Death by Fear.

comments 6
leaving Christianity

People may experience different psychosomatic symptoms during emotional crises, but the reality that the emotional affects the physical is no less true.  Right now, I feel like every part of my body is trembling.  I’ve completely lost my appetite.  Food is an object rather than something I desire.  I find sleep elusive.  My heart beats so strongly I feel its rhythm in my ears.  My circulation doesn’t seem right because I am both too hot and too cold.  My extremities are tingly.  I am one thought away from tears at all times.  My digestion is abnormal.  And forget the butterflies; I have spiders in my stomach.

Why?  I am confronting my over-two-and-a-half-decade-long deepest fear – and not just confronting it, but swimming in it, soaking in it, drowning in it.  And instead of finding freedom, I find sickness because everything I feared would happen did – and is. Even more so. Still.

What happened? 

Okay so, remember how I said I’m a closet atheist Christian missionary female?  Well, these past couple days our leaving America and returning to the overseas mission field became a reality.   We received some administrative approval we had been waiting months for.  This meant we had two choices: (1) Go overseas and put a few more nails and years in our coffin, I mean closet.  (2) Don’t go and reveal to hundreds of people that have been helping us along this journey that we are no longer going to be missionaries.  We’ve been considering these two choices for months, but every time we think about number 2, we shudder in fear of extreme disappoint and disapproval of every single person that knows and loves us.  Not to mention it would make us jobless and homeless.

But the call of authenticity and freedom has grown louder and louder, and I’m so tired, just absolutely exhausted and stifled, from living a lie.  So we decided to jump out.

What is out?

We didn’t even say “atheism” or “change of beliefs” yet.  All we said was that we weren’t going because it no longer felt right to us and we didn’t have peace about it anymore.  Some people supported us.  But those closest to us………… I was not prepared for their fire.

I tremble now replaying the words I heard them speak to me, to my husband.  Betrayal, they said.  I thought that we could gradually introduce them to our new set of beliefs, but the extreme pain that I feel as a result of their venom makes me simultaneously feel like I have to tell them I’m an atheist (because I can’t go through this again when we do), and yet so entirely and utterly unsafe to do so.

My heart is in a blender and my mind is staring at it.  Logically, I can overcome this.  I know that I must be free from them, from their power over me, from this deep deep fear that has lurked in the depths of my soul my entire life.  But emotionally, this is suicide.

Though my opinion of the Bible has completely changed, I still think there is something to this verse:

“Above all else, guard you heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”  Proverbs 4:23.

Above all else?  I’ve done a terrible job of guarding my heart the past couple days.  But at what cost?  Is it better to be alive and a slave, or dead and free?

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The Author

I'm a closet atheist christian missionary. Paradigm shifts happen frequently for those who allow themselves to think critically about currently held beliefs and openly about new ones. I’ve developed the skill, or perhaps addiction, for change but the community around me is slow to catch up -- and would damn me if they knew where I stood.

6 Comments

  1. And I would say guarding your heart can also include your mind (?). Your sanity; your practical issues like income and housing. Lots of fear, and a long time in fear-based faith. Not easy. Not easy at all. Hang in there. I’m sure you two will figure out a wise path forward. Maybe focus on the “good work” rather than the “god work”?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good work vs. god work — I like that a lot. And yes, we have some “good work” dreams that we’ll be able to work towards now that we can put down some roots near home. Guarding my heart can also include my mind — I like that. Thank you!

      Like

  2. My experience in “coming out” (sounds like we’re dirty or vile…Must come up with a better more appropriate phrase) is very similar to yours. I was rejected by my mother, extended family and just about everyone I knew. Before I had “revealed” my genuine self, I felt as if I was dying and that if anyone really knew what I thought they would literally try to exorcise me; even though the church I was raised in didn’t do such things.

    The relief of being true to myself was completely worth it though, even with the verbal attacks and being ostracised by many I thought would respect my position. I could then get to the real work of redefining my existence beyond the shackles of religion, and find my true meaning and purpose in life.

    Your situation is different, and I think it could be a lot more intense. (if I understand correctly, you are dependent on the church for your living. I have not read the rest of your blog completely.) Forgive yourself for not being true to yourself, right now you are in a situation that calls for caution and strategy and tact is needed in reaching your goal.

    Stay committed to your true values, stay safe (in the physical sense) and remain committed to your plan to escape from these bonds. Freedom is better than slavery! But death is final and I don’t think there is a reason to martyr yourself.

    Right now, as I have no details of who or where you are, I offer my support as a fellow human being and atheist. I know there are hard times ahead, know that you can overcome the obstacles, and that beyond the fear and the anxiety is a life of authenticity, filled with joy and genuine meaning and connection.

    You have my empathy and love, my support and encouragement. I only wish there was more I could offer and do.

    {Would you allow me to share this post via my own network (Facebook and reblogging)? Perhaps there is more advice, support and even real help that could come from sharing your story}

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, thank you SO MUCH for your support. It means more than I can say. And hearing how you have been through a similar situation, I truly believe you can understand me and being understood and known — what a gift! There are very few that give that gift to me right now.
      Yes, we are dependent upon the church for our income. So leaving means losing so much. Though, the financial ramifications and incomparable to the relational ones. Having used to be a Christian who loved everyone as equally and as non-judgmentally as I could (of course not completely, because I see now how disguised judgment can be), I am astounded at some of the responses we have been given so far. Thank you for reminding me to be forgiving of myself — what a beautiful concept.
      And yes, you are more than welcome to share this with your circles. I can’t imagine our circles intersecting that much, and even if they did, perhaps it would aid in setting me free 😉 Either way, I could use the extra support.
      I am so grateful for your empathy and encouragement. What a beautiful response!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I wish I could send private messages on this here wordpress 😛

        Your gratitude brought me to tears (still teary as I type this). Thank you for reminding me that the values I base my life on (empathy, kindness, love and humanity) are not insignificant.

        The gift is that we can share our stories and contribute to uplifting each other 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on The Atheist Me and commented:
    Please offer you support and encouragement to these wonderful people, who find themselves in the repressive grip of a religious group. Show them that they have already started to conquer their fear, and overcome adversity.

    Liked by 1 person

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