Forging our own path

 

In the fall of 2016, I published a post (on my former blog) about our decision to quit the Church and Christianity. It’s been a year and a half and I can still feel the ripples of that post. I decided it may be time to update where we currently stand on this issue and what I have learned from this journey so far.

What drove us to our decision? A lot of people have assumed that it’s because we were hurt by people in the church, and they have good reason to believe so as my post expressed a lot of the anger and resentment that I had built up towards the Christian community in the 20+ years that I was a part of it. At the time, I hadn’t realized how much pain I’d been carrying and how it had been holding me back from being who I wanted to be in life. To answer the question though, that wasn’t the deciding factor, it all came down to how we wanted to raise our kids and the Christian faith just wasn’t cutting it for either of us. It wasn’t an easy decision, we wrestled with guilt, isolation and upset from others but ultimately it was more important for us to pave a different path for our boys than the one we had been given.

What has been the best part of our decision? We both feel that for us Christianity was a sort of crutch. We leaned on it when we “sinned” or when we needed a way out. There was always an answer to our mess ups and it was this; We are not perfect. We are born sinners. We ask for forgiveness and God forgives us. We do our best not to “sin” but we always will… and round it goes. Since we no longer have that, we now take full responsibility for our actions like never before. When we hurt ourselves or the people we love, we realize that we did so because we made a choice. We are not bad, but sometimes we make bad choices. We ask ourselves and each other, what drove us to behave this way? What is the underlying feeling that caused us to make such a poor choice? Is there pain? Guilt? What can we do about it? Is there a wound that needs healing? How can we help each other? How can I help myself? These are questions that we never asked ourselves because we relied so heavily on the Christian belief in grace. So the best part by far has been the immense amount of growth that we’ve both had as human beings. I feel proud of who I am and who I am becoming and I offer myself love and forgiveness when I mess up. There were personal things that we both struggled with for years that I’m happy to say have become non-issues because of our new philosophy, including my upset with Christians. It’s also been a much more intuitive way to raise our boys and to teach them responsibility.

What has been the hardest part of our decision? I can’t speak for my husband, but for me, it has been the dismissal of my beliefs by other Christians. After the post, a lot of people fell out of my life and that was expected. I knew it would make a lot of people feel uncomfortable because I used to feel the same way. For some people I became a project, they keep testifying to me and I’ve been that person too. Yet others seem so offended that I don’t share their beliefs anymore that they pretend it’s not real. They say things like “you’d love this church” or “you should read this book” they’ll send me Bible verses and tell me that what I’m going through is just a phase and that they also went through this. They say they are praying for me, which comes off as condescending and it sucks being misunderstood. Even worse, to be treated that your humanity matters less now that you were a Christian and stepped away. There would be much more grace for me had I never been Christian at all. Although this has been the hardest, it’s also been the best lesson I’ve learned which leads me to…

How has this changed my worldview?  The belief system we choose or that we are raised with forms a lens over our eyes with which we view the world. You don’t have to be religious to have a lens, our experiences and beliefs give our lens its own special shade. We all have a lens. There isn’t a right lens or a wrong lens, just different ones. When I was living with the lens that I was raised with, I believed it was the right one and that all others were wrong for not seeing the world the way that I did. I felt that it was my job to help them see. After retiring my old lens, a new one has been forming and to me, it’s much more hopeful. It shows me that we are all connected by our humanity, by our likeness, by our innate need to love and be loved and by our need to belong. It has allowed me to view the Christians that I don’t understand with empathy and love and it’s also shown me that there are kind and loving Christians too! That was something I struggled to see through my past hurts, but now I can create room in my heart for them. This lens has inspired me to focus on the areas in which I need to grow and the areas that I should celebrate and it’s made the place from which I judge a much smaller and less inviting space. I’m a far cry from perfect, but I am happy on this journey.

