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Sep 02, 2008

The Path of Freedom

It starts with a question.

It's usually a simple question about a contradiction that needs clarification. One week the Pastor says this and the next he says that, so you're confused and you ask a question. Almost immediately, you can sense tension entering the room, the moment the question leaves your lips. As the Pastor treads through his answer, he does so in a tone that lets you, and everyone else within earshot, know that questioning is offensive. It's usually answered in a way that makes you look and feel stupid when he's finished. You know immediately not to ask another question even though several more contradictions popped into your mind the moment you heard the answer to your first question. You file them in the back of your head and do your best to just get through the tense moment and go home to lick your wounds.

If you were raised in the Church or you have spent more than two years in it, you will most likely go home after an experience like this and begin the obsessive path of soul-searching. You might feel angry because of the way everything went down and you immediately check yourself and try your best to hold it down or expel the anger from your heart. You wonder if the anger alone is evidence that you are not as spiritual as the Pastor. Perhaps you shouldn't have asked the question in the first place. Then the question, along with its new brothers and sisters, resurfaces in your head and suddenly your mind (as if controlled by someone else) accuses you of being critical. All the previous teachings on critical people come back to you like a tidal wave. The general tone in a person's voice when they even call someone "critical" is so disgusting that you know you never want that gun pointed at you. The mere thought of being critical causes you to close down from yourself and all your stupid questions.

Without notice, however, another question drops into your brain. This is a totally new one that has nothing to do with the others. You begin to feel angry because you know you'll never find the answer because you'll never find anyone to ask. The thought of leaving the Church quickly crosses your mind but is excused and gone in the blink of an eye. Another gross emotion that you have been warned against a thousand times begins to slowly surface within you. It's that part of you that still wants answers even though you know you're not allowed to ask. Your unwillingness to let it go is the clear sign of your rebellious heart rising. For just a moment, you don't care and you embrace it, but then you regain your composure and wonder if you sounded or looked rebellious when you asked the first question. Those terms; ‘rebellious,' ‘critical' and ‘questioning,' keep running through your mind as if to beat you into submission and ensure your silence on any matter.

Once the dust settles and it seems you've learned your lesson, you sit quietly, knowing not to ask questions but your mind begins to add up all the questions you'll never have answers to.

Then you notice something.

It's usually an obvious thing that everyone sees, but no one comments on, like the way the offering money is spent or how someone was dealt with unfairly. You notice. You look around and no one else seems to have noticed. You wonder again if you're just being critical or rebellious, but you make a mental note to keep an eye out for it again in the future.

Then one day, you're having dinner with another couple who attends the same church. As if it has a mind of its own, the conversation seems to take a turn down a road you never expected. Your friends pose a few questions of their own. You find yourself scanning their countenance and watching them closely to see if they are on the same wave length. Can they be trusted? You wait another few minutes until you are sure they can take it and before you know it, you are both openly voicing all your questions and concerns. For a moment, it feels like a God-send. You're certain that God put these people in your home so you would have someone to open up to and be yourself, but later, after they've left, you find yourself secretly wondering if perhaps they weren't sent by the enemy to incite you to rebellion. You become a little afraid that they're thinking the same thing about you.

Next Sunday rolls around and you're sitting through the offering sermon looking around the sanctuary for your newfound "partners in crime." The Pastor says something that you are sure is wrong and at that very moment, you spot them and you get eye contact from across the room. Without a word spoken, you both crack a knowing smile. You know it will be discussed later over lunch. Just then the person next to you voices a hearty "Amen," and you regain your composure and go back under cover. For just a moment, you feel like an international spy. You duck your head and scan the room to see if you've been found out. It feels good. You get the sense that your cover has been blown by at least one couple and things will never be the same.

Over lunch, you hold nothing back. You find yourself passionately opening up about all the things you've seen and questioned over the years. Your new friends have seen it too. You're not alone! The feeling is wonderful. It feels like salvation, because for the first time, you know that you're not going crazy. Other people see it too. Your secret meetings with each other begin to feel like an exciting affair between fugitive lovers. You find yourself not being able to wait until you're together again so you can release all the pent-up passion from within. It feels so wrong, but it feels amazingly good. For the first time since you can remember, you're actually yourself again. You no longer have to shut your mouth and go with the flow. You can speak freely. Someone understands you. You're not being rebellious or critical because other people see it too.

