Two years ago, my world came crashing down around me. Over the course of the next 4 months, my ever evolving world took an unexpected turn.
All it took was one question.
“Daddy. Why do you like to wear girl clothes?” my oldest daughter asks via a FaceTime chat.
Yes. I wrote that correctly. A FaceTime video chat.
I was stunned. I wasn’t ready for this.
Even though I knew it was coming, I wasn’t prepared. I had delayed out of fear. I also wasn’t ready to deal with the aftermath of telling my pastor and his wife.
“Are you gay”?
“Were you molested as a child?”
“Why aren’t you seeing a Christian counselor?”
No. No. Hell no.
It was a tense exchange. No matter how much I tried to explain this was a good thing, a never ending stream of conspiracy theory laden reasoning met my happiness and it’s staunch opposition.
“Maybe Satan is using you”.
“Maybe Satan is going around you just to get to someone else. “
“Maybe you’re mistaken”.
Prayer begat promises of friendship and refuge.
Acting outside the boundaries of church doctrine, I was basically stripped naked and left out in the cold. For the first time in my church life I wasn’t allowed to participate, teach and or even advise. I wasn’t even allowed to explain why.
As much as this pretty much was a total suckass. God had other ideas.
I have always been a strong believer of how the right people will come into your life at the right time. Through a rather heated and emotion filled conversation with my pastor, I was inadvertently introduced to someone who would give me guidance a therapist never could.
“You are okay”, she said. “There is no need to feel guilty.” “There is no need to hide.” “You have done nothing wrong.”
Being someone who was brought up in the church, guilt was a major influence in my life. The slightest bad thing would cause you to be left behind. As a child, I remember breaking down in tears in a department store. I couldn’t find my parents. I looked everywhere. The longer I couldn’t find them the more I began to panic. I worked myself into a tizzy thinking the rapture happened and I had been left behind.
(I suggest reading this again to get the full understanding)
This person, who I was introduced to would spent many hours on the phone with me really digging into areas of my life like no one has ever done.
Eventually, Beth and I would leave the church. I was asked to stand up in front of the church board…yes, the same one I was asked to resign from a couple months prior…and tell them “my story”. I did. At the end of my time, we stated we were exercising grace and dignity and would be leaving. Tears were shed, but it didn’t seem to last very long. We were soon to be ‘ghosted’.
The act of suddenly ceasing all communication with someone.
I was angry. I was hurt. I was liberated. I had read about these things happening to other people, but thinking it would ever happen to me wasn’t even on my radar.
Let me make this perfectly, clear. Leaving the church was the best thing to ever happen to me. Yes, I miss the church and also I do not miss the church. What was once thought of as a void, it is now a well of happiness. What was once considered family is now a non-spoken memory.
As a kid I loved the TV show Knight Rider. You had KITT, KARR, Goliath and all those cool gadgets. Knight Rider was cool, so the moment I learned of a DVD box set, I had to have and have I did.
My best friend warned me and attempted to persuade me not to watch it. He said I would ruin years of childhood memories if I did.
He was right. The show, according to today’s standards…..is really cheesy. I’m not sure I will ever look at it the same way again. Sigh.
Through a mature eye comes a deeper understanding.
Like Knight Rider, My childhood memories of the church came crashing down. Behind the facade was a reality I willfully ignored for years. Ignored out of selfishness and ignorance. I believed in the ‘us vs. them’ mentality. I listened to conservative news and views. I was in deep and found ways to justify where I was in order to make sure I was “church savvy”. In truthfulness, this was all a front. I hid from everyone and even myself the truth. This ‘outing’ was the 1.21 GigaWatts needed to propel myself forward in time. (..oh yeah, two pop culture references in one paragraph…win!)
Leaving the church has brought me closer to the real person of Jesus.
Leaving the church has brought me a new understanding for those who have been marginalized.
Leaving the church has allowed me to find my voice.
One of the first songs I can remember is Barry Manilow’s “I made it through the rain”. I used to sing along with Barry, trying to imitate his incredible voice. The lyrics have always held a special place in my life.
Looking back over the past two Years, I can truly sing this chorus.
I made it through the rain
I kept my world protected
I made it thought the rain
I kept my point of view
I made it through the rain
And found myself respected
By the others who
Got rained on too
And made it through
It’s been the best of times and the worst of times.
I’ve learned…. a lot.
I’ve cried…..a lot.
I’ve cursed …. fuck, I’ve cursed a lot.
What initially hurt me has instead made me a better and stronger woman. There are still many obstacles to overcome, but two years ago was the catalyst for today and hopefully many years to come.