September’s blog is brought to us by long-time NazToo-er Ryan Dunbar, who writes of himself: Hey Y’all, my name is Ryan Dunbar. I’m from South Carolina but often am told I don’t sound like a Southerner or act anything like a typical Southerner. I don’t know if that’s a compliment or not, to be honest. I’m in my late twenties and share my home with my fiancé, Will and our three girls. Everyone always asked me if I really ever wanted a son and to be honest I don’t know what I would do with one. I wouldn’t trade my girls for anything. To make an income I’ve worked in pharmaceutical manufacturing for about 6 years. I’m currently working in a microbiology lab at a company that focuses on sterile compounding of medicines on the US drug shortage list. We also make our own medicines, all of which are respiratory-focused. In my free time, that isn’t shared with the family, I often enjoy thrift shopping, taking nature walks, reading on various subjects and most recently collecting records and cassette tapes. Many of you know me as a photographer. I haven’t mentioned that because I am currently on hiatus from that and have gotten severely burned out. But when I do photograph it’s usually done with black and white film and a camera much older than myself. I’m particularly a fan of Kodak Brownie Box Cameras. Lastly, to close, a fun fact about me that a lot of people don’t know is that at one time I was an urban explorer and got followed around by a news crew while I explored an old cotton mill. Even though my interests have changed a lot over time, I can definitely say my life isn’t really ever that boring. I’m always willing to try most anything at least once.
I’ll jump right into it. In 2014 (might have been part of 2015 also), I thought almost daily that I heard the voice of God directly. You know like some sort of thing out of the Old Testament. I could have been Moses or Abraham for all I knew. I remember constantly waking up in the middle of the night to write what I thought were some sort of prolific divinely inspired messages. I’m telling you, at the time, the stuff I was writing was the best thing since sliced bread. I remember super early morning phone calls and extremely late night ones as well, to pastors I knew, to tell them the “Good News” that I had been divinely given. In my mind they wanted so desperately to be called at 6 am on a Sunday morning to hear what I had to say. I mean, of course they wanted to, right? I truly believed for a better part of a year that this was completely normal.
You might not think what I have written above was that bad, but have I mentioned that I stayed in a God-inspired bliss 24/7? You could have told me your mom died and nothing would phase me because God had been good to me. Have I mentioned that every word I spoke had to tell someone about Jesus in some way? Have I mentioned the one time I was invited to preach at a church and even though I thought it was the best thing ever, looking back at it—I made a complete fool of myself? I could go on and on with all the over the top and extreme things I did to prove to people that God had divinely called me like I WAS SURELY the next great thing, similar to Peter or Paul or someone of that likes. But overnight, like a light bulb had blown out, every desire for God disappeared. I fell into a deep depression. It finally hit me; even though for almost a year I was on top of the highest mountain, life around me was falling completely apart. I had been regularly meeting with a trusted friend during this time. During one of these meetings he finally told me something that really opened my eyes. To summarize our conversation, he basically told me that in his mind I had gone beyond loving Jesus and wanting to serve Him to something in his mind of a different level and something he had never witnessed. I am not speaking of something good. But actually quite the opposite.
It wasn’t until a number of months later I would finally be told by a doctor I had experienced what psychiatry called psychosis. I believe I was actually hospitalized when this conversation occurred. Hospitalization, in addition to erratic behavior, and extremely quick changing moods would actually become the pattern over the next year or so for me. I eventually gained a small pharmacy of pills during this time. Thankfully I had stellar insurance that paid the bill for all of my guinea pig attempts at finding a remedy to my problems.
Things have changed a lot for me over the last several years. I mean a whole hell of a lot. If you know me at all, you could probably attest to that fact. I’m not going to write out all the specific details of what’s happened because this blog post is not about that. With all the changes I have experienced, one thing that’s never changed (or come back really) is my desire to again live the Christian life. Switching gears, that’s what this whole thing is about. That’s the entire point of what you are reading. So to be honest if you are disappointed, you might wanna just stop reading. However if you give a damn about what I have to say, I’m glad to know you care just a little and are still with me. Some of you probably feel sorry for me, or want to say a prayer for my soul, but here’s the thing. Please don’t. I’m ok. Truly, I am. I’m about something new now and I’m happy with where things are going.
So why did I leave? Let’s talk about that. I didn’t leave because of hypocrites, or politics or even because of my sexual orientation (which a lot of people would assume). I left because, simply put, I don’t believe in the Christian faith. It’s not a case of “I need to surrender or pray harder.” It’s a case of I simply do not believe in what the Bible teaches. To be frank I have no desire. So with that said, no, I am not an atheist. In my personal opinion atheism is just plain out sad and takes away so much value to life and the mysteries of it. Not to offend; this is just my personal feeling. I guess you would consider me one of those “spiritual but not religious” types. I found this path, actually, years ago. I was always a very curious child and teenager; I guess I just never knew until I entered my mid-twenties exactly what “spiritual but not religious” meant. One of my first real remembrances of it for me was the use of meditation to tap into the subconscious. I’ve spent countless hours laying in a dark room listening to theta wave music, lost somewhere deep in my own mind. If you’ve never experienced this, I highly suggest it. The things you can realize about yourself and the world around you truly are amazing. I can also remember a time when I walked deep into the woods.
I came across a stream with a lot of rocks in it. Well, I decided to take my shoes off and sit right on a massive rock and dip my feet in the water. For me, being surrounded by nature while listening to the sounds around me, and feeling the coolness of the water, put me much closer to something I call divine than sitting in a pew ever did. I truly believe that when we spend time with nature we become part of that universal energy that flows through everything.
Lastly, I want to address something else. I want to talk about where am I going from here. The answer, simply, is I do not know. For some that’s not ok, but for me it is. People always talk about spiritual journeys and I am truly embarking on one. The thing with not following a specific religion is that there is so much freedom to explore anything and everything you want to. The sky is truly the limit. Even though I may not know exactly where I am going on the journey, one thing I do know is that it’s somewhere safe, it’s somewhere free and it’s somewhere that I can just be me. Do you realize the world of anxiety I lived in when I was in a church? Do you know how often I felt I was going to hell because I had sinned? Do you know how many times I felt I had to cry my eyes out on an altar to correct a wrong just to get some relief? I no longer experience these things and that within itself, to me, is truly the best reason I left the church.
To close I’ll leave you with this. The path that I’m on is not for everyone. It’s not going to be. We each walk a personal journey when it comes to our faith or chosen belief system. For me this is what I have chosen because it works. All I know for sure is this: I am happier. I am healthier. And lastly, I am freer than I ever was walking a path I knew was not ever going to be for me.