As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve started and stopped lots of self-improvement projects. Most of them were a response to stress and a way to avoid working through painful emotions.
However, some of them worked.
One of these was keeping a topics du jour journal. I was fortunate to read about it “Journal to the Self” and it was a simple enough concept that I figured it would be easy to do. I reduced the number of topics to 7, one for each day of the week. Though I have not always been consistent, my journal was started in October of 2009 and is still helping me today.
Sunday was naturally devoted to “God/Church”. In July of that year I’d found articles online exposing theological problems with the cult. It started the thinking process of doing my own evaluations and seeing if it was really as bad as the articles described.
Week after week, I monitored how things were going:
Oct 25, 09
[Pastor X’s] sermon rambled and didn’t have a whole lot of meat. He thinks our actions can turn off God’s grace, even if we’re saved.
Nov 8, 09
Missionaries ramble more than [Pastor X] does. I couldn’t understand the guy from Myanmar today. He was all over the place.
Nov 15, 09
The questions in Soul Repair were tough. The material wasn’t that hard, it’s just that I’m not used to getting comfort and forgiveness from God. I found an article from [cult publication] that I saved on conducting friendships and it was loaded with [cult similar to mine] theology and heavy condemnation. It revolted me.
Nov 22, 09
[Pastor X’s] sermon was 1/3 about the need for salvation.
Nov 29, 09
Finished the chapter on addictive spirituality [in Soul Repair]. It hit home pretty hard so I’m avoiding all things [cult related] till the end of the year at least. It’s been rough, I’m going through withdrawal already and I’m thinking about it all the time.
The format of the journal forced me to keep my entries short, which made it easy to review weeks worth of entries in one sitting. I began to see flaws in the cult’s theology, and it became obvious that non-cult materials were helping me grow while cult-materials were leaving me depressed and frustrated. It also made me see that [Pastor X] repeatedly focused on his favorite topics and that he often spoke variations on the same message week after week.
So I used my journal to help me leave. I gradually withdrew from activities, stopped saving handouts from adult Sunday-school and made the church less relevant to my life. I also prepared myself for the possibility that people there would drop their friendships with me, though I did my best to save them. I set a goal and my last attendance was right before Easter 2010.
And I spent Easter Sunday sleeping in, staying home and celebrating that I was out. It was the best Easter ever.