Then one day at a Bible study, you get an unexpected dose of boldness and you open your big mouth. Without even raising your hand, you just voice a question. "Where did that come from," you think to yourself. It's almost like you had Tourette's syndrome. The room is suddenly cloaked in silence and the leader gives you that look that you remember getting from the Pastor the day you asked your first question. You immediately notice that even though others in the room don't know the answer, they're angry and "put out" that you even posed the question. They're appalled that you would dare to be so rebellious and you feel the dirty looks while waiting for the answer. This time you're not alone. Your buddy is in the room with you, but to your astonishment, he sits quietly with his head down and doesn't say a word. You keep trying to establish eye contact, but it's like something else has taken over his body and he's not there any more. The guy who talked so openly and honestly just a few days ago is now slinking into his seat like he doesn't know you. You're abandoned. You're alone again. You can't believe that this has happened.

Suddenly, the beginnings of a drastic thought with far-reaching implications starts to form in your mind. You realize that the original question couldn't be answered because the answer would cause ten more leaks to spring on the ship. Your religion with its many clichés, teachings and memorized beliefs finally comes to a point where the sharpness of one single truth can completely pop and deflate the entire system. Modern-day Christian doctrine is nothing but a bucket load of corks and patches that are designed to stop the leaks in a system that is quickly sinking. It is literally a game of "religious Jenga," where the moment one little block is pulled, the entire structure threatens to collaps. Your question was THAT block.

It's at this point that you realize that you don't get answers by asking questions. If you want answers, you'll have to go on an honest path of personal relationship and seek them for yourself. This is perhaps the most significant first step in a "Free Believers" thinking. It's a separation of oneself from the position of eternal student and putting yourself in a position of responsibly-spiritual adult. It's the point where you go from being fed to feeding yourself - from asking for understanding to seeking it - from memorizing to knowing. And it all starts with a question.

To even take this step, you must first destroy the wall that was built by institutional Church to insure that no one ever thinks for themselves. You have to trust the very part of you that they have warned you against trusting for your entire life: Your heart! When you do this, you immediately begin to see the irony of a religion that is completely based on heart, teaching its entire congregation not to trust their hearts. The moment you begin to live from and trust your heart, your eyes are opened to the clear and present condition of your religion.

You see a religion that is supported by memorized creeds and chanted points of doctrine, but is entirely dead in the hearts of people. You see a religion of traditions that can be learned and practiced and performed with passion like an old civil war reenactment, but when all is said and done, it's nothing more than a play that is routinely acted out, but never personally experienced. The closer you look, it becomes more apparent that it's about studying and believing what took place in the lives of people thousands of years ago. It's a history lesson that we've promised never to forget and those who remember it the most become the leaders among us all.

The longer you stay on the Free Believers path, the more you personally experience. Your opinions are no longer something someone taught you, but they are based on what you've seen and experienced firsthand. The need to defend them or prove them to others slowly fades away. While others still need a Bible verse to back everything up before they can believe something, you just know it. It's alive inside of you. Also, "answers" no longer come with the same price tag. You don't need an answer as in the past. Nothing's about to sink in your world and nothing hinges on any given answer, as when you were a slave to "the system." You no longer seek for answers in a feeble effort to plug a hole in your religion because you are no longer involved in a religion. When you live from your heart, it's about something entirely personal. Proving and defending become words of the past. Just as you would never attempt to prove to someone that your name is what you say it is, you aren't even tempted to debate and defend the things you've seen with your own eyes and experienced firsthand.

I think for just about every Free Believer out there, the pattern is relatively the same. It starts with a question, and it ends in a world that you had never in your wildest dreams imagined you would live in. That original question - no matter what it was - becomes the very key that releases you from the cage of religion. If you had not had the guts to tread through the landmines of possible accusations in an effort to get answers, you would never have been open to the universe you now know. Being a Free Believer and living in the wild is really an escape from a "head religion" to a "heart universe."

It's an escape that begins with a single question.


