The last time I wrote one of these was in 2017, but based on the last paragraph of part two the story seems to have left off somewhere a few years prior to that.
I know I should read the first two parts (you’re certainly more than welcome to read them but I don’t think it’s necessary to follow today’s post as I’m making a fairly large leap in time: part 1 & part 2) in order to create some sort of cohesiveness to this “series.” But I can’t bring myself to do it.
The person in that story, the person who wrote those posts, feels like a completely different person than who I am today. I love her but at the same time I’m a little embarrassed by her, the way we tend to be of our past selves. I admire her but also feel a tad sorry for her for reasons I’m not quite sure how to articulate. I miss her and yet I don’t want to be her again. I recognize her but as if she’s someone else and not my reflection. She was naive and felt everything terribly deeply. At the present I feel tired by all there is to care about to the point I kind of retreated and I’m much more cynical of things I took for granted to be solid–religiously, politically, and otherwise. From some angles it seems like the only thing the two of us have in common is the seed in our chests for Truth. A seed we’re just begging with all our might to grow faster, damnit!
The last five months or so have been ones of contemplation and doubt and destruction; of a fierce desire to rebuild with the ever-growing presence of indecision regarding what materials to even attempt to use were I to rebuild. At first, I mainly sat on the rubble of my former tower. I mourned the loss but enjoyed the fresh air. Then I felt paralyzed by the not knowing of what to do next, but it was nice to have the choice. Finally I got up and I started walking without a sense of direction. I can still see the debris of what I once called my home way off in the distance, which sometimes makes me homesick and other times reminds me why I left in the first place.
If you think I’m speaking too metaphorically, I wouldn’t disagree you. I want to blame it on things being hard to explain. But the truth is I’m just a coward, so I’ve been trying to say what I mean without saying what I mean.
Recently someone told me I was one of the most genuine people they ever met. That meant a lot to me and I think it’s part of the reason part 3 surfaced further in my little writer heart. I try to shoot straight, especially here because I have the time and space to collect my thoughts before pouring them out. Although, I will say it doesn’t always feel like pouring. Times like this one feel like letting myself bleed.
So let’s try to be a tad more to the point already: On these last five months of the adventure I’ve dubbed “getting there,” I’ve gone from thinking my questions, doubts, and skepticism about mainly my Christian faith to be a season of that faith to feeling it was more of a trajectory toward inevitable atheism to sensing it’s more like I started on a journey toward truth that has no obvious path and potentially no final or comfortable destination. Just an immense amount of scholarly information and personal experiences (of myself and others) and philosophical perspectives that will help clear up one specific thing while muddying about 14 others–which is quite frankly really fucking infuriating.
There have been times in the past where I’ve questioned the existence and/or goodness of God because of my own periods of dark mental health issues or because of getting a closer view of the aftermath of evil while working with survivors of war and genocide and sexual violence and such. This time feels different because it doesn’t come from a place of hurt on my behalf or on the behalf of others. Nothing emotional triggered it. I’m examining beliefs with my left brain this time.
Even since I was midway through high school I’ve strongly believed it was necessary to question and think critically about everything if you sincerely wanted to get to the bottom of it all. At the same time, it was like I was only letting my rational brain out on a very short leash and on the very specific condition she had to have all the loose ends tied up by the end of the business day, no matter how sloppily it had to be done. The model served me well in many ways and I’ve grown and shed stances and understandings through it. But not so long ago, my left brain started refusing to cooperate, began demanding to be let off the leash and travel wherever the hell it pleases. It needed (needs) to ask questions (not going to get specific about what those are because this post will be long enough) and be skeptical without a pressing deadline.
It feels a bit like taking off shoes which are super uncomfortable and way too small for you, shoes you’ve been walking in for miles and miles. It’s refreshing and feels right and makes sense to do. But the catch is you’ve still got quite a bit of walking to do and it’s all on gravel. And what I’m wanting to know is do I get new shoes eventually or will my feet grow so calloused I won’t need a pair at all?
Does that make any sense? No? Cool cool cool cool.
I mentioned earlier that I was a coward. Being a coward requires being afraid of something, so let’s dive into that. Might as well completely bleed out if I’m going to bleed for y’all, right?
I’m scared if I stop believing in God or, really, even if I hint it’s a possibility then people won’t love me anymore.
That was hard for me to write because it was hard for me to admit.
For the record, I mean primarily people I have a meaningful relationship with. I’m scared to been seen as other in situations where I’ve previously belonged snugly. I’m scared of people feeling betrayed because we have strong or significant memories together that revolve around a shared spirituality. I’m scared of people writing me off and not taking me or my wrestling seriously, because they assume I’m being tempted by the devil or whatever. I’m scared of people feeling like they can’t talk to me about what’s going on in their lives because they think I’m looking down on them. I’m scared if I lose the beliefs I’ve held while forming relationships with people who also held them, then those people will look at me and feel like there’s nothing left worth holding onto.
Hey, I know all that perhaps sounds rather melodramatic to you, but to me it feels quite heavy and real and based on my experiences of seeing individuals leave Christian groups throughout my youth and college years, not entirely unfounded. So much of my community both near and distant geographically is rooted in Christian belief. Not all. I have friends who are atheists, agnostics, and Muslims. But a lot of my community is Christian. And so I’m afraid.
There’s a part of me that knows those who love me truly and deeply will love me no matter what. But you can be loved and still feel left out. You can be in a loving relationship with a friend or family member and still have the dynamics of that relationship change in ways you don’t love. Being loved doesn’t mean things will always stay the same. And the problem is I want everything to stay the same. Except me.
I lay out those fears not because I’m at a place where I’m ready to say I don’t believe in God. But I’m not in a place where I can say much more than I don’t know. I don’t know what my beliefs are about much of anything and I don’t imagine arriving at a decision quickly or neatly. I’m like a gymnast who sprung into the air to do flips and shit but instead of making a landing, I’m just twirling in the air getting sick to my stomach. Gravity stopped working and I have to readjust.
With all that said, I’m not depressed. I’m actually in one of the best states I’ve ever been mental health wise. Sure, winter is approaching and I’m nervous seasonal depression could make a visit, but for now, I’m actually pretty happy and feel more awake and alive and free than I have for a good while. I’m in a good place.
I’ve been taking time most mornings to sit at my desk in silence and contemplate life. In the car, I listen to podcasts that challenge my beliefs and my doubts. I’m reading a book about atheism throughout history. I go to church, and I really like it, even though I’m weary of building relationships with spiritual people due to all my fears listed above. And sometimes I still talk to God.
Even more annoying, sometimes I feel still like I hear back.
It is what it is. A fucking mess!
But I’m getting there.
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Bye and I luh u