
Back in 9th grade, and even to yesterday, I believed it all happened because I went to GLAA. I believed that, if I’d never gone to GLAA and hadn’t gone through that week of prayer, I would’ve continued to live my life as a cultural Adventist. In 9th grade, I considered this a good thing: think how close I had been to never knowing truth! In years after, however, I Would come to regret it. Sure it would have been far from ideal, but at least that way I was happy. I wished I could go back to living life as a cultural Adventist. It was only in my first few years of college, and maybe not even then, that I resolved to not look back. What happened, happened. I couldn’t change it, so I had to put it behind me. GLAA has caused this, but I couldn’t focus on the cause, I had to deal with the issue.
Last night (or, early this morning, depending on how you look at it) it hit me like a truck full of cement: it would have happened anyway. All of it. Oh sure there are some ways in which my life was forever altered by ways that GLAA and GLAA alone could have done, but the majority of it, the fanaticism, the fall, candyland, my involvement with Campus, my inability to remain an Adventist, all of that still would have happened.
It is possible that GLAA expedited the process. It is possible that, had I gone to Baptist school, things would not have happened the way they did.
But you know what? They would have happened anyway. If not in High School, then College. If not in College, then after I graduated. And actually, if it had to happen, I’m glad it happened in High School, where I still had adults to shield me a bit from the consequences of my actions until I could mature enough not to perform such actions. If I had done the same things in college, it would’ve been a lot less socially acceptable.
It would have happened anyway. Why? Because I’m me. Going to GLAA didn’t cause me to start being me. I had this in me all along; GLAA just brought it out. And you can’t stuff who and what you are down forever. If I had gone to Baptist school, something there would have triggered it. If not there, something in college.
Because when a person has this inside of them, it’s going to come out.
This is freeing. I’ve been beating myself up for that decision, trying to imagine what my life would have been like if I’d never gone to GLAA. Now I know.
There is, in short, nothing I could have done to avoid the situation in which I am now. There is nothing I could have done to avoid being where I am today.
Or, at the very least, if there was such a point, it was not at that particular crossroads.