I thought about writing a short "Spiritual Autobiography" and figured it'd be a nice first post for my LiveJournal. So, here goes! ^_^
My parents have been Christians since long before I was born, so Christianity has been a part of my life since childhood. Early on I did believe in Christianity, but that was more or less because my parents told me to. :3
My observance of Christianity in my early childhood was very basic and selfish. I prayed before eating, I went to church, I prayed when I went to bed, and, on special occasions, I would pray to petition God for something. At some point in my childhood I was taught about Salvation.
I was saved and baptized on the same day in September of 1999 (the exact date is recorded in the front of my Bible as September 17, but I'm not sure how accurate that is). Fear of Hell played an important part in this.
In my early teens my Dad was given a book written by Clarence Larkin (I think it was Dispensational Truth, though it might have been Rightly Dividing the Word). I borrowed the book from him and, after reading through it some, I was filled with the same fervor for Christianity that I'd had when I was first saved. I began studying Larkin's book often, and I took a special interest in his interpretation of the book of Revelation.
The following handful of years would be marked by my repeatedly gaining and losing interest in Christianity and obedience to the Lord.
In late Middle School/early High School, I grew very legalistic in my observance of Christianity. Convinced that darn near every imperfection and every slight offense I committed was sinful, I was constantly confessing to the Lord in prayer. I was afraid that something bad would happen if I left any sin unrepented for even the smallest length of time, so I tried to repent immediately after my each of my many small daily sins (Sins like thinking, for only a moment, something critical of the person who just passed me in the hall at school. Did I mention I was legalistic?). In addition to these behaviors, I took to believing that you had to mean what you said in prayer or your prayer wouldn't be answered affirmatively, if they were answered at all. That is to say, I believed I had to work up some strong emotion about each of my petitions as I prayed them—force myself to care deeply about each request. Forcing such emotion can take a considerable amount of time, so my prayers were greatly lengthened once I took to this practice. My prayers were made even longer by my tendency to think sinful thoughts during them, which forced me to repent of sins in the middle of my prayers (this, of course, made each prayer still longer, and made it more likely that I would think sinful thoughts again later in the prayer).
Having taken up all these behaviors and beliefs, my prayers became so long and intrusive that they became a hindrance to my living a normal life. My prayers were long enough to keep me from eating (at one point you could expect me to pray for 15 or 20 minutes over food before I ate it, and the lunch period at my High School was about 25 minutes long) and frequent enough to make otherwise routine drives dangerous (yes, I was stupid enough to pray while driving >_<).
My faulty prayer habits also led me to stay up until some time in the early morning, since I dreaded saying my especially long bedtime prayer (in which I would pray for myself, my family, my extended family my friends, my family's friends, my extended family's friends, my friends' families and extended families, and my family's pets, among other things, lest something terrible should happen to any of these people/creatures because I left them out of my prayers).
On occasion, I would start to worry about demonic influences on my life. When these worries flared up, a stray thought about demons would be enough to make me ask God to cast out any evil spirits that were in me or around me (and, since I had this horrible knack of obsessing, in thought, over things that I believed I should not think about, this could happen multiple times in a row). Thankfully, though, this particular habit of mine wasn't nearly as troublesome as my other faulty prayer habits.
At this point I'd like to mention another struggle that I dealt with during my High School and early College years. It's not really a spiritual problem, but the fact that I struggled with it will become important later. Sometime around my Sophomore year in High School, I developed a persistent and crippling fear of throwing up. This fear, unlike my prayer habits, rarely let up. It kept me awake at night , almost led me to death by starvation (1. I became afraid of eating. 2. I figured if I didn't eat, I couldn't throw up), and generally messed around with my life.
Unlike my fear of throwing up, my strange prayer habits came and went throughout my High School years. As I was nearing College, they had died down a little.
This wasn't the only change to accompany my transition to College. Shortly after I began attending College, I took it upon myself to stop taking my religion for granted and start investigating other branches of Christianity. I wanted to determine which one was closest to God's Truth in its doctrines and practices by looking at each denomination's arguments for themselves and against other denominations. I have already pretty much ruled out the LDS Church/Mormonism (my apologies to any LDS members who are reading this :/ ), and I'm currently stuck on the whole Catholicism vs. Protestantism debate. Curiously enough, despite being born and raised a Free Will Baptist, I find myself leaning a bit in favor of Catholicism at the moment. This, of course, may change as I learn more.
BTW, those strange prayer habits I had developed don't bother me nearly as much nowadays, and that crippling fear of throwing up is flat-out gone (still don't like throwing up, but I'm not paranoid about it any more). I attribute this to God's intervention. After trying many times to deal with my fear, and praying on several occasions for help, my parents took me to a Christian psychiatrist who diagnosed me with OCD, gave me a prescription for Luvox, and fixed the problem almost overnight! ^_^ (I had been to two other psychiatrists before that, but they didn't get rid of my fear)
Well, there you go! A short autobiography of my spiritual journey so far, complete with some of the spiritual struggles I've faced (I left a few out >_>). I hope this helps others know me better, and I hope this helps anyone I debate with figure out why I view things the way I do.
If you have any thoughts or advice you'd like to leave, you can post them in the comments section. :) Debate is acceptable (if you can find something here to debate over :P), just don't pick any fights. :D
EDIT: Whew. Looks like I made this more about some of my spiritual struggles than my actual spiritual development. :/ Meh, I'll throw in a few of my opinions here, and hope that makes up for it. ;;>_>
Free Will vs. Predestination: I say I lean more towards Free Will. Mind you, I know full and well that God interacts with the world, people and all, but I describe myself as Free Will because of my stance on salvation. I believe God offers salvation to everyone, but He doesn't force anyone to accept or reject it. Each person chooses to accept or reject God's offer. Mind, that doesn't mean that God doesn't know beforehand what each person will choose.
Communication of The Holy Spirit: I'm not entirely sure how the Holy Spirit, or any other member of the Trinity for that matter, communicates to us. I'm sure He does it, but I'm skeptical of the idea that He communicates to us via sudden feelings or urges. This idea reminds me of my behavior in High School/Early College. I believe many of the feelings I got urging me to do such-and-such thing, or to pray over someone before something horrible happened to them, can be chalked up to my then-untreated OCD, and that very few of them (if any) were caused by The Holy Spirit. I lean toward thinking that God communicates to us in a number of ways, including the occasional feeling. I also believe that many of these ways are simply a mystery to mankind.