Not just a philosophical question to be furiously scribbled about in a diary on the caf steps, it can just be a straightforward question.
I am a survivor of Harold Camping’s End Times. You may laugh, and someday I may laugh with you, but so far, it has never been funny.
I didn’t choose this life, I was raised in it. His first big ‘end of the world’ date was in 1994, and my earnest, well-meaning parents believed it. At the time I was too young to be terrified of hell, but all the same, I do not remember a time before my family spoke doubtingly of the future. I do not remember ever believing in a future.
1994 came and went, and the end times talk quieted down for several years. Then came Harold Camping’s teaching that Satan was in charge of all the churches everywhere, that all True Christians must flee their churches, that this was the sign of the end of the End Times, and this time he KNEW the world would end in 2011. Knew the dates of Judgement Day and the destruction of the world.
I couldn’t quite believe that God would reveal such a thing, contrary to the words of Jesus, no matter how many times proponents of these End Times explained that those verses didn’t really actually mean what they pretty clearly said.
And yet. And yet, by that time I had had years of being taught that I had zero control, zero agency in my own salvation, and that only a tiny minority of people were truly saved. That combined with the ever-increasing isolation from opposing, reassuring views, was a perfect recipe for absolute terror. That cold knot of fear in the pit of your stomach that can be pushed aside and temporarily forgotten, but never quite vanquished. I can’t say how many nightmares I had about the end of the world, but there is one in particular that stands out. In my dream, I was standing by the road in a big field, looking up at the sky as it silently ripped open. I knew it was the end of the world, that it was Judgement Day, and I knew I wasn’t ready. If you want a visual, it’s like when the Toclafane arrive, on Doctor Who (start at about the 40 second mark). Watching it is still chilling.
A few weeks before the date set for Judgement Day, I started self-medicating with alcohol, and realized I needed to be on anti-depressants instead. Even though I was still too terrified to tell the doctor what I was afraid of, my misery came through loud and clear, and he put me on a medication that is still working well for me to this day. Thank God for pharmaceuticals, literally. The medication made my terror and despair go back to the more manageable levels I’d lived with for years.
The week leading up to May 21 my fears got worse again. And then, God gave me a miracle (or the drugs really kicked in, if you don’t believe in God). Three days before the 21st, I went with two close family members to Colonial Williamsburg, a beloved place. I thought, if the end really is coming, I should take the opportunity to have one last beautiful experience before everything is gone.
I had a wonderful, happy day, free from thoughts of impending doom. And at the end of the day, driving toward home, looking at a stunning sunset, I realized my fears were gone. Truly gone. I had a peace I had never had before. I could even envision Heaven in a meaningful way, and I knew that if Jesus made an appearance in those sunbeams right then, that I was ready.
That was three years ago, and I believe what God gives me, and reject what I can no longer believe. I am picking up the pieces of a life and a future that I never knew I had, and learning to live, not just for today, but for tomorrow.