The reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except for yourself. – Rita Mae Brown
I was a girl who got vacuumed up into the world of evangelical Christianity through Young Life and it’s glittery allure to high school students.
I squandered my education, relinquished my independence and free-thinking spark, compromised my relationship with family members… for God.
I spent my twenties chasing this God and enlightenment to the detriment of my health, my financial security, my confidence.
I laid hands on the hurting, raised hands in adoration, gave testimony of my faith before hundreds of my God-seeking peers, sang in a drunken swirl of “spirit-filled” worship, counseled those below me, sought heavenly wisdom from mentors above me. I read the Bible with the expectation that God would speak directly to me with cherry-picked scripture.
I voted for Bush because I was told he took prayer seriously in his intimate circles.
I pined after Christian guys who didn’t commit to me. I prayed and prayed and prayed some more—in silence, in private, while weeping, in public displays of piety, in earnest desperation—looking everywhere for “signs.”
I abstained from sex. I had sex with mounds of guilt.
I prayed for others, tried endlessly (in vain) to share the light of God with unbelieving friends and family members, martyred myself in the work place, read primarily Christian publications, listened to Christian music, kept myself sheltered in the bubble to safe-guard myself from the possibility of “backsliding.”
My community was one where reason applied in all arenas EXCEPT Christianity. The people around me went to real jobs in marketing, entertainment, as accountants, attorneys, as sales associates, executed impressive logic during work hours, and then congregated for Bible study where it was assumed without question that Mary was a virgin when she conceived, that Jesus rose from the dead, that scales fell from Paul’s eyes, that people spoke in tongues, that Jonah had an exciting underwater adventure in a fish belly, that miracles either weren’t of this age or that they happened mostly in third world countries where people hadn’t been blinded by the commercialism and privilege of America, and that God was endlessly fascinated by our prayers for husbands, parking spots, good weather, more money, new apartments.
And then. I started reading The New York Times op-ed section and found myself completely at odds with the rhetoric on Sunday mornings. Over night, I was the girl who drifted from conservative Christian to liberal Christian because of my belief in separation of church and state and my support of gay marriage rights, who ended up dating a non-Christian to the disappointment of those closest to me, who became pregnant and had a baby out of wedlock. Moreover, (perplexing to even me!) I found myself unwilling to give this beautiful baby to God in the usual format of commitment services at church, prayer, homeschooling…
I was in increasing agony—paralyzed—over the “truth” (whatever that was) of God’s character and presence in my life and the possibility that my disobedience would reap horrid consequences. I no longer knew the meaning of personal relationship with Him even though I pined for the simple, sweet fellowship I assumed I’d had for 18+ years with Jesus.
At last, I collapsed in an envious heap on my living room floor watching Eat, Pray, Love. I wasn’t envious of anything in the movie, really, except that the main character had freed herself from convention and gone on an extravagant journey of self. I wanted desperately to be free of my religious chains, to make a beautiful life for myself and my family, to embody love, courage, and authenticity.
It had never occurred to me that the problem might lie with my faith. I’d always assumed in periods of doubt that I was the problem.
Now what? I was scared of God. I was probably wrong. I couldn’t possibly just walk away. What would everyone say? Where would I find communion? I’d be left in the dust.
Essentially, I was still stuck because I didn’t have permission. I needed permission to walk away from the life I’d built and outgrown and wasn’t sure if I had to power to grant it.
Until I did.
I turned away from my faith and the amazing community that carried me through my tumultuous twenties—I faced very real loneliness, awkward conversations, uncomfortable uncertainty, an identity crisis—and came out on the other side.
It’s been a couple years. I find myself increasingly empowered, joyful, living out my values, embracing a wide-open seeker’s spirituality and embracing the giant mystery that is life with a heaping spoonful of actual reason.
To say I’ve debated the worthwhileness of subjecting my thoughts on and experience with Christianity in this format is a massive understatement. But how I wish it had been here when I was going through the worst of the transition. Like a cup of tea with a close friend.
I’m hoping this little corner of mine will be a harbor for those of you who are facing judgment (even your own!) for your reasonable doubts, who are seeking clarity, and/or who may still be living under a blanket of fear around “coming out” about your dismantled faith.
I’m hoping it will not be a place where religion or faith is dashed against the rocks. While I mock the Biblical reference there, I’m serious about approaching the subject with grace and respect. There are many wonderful things to be found in the doctrine and community of Christianity (and other religions, for that matter); I’m sure I will explore those avenues here as well.
Aside, I’m a personal coach and am currently writing a book about my experience with the faith. I live in Seattle with my husband and wee daughter.
Thanks for visiting…