Now it's been many years since that momentous realisation. Since then I've seen a precious friendship turn into marriage, been blessed with two more amazing sons, suffered spiritual abuse, lost my 'religion', and embarked on a faith journey with a freshly-revealed God.
I trusted the church system and the people in it, and that trust had proved worthless. I was betrayed and rejected by the very things I'd staked my life on. (More fool me!)
And the interesting thing is, it was this second experience of betrayal and loss that led me to an even greater understanding of the paradox of freedom.
The path out of spiritual abuse has led me through what I can only describe as the deconstruction of my faith. I questioned the incontrovertible 'truths' I'd been fed all my life and re-examined my beliefs.
But it seemed that the more freedom I felt to doubt and question, the more I believed.
I've slain sacred cows and dissected their remains. I've embraced doubt and uncertainty. I've rejected man-made traditions, and wrestled and argued with the God of eternity.
(Inevitably, this has led to further accusations of being a false prophet, as well as being denounced as a heretic.)
Yet it has been in embracing the liberty to question, and the freedom to doubt, that I have discovered an amazing truth.
When you let God out of the (religious) box, he's more than you've ever imagined. More wonderful. More loving. More wise. More compassionate. More... "I am"!
And as I've chosen freedom to step out of the box myself - and been totally honest with God (including voicing my anger, my questions, and my difficulties) I've found my faith has deepened, my trust grown and my walk with him has developed a reality I've never known before.
I find myself in a place where I have fewer answers, but greater confidence. More questions, but way less fear. My faith is no longer cut-and-dried, but it is of infinitely more worth in the cut-and-thrust world I inhabit.
In losing my 'religion', I found freedom in God!