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  1. Gravatar

    I read this to my husband last night and he kept stopping me and saying, "Did you write this.....No really, You wrote this didn't you?" Towards the end he said, "No, I think I wrote this."

    That someone else could so aptly word our very experience is almost erie. The Jenga piece that we pulled out was a small little matter of Titles being demanded for the 'apostles.' When that question hit the air the whole thing came tumbling down.

    Brilliant piece!

  2. Gravatar

    Ditto to Barb's comment. If I read this to my wife, she'll think I wrote it. Our first Jenga piece was to ask about balance instead of seeing evil in all things. Lately, it's been a question of spiritual growth that's driven me to find nourishment elsewhere. Anyway - thanks for writing this. I have somewhere to point when I want to tell someone, "look, it's not just me".

  3. Gravatar

    This post was e-mailed to my wife and I, we had to truely wonder if this was written by someone we knew or by she or I. Its like the writer got into our brains and wrote what we are going through. Thank GOD we are not alone!!!

  4. Gravatar

    This really resonates, except for the part about 'partners in crime.' I never found anyone who saw things this way until after we left the IC. But, since then I've been surprised at a couple of people I used to go to IC with who have expressed concerns along these lines. One who was one of the last people I would have ever suspected! ya just never know.

  5. Gravatar
    David Backus

    All of a sudden, Orwell's 1984 comes to mind. I guess Big Brother is even in our religion.

  6. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    The sad thing is that almost everyone who goes through this process believes that they're alone. It's exciting to find out that there is an entire community out there who understands you.

  7. Gravatar
    Chris Pack

    Darin, good post. I'm learning that the path to freedom always leads through frustration - frustration with what you see around you, frustration with yourself, frustration with your loneliness. But, these frustrations are just speed bumps on the road to freedom, and I'm starting to think they, or at least one of them, is essential.

  8. Gravatar

    I made a pretty interesting experience on this matter...
    I am in e-mail-contact with someone and we discussed the hype about Lakeland Florida. I told her, that I was not comfortable with all of this and that I found, Todd Bentley had a strange charizma. After a while I got an e-mail back where she agreed with me. She came to this conclusion in reading Todds Book and also some booklet of Derek Prince, comparing what they said with scriptures etc. ...while I came to this same conclusinon by just trusting my heart. Saves a lot of time. This was a cool affirmation for me, that I would be on the right paht.

  9. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    Sarah, this is a great testimony! Good for you. this is exactly what I've been talking about. Thank you so much for this!!!

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    karen (So Cal)

    It takes tremendous courage to allow yourself to question and then follow through to where that takes you. Trusting your heart and following your heart was so hard for me b/c I had never truly done it before, it was so foreign. It's kinda like learning a new language, one which I long to become proficient in.

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    Queen Ester

    I am always amaized and blown away by what you write,to see what the Lord has done with you, amaizing!Thanks for sharing.

  12. Gravatar

    WOW. Nailed it!! I cannot believe how you hit every point! I was floored by your recogition of when you ask yourself if you're being led astray by the enemy or tested to see if you can resist him - 'how strong is your faith?' type of thing. I can remember this process with such clarity, which is rare for me! The frustration, and finally the decision to not take anymore... and then as if the whole key was just being honest with yourself... the dawning of a new truth that feels like life to your bones!! and heart!! I'm so stoked that Im tempted to send this to my friend that helped me see this truth(but didn't abandon) I remember wondering how she could be so free and at peace with no need to defend herself.. and wanting that for myself. anyhow long shpiel to say, AMAZING. Thanks for this!

  13. Gravatar

    that was like reading our own story and what lead us to a place of daring to say no and daring to leave something that had us convinced that we would be under a curse if we did. Getting out was one thing, getting free of it all was another but oh yes... it is about not swallowing what you are force fed but tasting for yourself nd learning to trust what you actually know in your heart to be true. And... yes, approval is no longer needed thank you for offering it... :o) Excellent piece thanks for posting this.. Darren Hufford said something that rung very true... whilst going through it, you feel you are alone. gladly when it was our time to go through it, it was the same time for quite a few others and within a few months the church folded... Bless God

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