hard to say: I am not alone

I sat in a horrified fury as the pastor spoke some of my greatest questions and deepest beliefs in a mocking tone in order to stress his point. Everybody laughed.

In one hour, the environment I had grown to love, where I felt spiritual freedom to think and believe and love exactly as I was made to, was demolished. In one hour, the kind, intelligent, and supportive people I had grown to respect transformed into enthusiastic bobble heads, shouting out their agreements and Amens before a point was even made.

My heart was broken, my spirit crushed. I cried hot tears of grief and mourning as I drove home from the young adult’s group that Monday evening. Once again, I do not belong.

In the days that followed, I felt achingly lonely. I tried to talk about it with the people I trusted most, who had previously been so open to growing together in our differences. But anytime I started to bring it up, the subject was immediately changed. It was clear they didn’t want to hear it.

I asked God to please help me understand what everyone else was in agreement with. What is wrong with me that I cannot find truth in this? The deafening silence that responded emptied my soul; I felt completely alone.

This is the exact spiritual abuse I was brought up in. The practice of: “if you are not with us, you are against us.” It is the reason I do not trust the church, the reason my spirit is uniquely sensitive. I did not belong then and I certainly do not belong now. But as much as I long for belonging, perhaps I was not made to belongPerhaps I was made to stand out. 

As I meditated on this thought, I began to feel a loving presence wrap its arms around my soul, filling me with peace and healing my heart. There is nothing wrong with me.

The subtle attempt to control God, or “the theology of more” as my therapist calls it, is simply not something I can ever come into any kind of agreement with. The command to always do more – pray more, worship more, give more, sacrifice more – in order to get closer to God. The idea that we must live a certain way and follow a set of laws in order to please God and receive His blessings – I choose to live outside of this idea, to turn away.

If God created each of us with different purposes and unique gifts, why would he want us to live exactly the same way? Can we not just trust God to tell each of us individually what he wants for us, without becoming so fearful of the unknown we must create laws in an attempt to control the outcome?

My turning away from the church feels strongly like turning every ounce of my being directly towards God. It is lonely and painful, losing the comforting sense of community I thought I’d acquired. But in letting go of this, I am stepping out of God’s way and allowing Him to love me and to do with me what He wants. Whatever that may be, I am on board. I trust His plan and His timing. I may be lonely, but I am certainly not alone.


hard to say: God loves me… apparently

I’ve been trying to write this story for weeks. In those weeks, I’ve learned two things. One: much as I’ve tried, there is no way to tell this story without sounding fucking crazy. And two: I experience it all over again anytime I so much as think about it.

Despite my distaste for religion and distrust of the church – the very organization that’s so wronged my family – I’ve been attending a Monday evening young adult’s service for months. I originally agreed to go with a friend so she wouldn’t have to go alone (heaven forbid) but when she bailed, I still went. This service is held at the church my sister attends – a church I think very little of – and she and her husband often lead worship.

I thought I knew my sister well up until that first night; but as I finally saw her in all her glory, I realized I’d been a fool.

This was not typical worship, where wannabe musicians fuel their egos and a congregation competes for the best Christian performance, no. This was something else. To witness my sister worshiping is to know, with absolute certainty, that something good and real is happening within her. She is generous enough to let it pour out of her mouth and into our desperately hungry hearts. And so I kept returning by myself.

One day, after spending Christmas with a good friend and engaging in a surprisingly honest conversation about God, our struggles and hope, I found myself praying. What I’d been doing before then can hardly be called prayer; I’d been yelling (and cursing) at God. But this time, armed with my friend’s encouragement, I asked God for a message. Nothing vague or confusing, but rather something undeniable to show me He was real and He loved me. Then, as was advised, I gave Him a deadline. I asked for His reply no later than the following evening, which was (conveniently) Monday night.

I went into service that Monday believing this was going to be it; I was going to get a message from God. Instead, I received a big, giant, God-sized middle finger in the face.

First of all, some other people lead worship that night and it sucked; I felt nothing. Then, after the speaker gave a few prophetic words, which were most definitely not meant for me, she went on to speak about walking in faith through disappointment. HA! I left that night in a dark cloud. “Fine! Fuck you, too!” I shouted on my drive home.

The following week I did not want to go. I felt tired and irritated and it seemed pointless. My friend (the same one who originally bailed on me) once again convinced me to accompany her. There was a brief moment, sitting in my car, where I took a breath and thought aloud, I still choose you… you dick.

Worship began and in all my irritation, I could not focus. It didn’t help that my friend was putting on the most perfect performance I’d ever seen. But instead of writing her off as a total phony (because I really have no way to know one way or the other) I decided to sit my ass down and try to ignore her. I took off my boots and sat cross-legged in my seat. I closed my eyes, controlled my breathing, put all other people out of my mind, and just listened. And in my meditative state, weird shit started to happen.

