I’m not sure when it happened, when I stopped believing. No, not really stopped believing, more like not feeling it, not feeling the entity known as “God”. It’s been awhile now, I was just afraid to put it down in writing, to actually get outside of my head and acknowledge it. Afraid of repercussions, perhaps? Afraid of that bolt of lightning coming down from the sky? Afraid to admit to my family and friends that this life-long Lutheran, this zealous church-goer/church-dragger no longer believes in a higher entity? Yeah, that last one is pretty much spot on.
It started with my break from the church we were currently attending. I was super-involved in the church life- Sunday School, Youth Group, Council, Book Club- even heading up the major redesign and renovations to the interior sanctuary. Throughout my life, I’ve always been involved in church stuff, mostly with kids. My parents were involved, therefore I got involved. Not so much my kids, but that’s their decision- I brought them up in the church from Baptism through Confirmation, after that they were on their own. And not one of them looked back. In retrospect, I should have taken their lead.
Anyway, yeah, I was super involved. After attending for almost 16 years, I got close to the Pastor and to some extent, his wife. I babysat their birds (one of which died almost immediately when they brought it home, oops), I redesigned their kitchen (pro-bono, of course), we acted in plays together, we travelled to Youth Events across the country together, he commandeered my mother’s funeral. I confided in my spiritual advisor on many occasions and I thought we should have been considered friends, or at least close in the service of the Lord.
I should have known better. I never learn. I’ve thought the same of half a dozen people in my life and the end result was never good.
There were little things that started to piss me off- things we (the Youth Group) would do that would be ignored, or forgotten. Attempts to pin down dates or plan trips or events would never be acknowledged. Things would be done behind my back, planned with someone else. Look, I can take a hint- I’m incredibly perceptive- if one doesn’t want my help just sit me down and talk to me. Don’t go behind my back in front of my face.
And don’t…do not…insult my child. Do not insinuate that she did not work on her Confirmation project. If you know me, or know my family you would understand our work ethic. We do not do things to get over, or take short cuts. We give our all and if you asked us to do something and gave my daughter permission to use it as a project you don’t get to speculate whether or not she did it. And you should not speculate or insinuate in front of the other Confirmands and their families at the official dinner the lack of my daughter’s role in her project.
Yes, I understood he was sick and maybe not himself. I tried to cut him some slack, I really did. But right after she was Confirmed, I stopped going to church.
I was hurt, but this next part was truly the icing on the butthurt cake…
I stopped going to church and not one person- not the pastor, not the secretary, not the council, not my neighbors, not my friends who also go to that church- not one of them called me up and asked my why. Not one of them said “Hey, we miss you. Come on back.” Not one of them texted, emailed or Facebooked me. Months went by and my tithing amount was being taken out of my account. I emailed the secretary (also my friend) and asked for the form to stop donating. Not one word was said when the form was sent. Still, no outreach. After all that time, after all I did, I felt that no one cared enough to want me back.
Was I hurt? Beyond belief. Was I mad? Oh, hell yes. Did I get over it? After many years, yes. Only two people knew why I drifted off and now I’m finally able to type it out without alternating crying with cursing. Time heals sadness and anger.
I’ve been to a few churches since then, trying them on, see if they and I were a good fit. Warily, I sang the songs and listened to the sermons and tried not to read the brochures where they were looking for volunteers. I liked the Holy Roller/Rock Music church I went with my friend to a few times but the last time I went I felt something else other than the LOVE they were fervently preaching. It took about a year for me to realize it was disbelief.
Agnostic? Atheist? Neither of these actually describe what I think I believe. I do believe we’re all connected some way. There are too many instances of Synchronicity in my life to argue otherwise. And there may be a force at the center of that big web of inter-connectedness, but I don’t feel we should be worshipping it, or praying to it (and why are we still saying “God Bless You” when someone sneezes? It’s an expulsion of body fluids!) I believe in Jesus Christ- the person- and I believe he did die for “our” sins and because he loved “us”. His message to me is to be kind to my fellow persons, live a clean, good life and do good works. Do I need a god-figure to tell me to do that? Do I need a preacher to remind me of that? Karma plays a big role in my belief these days- rattle that web between you and I and what goes out will definitely come back. Good and/or bad.
Maybe I’m Buddhist, I don’t know. Let me meditate on that.