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By Angel --

I had the great fortune of receiving a surprise visit from one of my very best friends just yesterday. As she was en route to another country, her connecting flight was rescheduled to come through my city forcing her to have a 5-hour layover here. What a treat!

Her visit gave me the opportunity to talk to her about something that had been on my mind for quite some time. You see, when she called me a few months back to tell me that she'd be leaving the country for about a year, she began to confide in me that she had begun to lose faith in Christianity. I was the person she most wanted to talk to about how she'd been feeling recently for two main reasons; one being that I am generally a good listener, and two because it was I who led her to Christ in the first place.

As she poured out her innermost feelings to me, she confessed that since becoming a Christian she found herself being judgmental of others and in a constant competition to outperform other Christians in an effort to show god how sincere she is. Though she was giving her all to god, she could not help but be disgusted with herself and her "sinful nature." She was desperate for god to answer her prayer to make her into the woman he wanted her to be. Thus, when she ultimately failed at being perfect, she became depressed and started hating herself. She led praise and worship, attended Bible study weekly, sang in the choir, prayed daily, and abstained from sexual activity. Yet, her life was less fulfilling and she began to become very depressed.

"Am I making any sense?" she asked me.

"Yes, totally," I responded.

I didn't say much else during that phone call. I just let her talk. She needed to speak to someone who wasn't going to tell her to pray harder, or that she wasn't seeking god correctly, or that the lord works in mysterious ways. She didn't need to hear any of the regular bullshit that Christians always say. What she needed was a friend --- someone who would just shut up and listen. I am so glad that I was able to be there for her now because there was a time when I, too, would have simply recited the trite banalities so commonly spoken in the Christian circles. Or, I would have turned her over to the lord in prayer for not knowing what else to do or say.

Of course, that does not mean that I didn't want to say more. I wanted to tell her how sorry I am for ever leading her into that hateful religion. I wanted to confess that I had already been down the road she was on and had left Christianity behind years ago. I wanted her to know that she is truly one of the best people I have ever known and that she deserved a god who was actually worthy of her devotion (though, I doubt highly that one exists). There was so much I wanted to tell her, but the timing just didn't feel right. That conversation was her time to talk and my time to listen. I had to wait for my opportunity.

Well, I finally got my opportunity yesterday. We talked about how much we've both grown and changed over the years, while the essence of who we are has remained the same. We reminisced over past events and memories, both happy and shameful. And we pondered the possibilities that will exist for us in the future. We both exhaled and wiped the sweat off of our foreheads that had accumulated as a result of the stress religion had caused us. Most importantly, we shared the silence that is only comfortable between two friends who understand each other so well that not much has to be said.

I feel closer to my friend now than I ever have before. Now that the buffer of religion that was always between us is gone, we can relate to each other in a more authentic way. You see, when I was a Christian my guard was always up around her because I always felt the pressure of setting a good example for her to follow being that she was a heathen and all. Then, she became a Christian as my faith was dwindling, but I couldn't tell her my faith was dwindling because I felt responsible for her conversion and was still confused about what I believed for myself. Now, we've both renounced our faith in Christ and breathe more easily knowing that this life is most likely the only one we'll ever live. So, we live.

We live with a common bond of a shared history and the love that only time can prove. After over ten years of friendship, we are finally comfortable in our own skin. It's nice having someone who understands you without judging, who supports you without demanding anything, and who loves you for who you are. I can say with total honesty that, in my experience, my BFF is a better friend to me than my old imaginary friend Jesus ever was.