Many months ago I told you the story of my deconversion from conservatism. Since then, many of you have asked me for more of the story; specifically, what led me away from the church? I left out that detail originally, because I felt it would distract from the intended message, it was its own story, and frankly, I wasn’t sure I could write it yet.
To be honest, as I write this now, I am unsure I will be able to finish this or publish it. For all of our sakes, I hope I can.
I was in the church nursery from the day my pediatrician said it was allowed. I only had to be escorted out of Big Church once for misbehavior. We prayed before every meal, showed up to church every time the doors were open, and only spent time with other church families. I attended a Southern Baptist private school, was only allowed to watch church-approved programming, and at almost forty am still trying to learn the bands and music I missed out on.
I will never forget the humiliation in seventh grade Sunday School. We were making cards for soldiers, and I drew a peace sign on the front. The teacher almost flew across the room, snatched it and ripped the front cover, all the time screaming about the devil and please GOD rid us of Satan and his evil; this upside down broken cross has brought Satan in and…I ran out of the room at this point.
With visions of yachts for mission trips and rules against tampons, wars on SpongeBob and videos of abortions shown to junior high students, this church tiptoed the line between evangelical and fundamentalist. I could tell stories for days.
I finally escaped this hell on earth and did okay until I reached adulthood. That is when the shit hit the fan. And that is where this story becomes personal, painful, and passionately raw.
I became extremely ill, and suffered through years of misdiagnoses, most of which were of mental illness. I think every single person in my life was convinced I was a hypochondriac. It did not help that my mother traveled a similar path, and died at the age of fifty without any “real” diagnoses.
I felt alone. I felt crazy. I was sick, exhausted, and terrified. I continued in therapy, saw a psychiatrist, took all the medications… I did everything they told me to do, but it never worked. And the church “family” kept telling me if I just prayed more, trusted in God more, had more faith, it would all work out. They put the burden back on ME, in the ultimate game of victim blaming in the name of Jesus.
I was determined to get better. I went to so many different doctors, I lost count. Although my condition deteriorated rapidly after the birth of my daughter, I was not diagnosed with adrenal insufficiency until she was five. It took five years of being extremely ill with a potentially deadly disease to finally get that portion of my illness defined. It was an additional three years before we realized there was more, and I was finally diagnosed with an extremely rare genetic disorder.
Where were all the church people during this? They had long since given up, because I guess if I had just trusted in Jesus a little bit more…But how do you reconcile this type of misery with an all knowing and all loving God? I cannot pray to a god who has so obviously forsaken me. If god truly creates each person in his image, what am I? A mistake? I cannot imagine a benevolent being intentionally doing this to a person; I honestly would not wish it on my worst enemy. This is not some “temporary trial”, nor is it something that developed later. I have a genetic disease – I was born with it – that causes misery and heartache and pain for me and for those around me. And I was 30 before we even started treating it correctly. We have suffered so much from this, our entire family.
I could not reconcile hating God. I was raised that to even question God is wrong, and to hate him is purely evil. For a while, I just ignored the issue, because the very thought made me feel horrible guilt. It was such a relief when I finally just let it go. I cannot say exactly when it happened…I am not even sure what year it was. I just know that eventually I realized that the entire concept was not something with which I felt comfortable. And in that final acceptance of reliance on myself, I discovered peace. I found strength within. And I realized it had been there the entire time.