In a recent life experience, where I met with a cohort from a previous and equally important year abroad, I realized that who I "am" is not who I am at all...
During a weekend in the beautiful mountains of Colorado, I was thrust into a familiar, yet completely unique situation with people I have known for ten years. When we lived abroad in our teens, we were all made up of snippets of our parents & influencers, geographical upbringing, and surroundings. We weren't really "us", but we were a young, bright-eyed version of the people we were about to become. Ten years has allowed us to become teachers, openly gay, artists, extremists, professionals, adventurers, parents, and influencers. All of us entered the experience with an "I wonder what they will think when they know who I have become" mentality. I'm glad we were all worried about it, because it proved to be a prolific catalyst for my life change. For some reason, unknown to me at the time, I kept repeating the mantra, "This is really important." I had no idea.
The time leading up to the reunion was a struggle. After a year and a half of planning, I was finally at a point where I just wanted it over. It was a hassle and I didn't anticipate anyone being grateful or even enjoying it and I was ready to just put the weekend behind me and move on with my life. Little did I know, all of these friends who had grown into amazing human beings would teach me something about myself that I had been scouring my heart to learn. I was worried all weekend that I was going to "screw up", that they weren't going to have anything good come of the reunion and that I was wasting my time.
After over a 100 reassurances that everyone was enjoying the mountains, our company and the accommodations, I started to reflect on what it was that made me feel like I am eternally "not good enough." Why do I doubt myself? Why do I ache with guilt from my past decisions, so much that I am paralyzed in a constant state of disconnect?
A quick look back into my history:
From the moment I understood language, my mother preached the "good word." We went to church. I went to bible camp for 10 years as a camper and then as a counselor when I was old enough. I was involved in the local youth group, mission trips, evangelist meetings and plenty of at-home study of our religion. When I was young, I remember thinking, "I don't want to go anywhere forever...that sounds scary and awful," but I kept it to myself, because that is what a good Christian does. They effectively taught me about what a filth monger I was; I was born in sin and lusting for it at every turn. I had to learn to deny the actual good and bad in my heart and alter it to meet their agenda if I wanted to spend eternity in paradise. The opposite, you see, would be to have my little body burn for eternity...so I chose paradise. The cost? Guilt. Doubt. Envy. Anger. Hatred. Separatism. I wasn't born to feel those things, I was taught how.
Back to the reunion:
After our last night of reflection from our important year abroad, I retired with a friend of mine only to continue the conversation into the wee hours of the morning. We began discussing God when I asked, "What do you believe in?" I was actually open to hearing her answer, rather than rejecting it like I did on most occasions where someone had an opinion that didn't align with the Christian Community that I had committed myself to. Her answer was unsure, and instead of feeling sad about the eternal consequences of her not picking "a side", I felt motivated to learn more. Through tough questions, we resolved that we did not want to die...and why not? I don't want to become dirt, but I don't believe that if there is a heaven that only those who have "said the magic words" will enter. Even as a Christian, I didn't want to spend eternity with nothing but Christians! If there was ever an all-loving, all-knowing God above who is in control of everything, why is he incapable of loving the non-Christians who are in my life that I would give up my eternal soul to save? Why, if he is so powerful, would he need constant praise and recognition? And why, if he loves us SO much, could he deny his children paradise for neglecting to say those magic words? Where I was previously so sure of my faith, my world was now spinning.
Before, when people asked me if I believed in aliens, my answer was easy, "No, because if they exist, then my God does not." It was ignorant, but it stopped intelligent people from pursuing the conversation further. Obviously, I was an idiot who could not be reasoned with. The eternal consequences (in my mind) were far too great to consider other possibilities. I was a wonderful Christian. I mourned constantly. When bad things happened, I believed it was because I deserved nothing good anyhow because we live in an ugly, fallen world. When good things did happen, I believed it was a fluke and that someone or something made a mistake. I expected something entirely external and invisible to guide me and make my life noteworthy, even though I didn't believe I deserved it.
So the weekend that I wanted to put behind me kick started a journey I have been on for four short and beautiful weeks so far. I was right, it WAS IMPORTANT! I am not a Christian, and I’m happier than I have ever been. I believe in Love and Acceptance. I believe in myself! I want to do beautiful things, experience intimacy without guilt, live each day because it is mine, and do things that make my heart sing. And you know what? I can. Because this life is mine, it doesn’t belong to a bully in the sky who is watching my every move. My mission on this Earth is not to spread the word of Christian men from one corner of the world to another, but to choose my actions and reactions wisely for the sake of making a better HERE AND NOW! What an exciting journey I am on.
This was the first website I found when I Googled, 'I am not a Christian anymore, now what?' I thank you for creating this page and giving me a place to share.
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