10/11/2013 | Share this article: View CommentsBy OatmealPanda ~
A few of you may remember me from my post a couple of years back called, "An Honest Question." For several weeks, back in late 2011, I visited this site almost daily, and often, multiple times in a day. My visits coincided with a number of things in my life: the diagnosis and acceptance of my youngest child as autistic (like his sister before him), the finalization of my divorce, my first personal experience of anti-depression and anti-anxiety medications, and what was my most recent (but neither my first, nor probably my last) spiritual crisis.
Before we go any further, I want to say this: although I did not find everything I was looking for here, I am so grateful to the many of you who tried to help me find it. You aided my journey considerably, and I would like to share some of the things I learned, in my brief sojourn here:
1. No matter where you go, there will be many, many people who are genuinely kind and want to help you. To all of you, all I can say is thank you. I identified with so many of your stories, particularly the ones involving guilt, fear, a love of "sinning", and other affirmations of life, and your stories helped me not to feel so alone. My especial thanks to Thin-Ice (thank you for your willingness to understand, and your prompt defence of me), Discordia for your irreverence and for sharing so much knowledge, glebealyth for your incredible supportiveness, WizenedSage for tailoring your responses so thoroughly to my personal issues, Insanezenmistress for managing to make me laugh in the midst of what I hope is the worst depression of my life, momof8 for seeming to understand my perspective so clearly, Julie Montgonery for your unfailing goodwill and welcoming demeanour, UncagedCardinal for your wonderful description of a what the idea of "Jesus" can be, and Mo, slave2six, ethana2, statmaster2001, exrelayman, unoder, buffetphan, and dozens more of you for responding to my honest questions, with honest answers/replies/extracts/memories. You have all helped me, more than you'll ever know.
2. There is no easy answer. In retrospect, I know I came here hoping for a road map, a sort of how-to guide to leaving my increasingly burdensome, increasingly estranged faith, but the truth is, faith has to leave you. I envy some of you your freedom... but just as when I first came here (2 weeks into a course of Citalopram, a week into a course of Diazepam, 7+ years out of attending church, and living with a man who is *still* not my husband even now) I have to call myself some sort of Christian, because at least a part of me still believes. And for better or for worse, I can no more see the value in spending umpteen hours a day trying to convince myself of the non-existence of God, than I could see the value of trying to convince myself of the opposite, all those years ago when I made the decision to leave the church. I managed to get away from church almost instantaneously, though it took moving to a foreign country to do it--faith is something else, though, and it clings to me, regardless of how elastic or non-specific it becomes.
3. In any walk of life, there will be those who are fearful, and therefore hostile. To the less-than-a-handful of people who refused to engage with my openness and quiet desperation: you should be ashamed of yourselves. I won't name and shame, however, because I would like to think I've grown beyond that. All I can hope is that if you read this, you'll recognize yourself. Still, I owe you thanks, as well--thank you for showing me that it is possible to leave Christianity, yet stay just as sanctimonious and judgmental and loveless as when you were in it. In a number of ways, it did me good to see that the full spectrum of humanity, from its ugliest to its most beautiful, exists in any large group or subculture. I am quite sure you did not intend to give me this gift; and I am now such a terrible "Christian" that it amuses me to think of how thoroughly you helped me, through trying to hurt me. I am also a terrible enough Christian to wish the same hurtful, snide, unkind treatment on you, someday. Maybe you, too, will learn from it.
That's not all I took away from my time here, but most of the important things I learned have been summed up in the above list. In conclusion, let me give those of you who were so kind to me the first time around a quick update on my life:
I have been functioning without anti-depression/anxiety medication for over a year now, and in a move resplendent with triteness, I have managed to complete a year of part-time study in the area of psychology. At the end of it, hopefully I'll have a better understanding of myself, and those around me... plus more career opportunities :-)
After nearly 10 years of non-attendance to church, I generally refer to myself as a Universalist, or make reference to inter-faith beliefs, when asked about my spirituality; I'm still looking (not very hard, admittedly) for a church or meeting house or sanctuary of some sort, to attend. Or perhaps I'll never return to organized religion--and after a long time striving, I'm okay with that, now (in spite of the continued flak from some friends and family members, and the ended relationships with others).
The greatest joy of my life is, and likely always will be, my beautiful, cheeky, spirited, quirky unique children, and I am proud of my decision not to inundate them with the religious programming of my early years--my youngest is 5 now, and unlike myself at his age (even now, occasionally) he never wakes up in a panic, sick to his stomach from dreams about hellfire and demons. Knowledge like that is the greatest comfort of my life and makes my own terrors easier to bear.
I think that's all I wanted to say--as always, I'll lurk around on the site from time to time, and probably reply to most/all comments on this, if there are any. Assuming this little essay goes up, I give my embarrassingly grateful thanks to the veto board, webmaster, or whomever else may decide to put this on the site--your generosity and neutrality are a credit to you. Finally, my best wishes to all of you, as you continue your personal searches for the things that leave you contented, at peace, joyful, fulfilled, and just plain happy. I wish you the continued discovery of all those joys, and more.