Growing up, I was often told that I would go to Hell if I didn’t obey. It would often revolve around the idea that things were “bad,” and that I would end up in the depths of Hell for doing said things. That’s pretty scary for a child. Seriously, at least once per day, I was told something was “bad.” It ranged from saying I was bored to not asking questions. Apparently, God looks down on people who are bored, as it means that they’re ungrateful. Imagine being taught that as a child!
I was pretty terrified of Hell. It was explained as a fiery place ran by the Devil. My mom would tell me to pray to keep the devil away. My mom also told me that God could hear all of my thoughts. I don’t know about anyone else, but that was the most terrifying thing for me. If God was so strict and he could hear my thoughts, did that mean I would be going to Hell? Was he mad at me? I was a prisoner in my own head. I would sit, and try to control my thoughts to only include “pure” or “good” thoughts. As soon as I felt bored, I would freak out. I would try to convince myself that I wasn’t bored, so that God wouldn’t be mad. I didn’t want to go to Hell. Funny thing is… I was in Hell. My childhood was Hell. What I realized was that Hell wasn’t a place. It’s a state of mind. People carry Hell around with them.
A lot of people are afraid of this place, but they’re already there. Imagine being a prisoner in your own mind? Imagine living a life where you’re afraid to be bored because it’s wrong. Is that really living? The older I got, the more I realized that I wasn’t afraid of this Hell that people supposedly went to after their lives ended. I was afraid of continuing my life in restriction. I was afraid of worshiping a God who was cold and unyielding. I was afraid of not being in control of my own life. I was afraid of being forced to be grateful even in times of sorrow.
I understand that my upbringing isn’t the universal representation of religion. I’ve met a lot of people who grew up religious, and they’re well adjusted. Thing is, I can only go by my experience. It’s my experience for a reason. I’ve had the privilege of living in the darkest and deepest depths of Hell. In those depths, I came face to face with my own inner demons. I faced my own Satan. I still am facing my own Satan. I realized he wasn’t all that scary. Just like the Devil card in tarot, I was in control. I could choose to remain there chained by choice, or I could break free. I decided to break free. I decided to take control of my own life. I decided to face the God of my childhood. I told that God that I would not worship a God that I had to fear. I told him that I would no longer participate in this abusive relationship. If I wouldn’t allow this treatment from a human, why allow it from him? I decided what my definition of God was. My God is compassionate, forgiving, loving, and wise. My God is living within me. My God is not outside of me. My God can be found in every single person I meet. As I embraced who my God was, I began to ascend. I was no longer afraid of my thoughts. I was no longer condemning myself to this inner Hell. I was free. I was living within my own ethics and morals. I was finding signs of God all around me. I saw God in the cashier at the supermarket. I saw God in the man who cut me off on the way home. I saw God in my dogs eyes. I saw God in myself. I am no longer living in Hell, and I know that if I find myself back there again, I can and will crawl back out.