Ever since I wrote this post, I've thought a lot about faith and illness. Faith has been so confusing to me over these last years since I got really sick. I don't think I ever thought my faith had gone away, but faith as I knew it certainly did.
Until I got sick I didn't really understand grace. I thought that being a Christian meant certain rules had to be followed. You had to read the Bible, pray, do good works, and behave in a "Christian" manner. You never, ever would swear, think impure thoughts, or act in any way but that prescribed by a lot of people with very limited thinking. This view was increased when I chose a strict conservative Christian school for college.
Until college I had gone to church and Sunday school every week with my grandparents and later alone. It was totally part of my routine. When I went to college I discovered that I was having trouble with the loud and contemporary services designed to attract students. I also had 16 chapel cards that had to be turned in each semester, and I quickly realized that since I worked on the day of one chapel service that Sunday night services were a good idea for me. I did that for several years, but by then any noisy area was starting to bug me, including a more crowded chapel (and I wasn't working Thursday breakfast anymore). So I did what most of the other students did and got my chapel cards turned in by going to the short services, arriving late to avoid the singing beforehand.
Through college and until some time I can't remember I made a huge point of reading the Bible every day. In college I would take it to hidden places in the chapel to read in peace and pray. Somewhere along the path to illness I lost the ability to follow the Bible well. Of everything I have lost, this is what I miss and hate the most. I feel ashamed by this, even though I know it's not my choice. I have a Bible written for young children, but I resent needing to follow this.
I also miss church. There are so many factors involved with church: noise, socialization, trust, fear of being judged, crowds, etc. that I'm taking it on an I'll know when I'm ready basis.
For so long I was so very confused. I basically lost knowing what grace is. Because other people and myself had believed that what I was doing was totally because I was living wrong, I felt enormous guilt. I wasn't sure if I even qualified to say I was a Christian because I lived so far from the beaten path of Christianity.
Then about 9 months ago I figured out what fixed what I had lost: grace. Finally there was some resolution of the issue of how much did God hate me for not being what I was supposed to? And the answer was "not at all". I forgot, for so long, that a relationship with God means that I'm supposed to ask for forgiveness, bring my life before Him, and it would then be as He ordains. He knows why I don't do the things the average Christian does and because He understands my illness He forgives me. The only ones to judge are human, and they have no power over me.
So, that's what I have lost, and what I'm working on finding again. Ever so slowly I'm learning that God knows when my actions are prompted by illness and that since God knew long before I was around that I would have this illness, He is willing to forgive me and keep helping me to grow. The changes show every day.