A staff member of the church we used to attend, one of the core founders actually, a mom of 3, and a friend of mine just recently found out about our unbelief. Heartbroken, she wanted to talk over lunch.
I didn’t want to inundate her with all the standard atheist answers, especially because I was such a strong leader in our church and she always used me as an example to her children. “I’m so grateful that my girls have someone like you to look up to,” she would tell me. So, I was honest with her about my unbelief but eased into the effects on my life.
For example, she mentioned how scary it must be living day to day without any sort of guide. I must feel so lost having no anchor from which to guide my life and daily decisions. What do I do? How do I form any sort of basis or theme for my life? If everything is subjective and there is no solid foundation, is that not the scariest thing in the world?
I agreed with her to an extent because I felt relating to her worldview was important in this particular conversation. But I now feel the need to delve further into this topic, hence this post, so that I can communicate more clearly to her (and others and myself) why I’m not really “lost” and “afraid.” Or, as another Christian friend recently told me, I am “in free fall, in darkness and confusion.” Hm. I disagree. Let’s explore why.
I don’t need someone telling me what to do. In fact, having that has crippled me.
For pretty much… actually all… of my life, there has been someone in authority “guiding” me. My parents, church leaders, the Bible, my pastors, abusive relationships, lifestyle agreements from my university, doctrinal statements from our particular denomination, my signature on such statements when I became employed as a missionary, the country, area, and regional directors over us as missionaries, GOD himself!!! … etc. I have never, ever had a time in my life where I have been free, myself, completely just me to answer to when it came to making my own life decisions. How crazy is that???
Every single tiny decision of every single tiny moment of every single day of my life was motivated by an external force. As well as every single big decision. Here are just a few:
- God was the reason I didn’t pursue my interest in brain surgery. Despite my grades, ACT score, and scientific understanding, I was called to be a missionary not a doctor.
- God was the reason I made every major move in my life (3000 miles away for college at a Christian University, back home for therapy, to another state for missional work, and overseas as missionaries).
- God was the reason I ate chocolate sometimes (celebrate the life he gave me) and vegetables other times (be a good steward of the body he gave me).
- God was the reason I stayed up late talking to friends (I was ministering to them by being an example of Christ to them) and waking up early (to pray, read the Bible, worship).
- God was the reason I studied hard for tests, and I always asked for his help while I took them.
- God was the reason I died my hair red for a year (the Holy Spirit set me on fire and set me free).
- He was the reason I wore colorful clothing (showing the world the Joy of the Spirit in me).
- He was the reason I got the job at a cubicle that almost drove me crazy.
- He was the reason I got the job I did working with homeless people in the inner city
- He was the reason I married my husband (God told me I would marry the man who proposed the way my husband did. And I prayed and prayed and PRAYED before I was sure I knew he was the man for me).
- God was the reason we sold our apartment and lived nomadic lives for the past 2.5 years raising awareness and support for missions.
- ……. sooooooo many more things
So, now I can finally, FINALLY do what I want. What I WANT. For me, just me. I wrote an earlier blog that touched on this subject, What Would Teal Do. It speaks more to my feelings on this topic when I first realized this strange freedom.
But having a covering is so necessary. Authority protects you.
This would be the Christian response to what I said above. I believed this wholeheartedly my whole life. And you know what? Authority actually SCREWED me up. I DID trust them. But instead, they did everything BUT protect me. Authority walked all over me and told me to obey anyway. Authority told me to sacrifice my life, my identity, my sexuality, my everything for the greater freedom. This has been the case for pretty much all authority that has ever been over me, especially those most recently over us during our missions journey who threw us all over the world (truly), deceived us about what our life would be, and then told us to be good ole Christians, bite the bullet, and be flexible because that’s what God would want.
Does that sound like protection to you???
Honestly guys, I DON’T think authority protects. I think it can be extremely dangerous, and has been for me over and over and over again in my life. You want examples? Just ask. I’ll go on for days.
Now, there is a place for law and order. I am protected by murder being illegal, among a thousand other things. But I don’t not murder because some cop tells me I can’t. Or because some God tells me I can’t. I choose not to murder because I, myself, don’t want to.
So, back to the original thought: Am I really so lost?
I think I was 1000000% more lost believing and following authority so blindly, whatever I placed my authority in, whether it be someone’s interpretation of the Bible or my experiences with God. I’m now dealing with all this lostness I had before, seeking therapy today for all sorts of problems that were concealed by religion for so long.
So all of those “guiding” moments from theism? If I’m ever to hope to find real freedom and guidance in this life, keep me as far away from that as possible.