Coming out to my family. OMG. AAAaahhhhhh.

comments 12
leaving Christianity

I’m dying here.  I can’t keep up pretenses any longer with my family.  I wanted to wait in order to give them all time to adjust to the fact that we will no longer be missionaries, but their reaction to just that was so sharp and put me on the defensive so much that they’re forcing my hand.  If you asked me two weeks ago when I wanted to tell my family that I no longer believed in God, I would have said, “Never.  They never need to know this.  They never need to go through the pain of thinking their beloved daughter/sister is now hell-bound.”  I was serious when my best friend asked me two months ago about when I may come out of the closet and I said, trembling, “After my parents die.  They could never handle this news.”

This is incredibly surreal.   I honestly feel like I’m about to wake up from this internal nightmare and everything will be as it was.  Have you ever had a bad dream and you just feel so terrible and you scream, “Noooooo!!!!!” only to wake up moments later and find yourself SO grateful that it was just a dream?  I’m screaming, but not waking up.  I cannot believe I’m going through this.  I just never, ever thought this was possible.

I just wrote them the following email and am about the send it.  Remember what I wrote about my psychosomatic symptoms yesterday?  Every one of them is in full throttle.  OOOOOOHH my gosh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I am more nervous than I ever have been in my entire life.  I have absolutely NO idea what to expect or how they will react, but based on the past, I’m reeeeally not optimistic about it.  Scared even. AAaaaahhhhhhhhh.

::

My Dear Family,

I’ve been thinking about this moment for many months.  My imagining this moment has been a dark cloud of fear and inner turmoil consuming my existence that I’ve pushed out of my mind as much as I possibly could, but I think for everyone’s sake, I can’t anymore.

I don’t believe in God or spiritual things.

Please understand the following:

1.  I love you all so very, very much.

2. I have a very difficult time communicating clearly to you guys in person or on the phone.  I feel defensive, on edge, losing my train of thought, unable to express myself.  Writing is much, much easier.  While I understand this isn’t ideal by any means, it is the only way I can be sure to say everything I want (and need) to say without feeling defensive or reactive.  I know you will want to talk to me after this, but please understand that if you ask for explanation or clarification, you will get the best response from me if I’m able to reply via writing rather than over the phone or in person. I love you so very, very much.

3.  This is my, [Teal’s] voice, words, and beliefs.  Please give me the honor and respect as me being my own self with the ability to think for myself, make my own decisions, and come to my own conclusions.  Do not blame [Silver (my husband)] for this.  That is both completely unfair to him and to me. Every part of this is coming from me. I love you so very, very much.

4.  I am afraid.  Very afraid.  Not of what this will mean for me, but of what it will mean for you and our relationship.  Sharing deep things with my family has always been difficult for me. But this pretty much tops all of that.  So just know that however you feel, I probably feel and have felt worse about it.  And please don’t confirm my fears by making this confession entirely unsafe for me by reacting in any way but with lovingkindess.  I love you so very, very much.

5.   I know what my Orthodox Christian response to every angle of this would be.  I’ve had my own debates within myself about what I believe, so what I need from you most is to provide care, comfort, and understanding.  You have no idea how lonely and painful this process has been for me.  I love you so very, very much.

6.  As crazy as this sounds, I can completely understand that God very well could exist and gave me this unbelief as a gift (just as belief is a gift).  After walking through the deepest pain I’ve ever experienced for several months (due to my disbelief), I’m now freer than I have ever been in my entire life.  And therefore, feel closer to God. I love you so very, very much.

7.  Belief is not a choice, so being upset with me is silly.  Check out my attached journal entry for my explanation about belief. [I attached my blog entitled Santa Claus, unicorns, and Doodle Bears. Uncontrollable belief]. I love you so very, very much.

8.  This started before I went to college, but it finally resulted in unbelief just before we left [overseas country]. I love you so very, very much.

9.  We’ve been living on a[n overseas country’s] budget for two people for the last year, and over half of that year was in [American state].  We are almost completely out of money, but never wanted to respond with need when I talked to you because I didn’t want you to look back on your support with regret.  The same goes with where we are staying – we have been paying them rent we don’t really have.  So your response about living here on other people’s money is incorrect.  But financial security means nothing to me compared to what this will do for relationship, so please understand that. I love you so very, very much.

10.  There are very, very few people that know about my unbelief, and you can understand the pain and difficulty in revealing this.  So please do not tell anyone.  Please respect my request to be the one to share this with others in my own timing. I love you so very, very much.

11. Our choice in not going back to the mission field has been something I’ve wanted for several months.  [Silver] agreed just recently.  Please see this as an act of integrity and courage, because I could fake it for years in fear of facing the truth about where I am. I love you so very, very much.

12.  If everything I used to believe is true, I completely believe that I would be in heaven when I die.  My belief in Jesus still saved me; I still believe that everything I equated with him is the best way to live (love, compassion, selflessness, graciousness, etc.).  And I think that God can see my heart is still pure and that I would believe if I could (again, see #7).  I love you so very, very much

Again, I love you so much.  I wish I could give you all a hug right now.

Much much love,

[Teal]

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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.

12 Comments

  1. You brave, brave, brave woman! As someone who had a similar conversation with my Mormon parents ten years ago, I, too, felt the intense fear, heartbreak, and despair over what losing my faith would mean for my relationships. You sound dedicated to personal and intellectual truth, and this will carry you through whatever reception your loved ones give you. Thanks for sharing your courageous journey!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Dear Teal,

    Though I would never dissuade you from “coming out”, this post makes me feel as if you’re acting from a place of fear, rather than wanting to do the right thing on you own time. Emotion can drive us to be reckless, fear can be overwhelming and threaten to force action. Reading your blog, I wish I was closer so I could just sit with you, but this seems almost as if you’re willing to risk it all. I didn’t get a sense of that from your other posts, but rather that you want to get situated in your own skin.

    It took me 7 years to come out, and even then it was a slow tip-toe out of the shadow. Even then, there was much to do and rebuilding relationships was part of it. But I had prepared myself for the fall out, I was certain that I could handle the rebuking and the exile. I owned my unbelief.

    I can only recommend that you sleep on this. Let it rest and then come back to it and read your letter. If you still feel that this is what you want to do, without the fear driving your finger towards ‘send’, then click.

    Be strong, you are more powerful than any fear.

    Good be with you.

    Like

    • I’m so grateful for your care. Really, it truly means so much. I sent the email after sleeping on it and considering it for a couple of days (and two rare friends and my husband read it over), so it wasn’t a rash decision. As much as I feel like this could have been a gentler process, I feel like this will be good for me — freedom will feel SO good. I don’t even have a context to think about it because I’ve been afraid of peoples’ opinions for so long! How is your family now?

      Like

  3. heftystone says

    Best of luck. I’ve written several different versions of my “out letter.” I still haven’t sent any of them, though. But the time will come, sooner rather than later. This post was an encouragement.

    Liked by 1 person

      • heftystone says

        I successfully sent one to my dad a few days ago. He’s a fairly liberal Christian who doesn’t believe in Hell. So he took the news ok. Still disagrees with me, but respects and accepts me. I’m working on a letter to my father-in-law, who is a fundamentalist, presuppositionalist, young-earth creationist. We’ll see how it goes.

        Like

  4. You made your decision and took the step. Love (with clear communication) can overcome pain, but of course may take time, even years. But whatever happens, not the end of the world. A new beginning. You’ve been honest. Stay the course and be good to yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

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