sent in by Lavonne
My husband made me aware of this site almost a year ago. It was a "testimony" he showed me today that convinced me it was time for me to share.
I was always aware of heaven and hell/angels and demons - the conflict for my soul that I would need to heed lest I suffer torment for all eternity.
My earliest memory is of a tornado threatening just before my 5th birthday. Mom assured me that, if a tornado did strike, I would be in heaven for my birthday. I wanted a cake and presents.
I responded to my first altar call when I was 7 years old. Mom was surprised, telling me I had "asked Jesus into my heart" years earlier. But that minister said that, if I did not love my brother, whom I could see, how could I love Jesus, whom I could not see" - I John, I think, I don't want to look it up. My brother is 3 years younger. Growing up, I did not always "love" him. I responded to the altar call and the hymn, "Just As I Am".
During ensuing years, I was very aware of all the emotions that a christian girl should not have. Any time I heard "Just As I Am" or a similar hymn, I began to feel so bad about my sinful feelings - and started walking. We were church people twice on Sunday and every Wednesday. It was never questioned. It was our life.
At some point in my early teens, my parents talked to me about "assurance of salvation" and gave me verses. I was a bright but rather plain teenager. My older sister was more adventurous - a source of significant family distress. As Dad and my sister were having a confrontation, Mom would be in my bedroom, praying for my sister. It was not good. But I was the good daughter.
There were times our church youth groups elected me to leadership positions. My mom said it was too bad no boy could fill those positions. My dad let me know that I was "too much and not enough" - too domineering, not submissive enough - too smart and outspoken, not demure or feminine enough - it was assumed I'd never marry, I was "too much and not enough" to attract a man.
So I went to college - you've probably now guessed we're talking some years ago. I attended a christian college as a freshman (1969) and became involved with politcal activism and civil rights, much to the dismay of my parents. I transferred to a local state college for my sophomore year. I had been scared by what I was becoming. I admired and wanted to be like the demure wives and mothers I saw at church. I was scared. I was especially scared by a worldly, state college and the potential for a non-christian roommate. I joined the Navigators. Those tales are too numerous. I also gained 20 pounds.
Cut to the chase....
At age 30, I decided that life was too hard with god and I would do it on my own. During that decade, I met the man who became my husband. My parents did not attend our wedding, as we had had a "consenting adult" relationship prior to our marriage. While his mother was a fundamentalist, she gave us our wedding, because she knew we were happy.
At age 40, we moved to his hometown, to simpilfy our lives, return to "country". I had an intense desire to belong. I joined my mother-in-law's church. It was actually kinder than the one I was raised in, as children were not constantly hearing about hell. That didn't happen until they reached the "age of accountability" during teen years.
At first, I was hoping that my husband would join the church and we could be part of his "home" community and church together. This church reminded me rather of a modern version of Amish. They take care of their own. While a member, I had access to plumbers, electricians, carpenters.... I was well cared for.
After a few years, though, I began to recognize family/church "traditions" were really rules, with a nicer name. I began to wake up in 1998 when I heard my sister-in-law was pregnant. I knew I did not want an infant or toddler to associate me with a religion that, when s/he reached critical ages (13-17) made him/her afraid to venture out and make the world his/her oyster. I also began to realize that I was glad my husband would never be a member because they afforded me greater freedom, due to having a husband who was a "friend of the faith", not a "member". Since my primary duty was to be subject to him, I was given greater latitude.
The final straw was the belittling/cruelty I saw in my professional role in the schools that church girls did.
It is a tribute to my husband that he supported me when I felt I needed to become a "member". When I began to realize I might need to leave, he told me he would support whatever decision I made.
He had been a freethinker for some time.
When I left the church, I still held to the christian religion, but was able to talk about it with my husband for the first time in years. I hadn't realized how afraid I had become to discuss these things, as his views made me fear for his eternal security.
I began to read. A mainline minister actually gave me some books that were a personal epiphany.
I am a gardener. I love the outdoors and nature. Deism suits me beautifully. My husband is an atheist, but is open to deism, especially since so many of the holidays involve great food.
In coming to myself, I've been able to lose weight and be the person I always thought was inside there, somewhere.
In some ways, I regret that I was 52 before I was able to free myself from the fears and chains of christianity. In other ways, though, it just feels so good.
Became a Christian: Mom says I was 4 years old or so, the first time I responded to an altar call that I remeber was age 7
Ceased being a Christian: 52
Labels before: Fundamental, Evangelical, Navigators, Apostolic Christian
Labels now: deist fits bets
Why I joined: fear of hell
Why I left: First, I did not want an infant nephew to associate me with the Church, then, because it made so much sense