I was brought up in a Christian household, attending church most Sunday’s and participating in various Bible study groups as I grew up. My faith was an integral part of my identity, but beyond this I don’t think I ever gave much serious thought to my beliefs until I was given cause to doubt them, that cause being viral meningitis.
Contracting meningitis was sudden and unexpected, leaving my future shrouded in uncertainty as I struggled to deal with the new set of circumstances I found myself in. When my friends from church found out about my plight I was flooded with well-intentioned pieces of advice and encouragement, by far the most common being that God had done this for a purpose. What I couldn’t figure out was what exactly this purpose was.
I considered myself to be a good person; I went to church and prayed and read the Bible, I didn’t commit crimes, and on the whole I obeyed my parents and teachers. If I wasn’t being punished, what was I supposed to learn from this experience? The only thing I seemed to be learning was that people are unreliable and reluctant to shoulder anyone else’s burdens, and that didn’t seem to me to be a very Godly lesson. My faith was undeniably shaken but not completely destroyed.
As time passed and I felt better I tried to reconnect with God in the hope of having my questions answered. It soon became clear that all was not well; so began the process of being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and during that time I would pray every evening before bed, unloading my burdens onto someone else, giving me the relief and peace of mind I needed to sleep.
After about a year of chronic fatigue syndrome people at church started praying for my healing. At first this seemed like a nice gesture but I soon became disenchanted with the idea as my faith and even my willingness to get well were repeatedly called into question. The prayers no longer seemed to be offered out of concern for me; I felt as though my healing were the prize in a competition, the winner being whoever prayed for me last before my sudden and glorious recovery. Eventually I simply stopped going to church, just keeping in touch with those who were my genuine friends.
It was around this time that I realised my evening prayers were little more than a comfort blanket, a ruse if you will, that would keep me calm and allow me to sleep. With this gone I turned to scripture, but where once I had seen encouragement and enlightenment I now saw intolerance and exclusion. The harder I fought to keep my faith, the further it slipped from my grasp.
The final nail in the coffin for my beliefs was coming to terms with my sexuality, something I had vehemently denied myself all my life up to that point. Once I realised that my identity was being jeopardised by something that had already caused me so much pain, I let go altogether.
In all honesty I expected to be relieved; I was free of something that had held me back and diminished my self-worth ever since I had been given reason to turn against it. What actually happened was I felt that a huge part of my identity had been pulled away.
Even worse was the immense guilt I felt; a short while before when my faith was still relatively strong I had become someone’s godmother, and the thought of breaking my promise to the parents and the child was utterly soul destroying. Now I realise that I made a promise to help raise the child and teach him what I knew of Christianity, and whatever my beliefs that is something I still can and will do. If one day he asks me about my personal faith I will have to be honest and I only hope that he will not think of me as a liar. Perhaps I will even show him this little piece of writing to help explain my choices.
Up to this point I have never breathed a word of this to my godson’s family, nor even to my own family. However I can’t help but feel that being honest about my faith is the right thing to do, and I know that I can explain myself far more eloquently in written form than in a spoken conversation.
6 thoughts on “Losing my Religion.”
As a person of faith, I found this to be a very important read (painful as it may be).
Your story/testimony shows how painfully short churches (and THE Church) are of being allies to the suffering, to those who generally aren’t “like them.”
With your faith struggles as it tied in with your disability, what it sounds like you went through reminds me a TON of what Job (as in the Job of the Book of Job) went through…the praying that things will go better, the idea of “God has a plan” being manifested in toxic ways, anger over a lack of positive change, and much more. Now Job’s problems eventually got fixed, but you might relate to all the grief Job got when things were not fixed for him.
Jesus also experienced immense suffering. As a person of faith, I often turn to Jesus when struggling with suffering because Jesus suffered Himself.
In terms of your sexuality, if you do ever reconsider your faith, there are affirming churches out there (though I don’t know about where you are). It might also be worth looking into support groups of LGBTQ+ people of faith, such as an Integrity (which is for LGBT Episcopalians and their allies: http://www.integrityusa.org/).
These, of course, are only resources and ideas for if you do ever reevaluate your faith. But if you don’t, I definitely understand, given the amount of hurt you have experienced from the Church.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I’m sorry the read was so painful for you, but I’m also glad you can understand my POV.
Funnily enough the Book of Job was always my favourite because I found it immensely relatable, particularly in the way those around him of the same faith treated him.
If I ever do get to the point where I want to re-evaluate thing I’ll refer to the website you sent. I am in the UK but I’m sure something of a similar premise will be around somewhere.
LikeLiked by 1 person
No need to apologize! What’s painful is hearing about how the church treated/handled your disability and your sexuality.
That is funny! Job I think is immensely relatable, and I also think it is a repudiation of the “Prosperity Gospel” I sometimes hear. Many others who’ve suffered in various forms have found Job relatable.
And yes definitely feel free to use those resources if you ever decide to re-evaluate. This one resource might be more UK-specific than US-specific though (I am in the US): https://www.inclusive-church.org/.
LikeLiked by 2 people
Everyone always complained about how miserable the Book of Job was, and I was always the weird one in the corner enjoying it!
Haha you’re not weird for liking Job. Everyone will probably suffer in some way at some point, and Job is immensely relatable (in my opinion) for anyone in a season of suffering.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Also, PS I really like your blog so I look forward to reading more of your content!!!
LikeLiked by 1 person