We all have our own reasons why we believe what we believe. Lovely. The problem for me is when we attempt to force our beliefs on others. And by force, I’m not talking about littering my front door with bible story tracks. I’m referring to that blatant, judgmental “you’ll burn in hell” kind of conviction.
I was born and raised in a very strict religion. For 30+ years I believed in the one true God and that I was chosen to be a believer. This responsibility came with a strict set of rules, the ability to keenly judge others and the promise of eternal life.
The problem was, I guess my faith wasn’t completely unswerving. When the leaders of this religion started changing the rules of the one true church, my husband and I quit. It was an extremely difficult and painful decision. Everything we believed in started to crumble, including our marriage.
My husband became an atheist and I became an I-have-no-idea-what-the-hell-I-believe wandering soul. When my three kids were young I thought it was important to have a church home. We found a local place of worship that was quite comfortable. Fun programs for the kids, a decent service and my favorite, a group of young mothers who were interesting and cool. This group soon turned into friends and we often did activities outside of church such as golf, dinners, movies – simple girls-only bonding time.
On one such occasion we ventured to a local restaurant for a dinner. The conversation started to diverge away from husbands and kids and took on a deeper tone of what we believed, faith and heaven. I shared my journey with my new friends including where I’m at now. At the time, “now” was a place of uncertainty. I no longer believed that Christianity was the only road to God. I wasn’t even sure some days that I believed in God. I was fine with all this “sharing” and where I was at on my expedition.
The conversation quickly turned silent. After a few moments, one particular friend spoke up. “I feel sorry for your kids.” She stated.
Confused, I questioned her, “Why do you feel sorry for my kids?”
“Because you’re going to hell and they’ll never see you again.”
I was at a complete loss for words. Swearing wasn’t part of my language back then … today my response would be immensely more colorful.
No one else at the table spoke. Everyone just sat awkwardly avoiding eye contact. Utterly stunned and visibly upset, I stood up from the table, dropped my money down and wished them all a pleasant evening.
Later that night a few of the women called to apologize with the exception of the perpetrator. I appreciated the support, but knew this wasn’t the rational I wanted to surround myself with.
I attended this particular church for a few more weeks and then I quietly slipped away. That was over ten years ago. What these women didn’t realize was that I was in an enormous transitional stage where I was questioning everything. I went from having an all-knowing faith to none at all. We like to think of transition as a beautiful butterfly emerging from its cocoon. But transition starts in a dark, lonely sheath. We fight our way out. That’s what gives us the strength to fly. It’s a process.
Since my exodus from organized religion I’ve learned to make peace with my ever-evolving opinions about spirituality. I have a profound respect for others’ faith. Some days I’m out right envious of it. What I don’t appreciate, however, is the pity or the judgment from others regarding my not having a church home.
The quote, “Not all who wander are lost” deeply resonates with me. For now, I simply live the best life I can, loving others along the way and trying not to judge others on the journey. The older I get, the less I know.