The Year I Left My Church

One year ago in September, I left my church. I started going to church {The Salvation Army} every Sunday from the time I was one week old, until I was almost 26 years old. Some people take a gap year between high school and university-to find themselves, to adventure; that has never been my personality. I am goal based and goal driven. I enjoy picking a goal and working towards it.

I have very much hesitated sharing this story because it is hard to correctly depict my emotions and growth. My heart rate is quickening as I type. Sharing your faith, and sharing your resolve is a tricky thing. I know it is likely many people won’t agree with me- but I have¬†also learned that that is okay. Stick with me [despite the wandering thoughts] even if you aren’t religious, we all have our ‘spiritual selves’. It is a pillar in our wellness, regardless of what we believe, and I think [and hope] that most people can relate. I hope to hear feedback from many walks of spirituality and belief. Not solely my own. My hope is for a dialogue. I also hope that if you are one of those people who ‘hate christians’, maybe we can seek understanding from one another. ūüôā

Initially I left my church out of frustration, hurt, bitterness, feeling lost. If you have followed my blog, last fall my husband and I also discontinued fertility treatments, grieving the loss of the dream to have biological children. It forced me to assess myself.  If this is it for the rest of my life, is this ENOUGH? [the infamous words tattooed into my wrist] Are my beliefs ENOUGH? Are my morals ENOUGH? Am I living in a world where I am doing ENOUGH? Is this person I am NOW, ENOUGH?

I think when a lot of people hear you are a Christian, they associate it with criticism, guilt, hypocrisy, judgement. I AM a Christian, and have¬†felt these same emotions. I left my church because I was critically assessing my own morals and beliefs, and I felt misrepresented. I didn’t want to live in a world where people felt I was judging their lives. I didn’t want to live in a world where other’s hate depicted how accepted people I love felt by me.

I left my church believing that my spirituality was based on me, and my personal relationship with Christ was between him and I. I left feeling squandered by a human expectation, when my only expectation should have been from Christ.

I still believe this, utmost, but I understand it in a new way now. We are each responsible for how the world sees us. Are you going to accept love, or personal resolve? I believe in a Christ who loves. Widely, and openly. Strongly and fiercely. Unconditionally.

Community was my first huge challenge. Having grown up in the church, I had a huge community within the church. Attending other churches, and ultimately another church which I chose was incredibly hard. How do you make friends as an adult? Do we choose when we make friends? Do we unconsciously choose not to connect in some settings, but connect wildly in others because of ‘cliques’, or because we are ultimately searching?
I dare to say, we choose the connection we need. Ultimately, we are selfish beings. If a group of people isn’t filling a part of our lives we need, why waste the time to get emotionally involved. Vulnerability isn’t easy. I don’t think we pick our communities out of convenience. I think we pick them out of need.

I personally witnessed so much heart ache in my community this year. It really solidified to me that these were ‘my people’. These were the people I chose to be vulnerable with. While for the most part, this community was still in my life, as a christian, to be vulnerable in worship was a huge missing piece. I developed a greater urgency to depend deeply on the people I loved. Our time is fleeting, where was I going to spend mine?

If we aren’t being challenged, we aren’t changing. Change.¬†Don’t we all hate change?
I was challenged to change, and it was at times painful. Other times my soul overflowed with joy. I was challenged to really understand every aspect of why I personally believe what I believe. Why do I practice what I practice? Because I was told to, or because I believe it. #1, I believe in a personal relationship with Christ. It seemed so complicated at the time, and it took me an entire year to realize, it is SO incredibly simple. Humans are great at complicating things. Faith and spirituality is really SO simple. What to you pick to share your soul with? I choose forgiveness, acceptance, unconditional love. If I expect others to believe it to be that simple, I must actively choose forgiveness, acceptance, and unconditional love. Inwardly and outwardly.

Understanding. Absolutely no person is with without fault. So why are we so harsh on each other? Why are we so quick to tell others what they are doing wrong? Why is it so difficult to encourage, and seek understanding?
To me, this is the problem with guilt-based faith. I believe if you seek out good, and justice, the bad in the world falls away in the fight. In my personal faith, I believe in repentance, which is essentially acknowledging ¬†you are wrong, and that you can’t do it by yourself. Seeking goodness through Christ. Even if you don’t believe in Christ, are you seeking goodness somewhere? Or are you seeking hostility?
We all believe differently, and isn’t that such a beautiful, glorious thing!!!! Can you imagine this world if all the questions were answered, and we answered them all the same? While choosing to leave bitterness behind, and to seek understanding of others [even the ones that drive me UP THE WALL] I am finding peace. I am finding self assurance. None of us ‘have it all together’. No faith or belief system ‘has all the answers’. It is part of being human. It’s the joy in being human-we get to SEEK answers.

Finally, I learned the importance of resolving to be extraordinary.

Of being the friend you long for….

Of loving as passionately as you long to be loved….

Of accepting as freely as you hope to be accepted….

Of perpetuating JUSTICE in an unjust world…

This world is a messy place. We are all so privilege to have the hours, days, months, years left that we have. So many are denied the privilege of growing, learning, doubting, leaping, changing.

So whether you are a christian, an atheist, or another faith; I think my prevailing thought is to make sure you are living with authenticity. Every walk of life has hypocrisy, but I really think hypocrisy comes from expectations. What expectations do we have for ourselves, and do we have them because we think we should live a certain way, or do we have them because we are living our true authentic selves?

Live the YOU you want to be now. Don’t wait. I waited 26 years, and the freedom that comes¬†from questioning the things you have always believed to be true is insane.

[Special thanks to S.R. Thank you for continuing to befriend me, challenge me, help me grow, and most importantly listen to be ramble on about my life mustering all year, as I have been trying to ‘figure it all out’]

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