It started with a very strong tingling traveling up my spine, causing me to gasp upon reaching my neck. Then I was bombarded with thoughts of my niece. I had not naturally reached for these thoughts; they were put there quite forcefully.

I saw her running toward me, smiling, arms open wide. I saw her laughing and jumping on the couch. I saw us dancing together with Taylor Swift’s Shake it off on repeat. I remembered dancing with her in my arms when she became tired but insisted on continuing. I saw her throwing a tantrum, scrunching up her face and stomping around. I remembered the effort it took not to laugh.

Then I began to feel it – a love I didn’t know existed, let alone that I was capable of. I thought of how when my niece misbehaves or rebels, I somehow love her even more. And in that moment, as I became completely overwhelmed by love, I felt an undeniable THIS IS HOW I LOVE YOU. Then my sister started to sing Taylor Swift’s Shake it off and I dissolved into tears.

My tears quickly turned to laughter as I realized I was crying to a Taylor Swift song. Then I opened my eyes, remembered where I was and wiped away the evidence. All around me people were flailing about, completely unaware I’d just had a breakthrough.

Since then, I’ve been walking around on shaky legs, trying to adapt to a reality that obliterates much of what I thought to be true. I’ve only been able to tell portions of this story to two people: my sister and my therapist. Both times I kept it short because I started crying all over again. Hell, I’m crying again right now. Apparently God loves me. Holy shit.


resolution pollution

It’s resolution time again! Time to look back on all the mistakes and regrets of the passing year. Time to look forward with unrealistic expectations for how everything is somehow going to be completely different this time.

When I look back on 2015, my honest thought is: well done, me. I did a lot of good, hard work this year. My honest thought when I look forward to 2016 is simply this: I am onto something good. Don’t stop.

I haven’t shared any of my writing for a few months. Like most of what I do in life, I didn’t worry about why – I didn’t put much thought into it at all – I just stopped because I felt like it. Only much later did I think about my decision. It had become time for me to dig deeper, somewhere uncomfortable and frightening; and to do that, I needed a break from sharing myself.

When I left off, I was purposefully going on dates by myself (in public) for the purpose of getting to know/falling in love with myself (as you would with another person). It was going well. Actually, the last date I’d written about went poorly but still did its job. I went on a couple more solo dates I never bothered to write about before stopping altogether. They weren’t bad; they just didn’t feel meaningful anymore. I had outgrown my simple plan.

This is the part of my story where I would normally begin to roll my eyes at myself, but my eyes are steady. This is all very real for me. It would have to be or I would never do it.

It irritated the shit out of me – how, without thought or intention, the quest to know and love myself unexpectedly yet naturally evolved into the necessity to seek God. My eyes remain steady.

I am searching and I am battling and the struggle is constant. But somewhere within all the noise and horseshit, I am finding glimpses of hope and love, and I am holding onto this truth with everything I have. Even if that means tattooing “God is love” on my forearm. I definitely tattooed “God is love” on my forearm last week.

And so I head into the New Year without a typical unrealistic resolution. Instead, two very powerful words urge me forward: Keep Going. Just thought I’d share. 🙂


hard to say: I believe


I am angry. A response I recognize as my immediate protective reaction when I encounter something scary, difficult, painful, or disturbingly true. This case may involve all four.

You see, I am reluctantly reading Brian D. McLaren’s profoundly infuriating book: Finding Faith. Not because I am actually searching for faith or spirituality or God, but simply because my Christian therapist told me I may find it interesting; he has earned my trust.

That’s how they get you! Shut up, anger, I’ve got this covered.

Closed mindedness irritates me. When one must consciously filter the information they are exposed to in order to maintain the walls of their fragile belief system, refusing to consider or even listen to an opposing opinion (a voluntary tunnel-vision manner of existing) my hackles rise.

In an attempt to uphold my ideal of open mindedness, I agreed to read this book. At the most this is going to help me understand my family better, I reassured myself as I began to turn the pages. Within these pages, my entire belief system (the belief in nothing) quickly began to crumble.

Atheism has offered me many things. The comfort of not being alone in my opposition of religion. The satisfaction of transferring the hurt I felt back onto those who had hurt me. An identity to latch on to when I was filled with uncertainty and confusion. But it appears now as an obstacle. One I can no longer deny and one I must abandon if I wish to move forward.

I can’t honestly call myself an atheist because I can’t confidently say I do not believe in God. (It only took Part 1 to strip me of my cozy label by the way.) If I am honest with myself, there is no possible way I could be made so increasingly angry by something I have no belief in.

So with apprehensive faith in… I don’t know what, and the uneasy feeling of walking around with an open wound on my face, I will continue reading this goddamn book.

Perhaps all of this time it hasn’t been that I don’t believed in God, it’s been that I fucking hate Him. I suppose that’s a start.