So what DO we believe in? My husband and I both (maybe) believe that there is a God, although we don’t believe that any God worth putting our trust in would damn anyone to hell and award heaven to someone who repents on their deathbed after a lifetime of hurting others. It doesn’t make sense to us, it doesn’t feel right and it definitely doesn’t sound fair or just. With that said, we’re still working out the whole God thing. I’ve come to the belief that the universe is cheering all of us on. When we live in a way that is in line with our authentic self and show up in our lives and choose love, the universe works things out.

Common misconceptions:

We stepped away from Christianity so that we could “party.” This may sound ridiculous and that’s because it is, but it was a sad side of religion that we saw growing up, especially in the Slavic community. We believe that it’s because people felt restrained by the laws of Christianity and the rules of their church that many ended up leading double lives. That has never been the case for us. We hold ourselves and each other accountable, never indulging too much in anything and honestly, we’d much rather get to bed by 10 after a good gym sesh.

If the church was perfect, we’d go back. We can’t hold other people accountable for their behavior, only how we respond to it. So it wouldn’t be fair for us to expect anyone to be perfect. We often hear people tell us to not look at the people in the church because the church was established for the broken and to just focus on God. My response to this is always that, I get to choose which group of people I want to be a part of. If we had never been raised in the Christian church, we don’t see much that would have drawn us towards it in our adulthood. We found it to be more of a negative experience than a positive one for us and the cons of staying outweighed the pros.

I just want to leave you with this; I would never force my newfound way of living on anyone, especially not on a Christian who may find my views offensive. I am choosing to respect their views and hope for the same respect back, something that has been difficult for me to do. I realize that in order for peace to rule my life, I need to choose love and I can’t choose love if I keep choosing divide. I can’t help but respect those who are intentionally showing up in their lives wanting to be the best version of themselves and trying to make the world a better place– no matter what they believe in.

That’s all for now,

Val

{presets courtesy of @sulamitaiva}

 

7 Comments

  1. Maggie

    Val this is so refreshing! I’m so sorry people shunned you because of your beliefs but that just goes further in proving your point. Keep doing what you’re doing love ❤️

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    1. lifenotcensored

      Thanks for the love Maggie. I’m not without blame though, I’ve judged many for their beliefs when I was a Christian and after we stepped away too. I think that judgment itself has been the problem, not different beliefs. I’ve been working through a book by Gabby Bernstein titled “The Judgment Detox” whoa. It’s been taking some energy to get through that!

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  2. walkingthroughpsalms

    I think I understand where you are coming from although I’ve not experienced what you have. My views have changed over the years. I do believe in God and even in right and wrong, but I do not get the whole church culture. And I think when we start judging others we really get ourselves into trouble. Many in churches become judges, and that’s bad news.

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    1. lifenotcensored

      Hi there! I’ve met many who remain Christians and step away from the Church, it’s definitely not for everyone. I’m starting to view God as much bigger than the picture I was given as a child that has stuck with me all of these years and that’s where my search lies. I checked out your blog and I really respect your approach to your faith, all the best to you!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. walkingthroughpsalms

        Thanks! Yeah the strange thing is I am very community based, meaning I really enjoy a sense of community. And yet I don’t like what I see out there! Most of it has to do with doctrines, but at other times I just don’t feel accepted. I’m better off many times enjoying nature. There’s a healing in nature I think. Also I chose the Psalms because of how powerful they are but they are also so loved by other faiths. I’m very happy that those who read and follow my site are from different faiths. Yay! I follow your site because I find it very different and interesting! I hope it’s ok for a guy to be here. Sometimes it’s hard to tell. Peace.

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      2. lifenotcensored

        Dude I’m honored to have a guy here! I know it’s mostly directed towards a female audience, so I appreciate the support from a male! I’m also very community based, being a natural extrovert. In a sense it felt like we lost community when we left the church, but really it was just the idea of community because we never felt like we truly belonged in a real way. Nature has been what’s drawing me to the idea of God in everything, a spirit that connects everything that has energy. Anyways, your openness to people from different walks is very refreshing, keep it up.

        Liked by 1 person

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