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Going through the motions

By Fay ~

Like many people, I grew up going to church every Sunday since I was a baby. I went without arguing with my parents or questioning this - it's just what we did every week. As I got older my parents would say: "As long as you live under our roof, you are to attend church every week". I love my parents and I didn't want to disobey them, so I wouldn't put up a fight - unlike other teens that I knew. I noticed other kids around my age fighting with their parents about going to church, acting rebellious and it made me very uncomfortable. I did not want that kind of relationship with my parents, even though I wanted so badly to not go to church. "Just suck it up and go", I'd say to myself.

Don't get me wrong, I think I once was a Christian. I was "born again" when I was around 13 years old, at a youth conference one weekend. It was during an evening service and the youth pastor gave a speech about how all of us are broken, and that Christ has died for our sins and that if we are to be obedient to Him then we must give our lives to God. While this speech was going on, atmospheric and emotional worship music played in the background, causing me to feel some sort of emotional rush - I was convinced that it was the Holy Spirit. Of course now I've realized that worship music is an emotionally manipulative tool for Christians to feel the "Holy Spirit". I left the conference at the end of the weekend feeling like a brand new kid, transformed.

A few years go by and now I'm 16. The youth pastor of the church I attended had mentioned that there was going to be a Baptism service coming up in a few weeks, and that baptism was something that every obedient Christian must do. I had no desire to be honest, I didn't feel quite ready, well, I didn't really feel like I was a Christian anymore anyway. After that conference when I was "born again", the "transformed" feeling vanished. In fact I, once again, silently dreaded going to church and I always felt guilty and sad about myself after the sermon each week. On Sunday I'd vow to read my bible more that week, try to be a better person, try to pray often. These things were heavy weights on my shoulders and were tedious chores. Like the song by Brand New: "It's hard to be the better man when you forget you're trying".

So all of my best friends (yes, this is the main reason that I tolerated going to church - I got to see my wonderful friends each week, though now we don't see much of each other - they're involved in their church communities - good on them), they all wanted to get baptized and, as a group. I didn't feel comfortable with this because I could not have cared less, I felt an immense amount of pressure from my friends and from the youth pastor. Again, I didn't want to be disobedient and I also knew that it would make my parents very proud. So of course I followed through, getting baptized with my friends. Each one had an elaborate speech. Mine? The most basic speech: "My name is Amanda, I am here to declare to you that Christ is my Lord and Saviour and that is why I'm getting baptized". lol

I know I should have been truthful, but I didn't want to risk that argument with the Christian elders who knew how to challenge and manipulate others, especially because I didn't really know much about Christianity except for the basics. The truth is that I never really wanted to know more.

Christians get freaked out if you ask too many questionsI always just went through the motions, going to church because I had to, without really questioning anything. It feels like Christians get freaked out if you ask too many questions: "it's ok to ask questions but if you're questioning God too much then that's going too far". I wasn't keen on following blindly but it was just what I knew to do and no one else around me it seemed was going through the same thing.

Then I met a guy. We became friends quickly and then began dating shortly after. I remember asking him if he was a Christian, he replied he was. But honestly I don't know why I even asked, it didn't matter to me if he was; I think I cared about what my parents thought, they wanted me to date someone who went to church. We went to church together but neither of us were happy. He eventually told me he wasn't a Christian, he said he was but he is an ex Christian. I'd never heard that word before. I was shocked because I thought that my world would turn upside down - what would my parents think if I only went to church and without him? What would people say? Of course, these thoughts were horrible and so wrong.

I realized down the road, with the help from this guy and him challenging to think for myself for a change, that it really doesn't matter what other people think. He wasn't happy with the Christian lifestyle and neither was I! It didn't matter to me at all.

He and I got married eventually, and after we got married, we stopped going to church and we are so much happier. I couldn't believe how unhappy I was until I stepped outside of the bubble. I will never go back to that lifestyle. I'm grateful for my life now, for thinking for myself and enjoying my life freely, living one day at a time and living for TODAY and not "heaven". I'm still the same person, just no longer insecure about what I believe.