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Travelling Is What Saved Me

By Zelda ~
“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”
Gustave Flaubert
I lost the first 33 years of my life due to Christianity and its lies about the world and human beings.

When you grow up in fundamentalist evangelical Christianity, it seems that you never gain a sense of who you really are or what you really want to do. You learn to question yourself from a very young age because you don’t have any wisdom, only God does. And, you can only get it by prayer or fasting. The good in you is only because of Christ living through you. Making life decisions becomes very difficult because you cannot rely on your inner self to guide you, you must rely on God and go through a painstaking process of prayer and sifting through the word of God to find your answers.

For some of us, who are eccentric or artistic and sensitive souls, this can be devastating because the arts are self-serving unless of course you are a worship leader. I became a teacher for various reasons but one of them was because I thought that I should do something related to serving others directly. I never wanted to be a teacher and I did it for 11 years, each year becoming more and more ill and more stressed. I never honored my own dreams. Neither did my parents. I knew what I wanted to do deep down but it was constantly squelched because of them telling me I couldn’t do that or shouldn’t do that. I knew from a young age that I wanted to learn foreign languages and travel. They didn't want me to travel or study abroad because they were afraid I would become tainted or that my eyes would be opened to knowledge. I did anyway, my own way, and went to France as an Au Pair at age 21.

In France, I met a young Anglican priest who didn’t believe in hell. We discussed the meaning of life over cups of English tea in the basement of the Anglican Church on many occasions and I remember asking him these questions, “Why are you a priest? What are you saving people from if there is no heaven or hell? What is the point of living if there is nothing to look forward to after you die?” I was shocked when he said that he loved people and wanted to help people lead happy lives. I believed that there was no real love outside of Christ and the love that this priest had for people must be phony because he obviously was not a Christian. I thought he was so deceived. Later, I found out that he was gay as well and I just could not understand how this was possible.

During this time, I was dating a French-English man. He had never heard the gospel before. I was stunned because I thought that everyone in the western world at least had had an opportunity to hear the gospel. I tried to convert him but he told me that he knew too much about science and evolution and that intellectually it was impossible for him to believe. He asked me to move in with him before I left France but I said no because I could not be unequally yoked. I was in love with him but denied my own heart for the sake of Christ. God would bless my virtue with a solid Christian man.

I went back to the States and fell quickly back in with my religion. I moved in with my Christian friends who were having charismatic prayer meetings every week. They were casting demons out of each other. They called these demons, “spirit of fear, rejection, guilt, lust, etc.” They tried to cast demons out of me but every time the spirit of fear would come back. I was then told that I needed to pray more and that I wasn’t giving my whole heart to Christ. I kept trying and eventually started going to an Assembly of God church where I met my husband (now ex-husband).

I was ... taught for so long that sexuality was a thing to be denied that I could not really enjoy anything. In turn, he treated me like an object which I accepted because I thought it was what I was supposed to do. I remember crying in the bathroom so many times and praying to God that he would make me want my husband.I married this “Man of God” believing that it was God’s will. I was virgin at 25 years old when I got married and had no idea of how I should be treated. I was told that the man was the head of the household and ruled over the wife but yet he was supposed to love his wife as Christ loved the church. A wife was supposed to submit to her husband. I was devastated on the wedding night because I felt such shame and was taught for so long that sexuality was a thing to be denied that I could not really enjoy anything. In turn, he treated me like an object which I accepted because I thought it was what I was supposed to do. This objectification of women seems to happen a lot in the church. I remember crying in the bathroom so many times and praying to God that he would make me want my husband. I thought it was my fault that I didn’t like it when he would tie me up and not let me go and watch me cry.

At age 29, I decided to go back to school and get my Masters of Arts in Teaching so I could teach French. That summer, I went to study in Paris. I felt free for the first time in a long time and didn’t have to worry when I was sleeping at night. The last week of class, we were discussing the relationship between Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir and the subject came up of what it means to be faithful in a relationship. I spoke up and said, “It just means you’re not sleeping with anyone else.” All of the Italians in the room turned and looked at me and one of them said, “No, it’s not just sexual fidelity. Being faithful means loving your partner.” It was such a simple thing.

That was the moment, the moment that I realized that I was not being loved. I was not seen. I went back to the states after that summer determined to stand up for myself. It took some time, but I left. I was shunned by our church friends. My father told me that I had a sexual problem. My mother told that I had psychological problems. Could it have been that we were both incompatible and clueless about sex because of our upbringing? I didn’t care. It was over. The dream was broken. I couldn’t hang on anymore. I later found out that there was nothing wrong with me at all sexually, I was just with the wrong person and believed the wrong things about sex.

I share this story because the realization of what my marriage was what finally started to wake me up. It took me about eight more years before I finally left Christianity. I had to grieve the fact that I will never know for sure what happens when we die. I had to be okay with the mystery. I think the worst part is that I have lost my family but I realize now that I never really had them. They are my family but we can never be close and they will always think that I have gone astray and am seeking after the flesh. I am trying to get over it so I can move on with my life but the lies of religion affected my thought process and self-esteem for so long that it is hard to break free.

I am back in Europe where my mind started to open up the first time. I am struggling to know myself at age 43 and I hope that I am getting closer to that career change that I desire so much. This time, I am free and not bound by my religion. I can choose my own path.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
Marcel Proust