For the whole story, read this, beginning with Part 1. The condensed version can be found in Part 6.
The promised joy in realizing one's freedom in Christ seemed, for a time, like a cruel joke.
Subject: Long, rambling, morose missive
Date: 1/26/99 12:21
[Read this email in a sad monotone.]
During the wee hours of the morning, I thought of a few questions:
1. Is it really your goal as a teacher to make people feel like gutter residue? (No, this isn't a serious question.)
2. So what's wrong with deciding to obey some of the OT Laws just because they seem like good ideas for practical or health reasons? There's evidence, for example, that the dietary laws have health benefits. God promised, in the context of some of the other laws, that if they were obeyed, women wouldn't be barren, have miscarriages, or stillbirths, etc. Could there be some blessings in the terms of natural consequences? And, if that's OK, how do you prevent that from turning into full-blown Gothardism? And if it's not OK to say, "I won't eat pork because it's not as healthy as beef", are we forced to eat pork lest we become legalists? What if you don't like pork? I know this probably sounds silly, especially since I eat pork.
3. And is there anything wrong with coming up with extra-Biblical rules of conduct for yourself, especially in areas where you're weak? Rules that will act as a hedge of protection...and how do you keep that from becoming a matter of pride, where you sneer at everyone who doesn't have the same hedges you do? And if you don't have any hedges, how do you keep from sneering pridefully at other's hedges?
4. Once you jump off the precipice, how long does it take until you land? Will I ever feel solid ground beneath my feet again? I'm still in free-fall. That's what I told [a friend of mine] this morning (who is so excited about all this that she's probably out dancing in the streets even as I sit here, morosely typing) It is so scary. No, it's more than scary. It's terror.
Plus, I'm grieving, Mike. I've had Reformed Theology ripped out of my hands. I loved Reformed Theology with a passion. No, I was never one of those elite "Truly Reformed" (I remember a long-drawn out debate on AOL over what it meant to be TR) and there were aspects of the system I didn't buy completely, but now I feel as if it's lying in tatters at my feet and it will never be whole for me again. I haven't thrown it out completely, but it will never, ever be cohesive for me. Please don't laugh. This really, really hurts. And, part of the hurt is that it hurts at all. Where was my faith? In a theological system?
Part of this whole whatever-it-is doesn't surprise me. I've felt God leading me into areas of greater freedom. But the other stuff was small potatoes in comparison and brought with it the joyous side of freedom. But this is...yucky. (I sat here for a long time, trying to come up with the right word. That's not it, of course, but it will have to do.)
[My friend], who is such a sweet and wonderful friend that she's either completely blind to all of my faults or thinks it an honor that I reveal them to her, tried to make me feel less like gutter residue by telling me what a heart I have for the Lord. So I had to admit the awful truth to her by giving her this analogy: What if I went around claiming that I wanted a close and intimate relationship with my husband, and spent all my time reading books about husbands or even books about how to have an intimate relationship with husbands, but rarely ever even talked to the poor guy?
Part of the horrible clarity of this "wonderful freedom" [read that in a snide and bitter-sounding voice] is that I've realized how my own attempts at living the Christian life have too often erected a barrier separating me from the very Christ I'm supposed to be serving.
It's all crumbling around me, Mike. Everything. I'm stripped and empty-handed and falling, falling, falling... How do I make it stop???