I believe in a different God than is preached by the church I grew up in.
My God does not have “one true church,” unless by “church” you mean something different than what most people think it means. He participates in all of the religious paths of his children as they seek him.
My God does not give “keys” that are restricted to certain races, sexes, or classes of people. He bestows his power and authority upon all who desire to love and serve others the way he does, and they work together in unity.
I could go on with the distinctions, but I don’t need to put words to that anymore.
I’m at the point in my relationship with the church where the break up has happened, I’m ready to be done spinning, and try to be friends. It doesn’t matter whose fault it was, I don’t need my list of complaints anymore. I no longer feel the need to justify, to myself or anyone else, what happened or why. Come what may.
I’ve gone through crazy break-ups before. I was one of those young adults that got engaged to my high school beau. We’d known each other a long time, or what feels like a long time when you’re 18, and I was convinced that loyalty, a belief in destiny, and a willingness to work through our differences would be enough. I could overlook the cheating, the mental gymnastics, and the verbal and emotional abuse because there were so many things I still needed from him. And I wasn’t exactly blameless.
I needed the security of knowing I had a boyfriend. I honestly loved the way I could control a room because of that boyfriend. I was a mess. The details aren’t important, though I’m not afraid to share them. It was what it was. Was.
When we broke up and ended the engagement I went through a few phases. Some may skip a few steps or have a few extra steps of their own. But this is what I went through.
I forgave him for betraying my trust many times. Forgave may be too pure of a word for what I did. I ignored it. And now, he’s just going to up and walk away like none of my sacrifice matters? Where’s his loyalty?
It starts as shock. You know, when you can’t find words for anything, and everything seems like it’s monochromatic and you just want to sleep all the time. Am I even breathing? Turning off all of your senses is the only thing that makes sense.
I’m only in shock for a few days before the demands of living tell me I can’t remain senseless. I wake up into a new angry world, where I’m the victim and he’s the abuser and “God help the next poor girl he does this to.”
Every other thought I have is my brain listing another thing I hate about him. I pile the evidence of his evilness sky high. My own accountability is drowned out in the sea of his misdeeds. “I hope somebody hurts him.”
I had invited the accuser and now he turns his wrath on me. I should have been more loving, more forgiving, more supportive, more available. Maybe if I was more submissive, quieter, or willing to just be what he wanted me to be. No, that can’t be right!
I should have been more awake. I should have seen this coming. I shouldn’t have wasted so many years. How could I be so stupid? How could I be so blind? … The accuser gets me anyway. I wrestle with who I’m going to hate more, him or me. I fall back into anger and then forward into self-deprecation, tossed around lifelessly. Hate and self-loathing is exhausting.
I’m tired. It’s hopeless. I blame everyone. There is no way to fix this and no way to fix anything ever. The whole world is bad and wrong and I am never going to be happy again. I sink into a deep depression.
If nothing matters, then I don’t care if I self-destruct. I fall into old habits. I do what it takes to get attention. Whatever it takes. I’m disgusted with myself. And angry that what I’m doing never works. I just want to be loved. And I’m afraid of everything. I feel none of this when I sleep. “Hello, sleep. I’ve missed you.”
Life is so demanding. I can’t mope around and sleep all the time. Someone says something and it’s funny. Now I have to decide if I’m going to laugh or stay loyal to my nihilistic view of the world. I cave and laugh. My loyalty to my sadness wasn’t healthy anyway. Being sad sucks. Is there something out there in the world that is worth being happy for? I think I remember a time when I thought so. I listen to lots of happy music now, singing at the top of my lungs. I feel free, kind of.
There he is. Hide. Wait, I want to see. Is he happy? How does everyone else not know what he did? I want to know more and find myself trying to see more and more. Where is he going? Where does he live now? What is his new girlfriend like? I have so many questions.
I can’t seem to let it go. Feelings of anger and self-deprecation come welling back up inside of me, but never as violent as they were before. I’m grateful for that. But I’m frustrated because I don’t understand. Thank God my will to not self-destruct is growing stronger. I can’t make sense of what happened in context of how things are now. And I can’t not try to make sense of it. I feel more and more frustrated. I get tired again.
I give up. I’m tired of feeling tired. I want to live again. I’m never going to know enough to settle all of this so I embrace the uncertainty. I know nothing and that’s okay. Peace creeps back in. I’m happier more often now. Acceptance of “what is” gives me space to breathe.
Sometimes I spin back into a previous phase, but I’m trying to be accepting of that too. It’s part of the process. Just stay awake. Let it be. Take a deep breath. Everything is going to be okay.
I’m accountable for myself. He’s accountable for himself. I can see what I did now, but I don’t accuse myself. I’m not stupid, bad, or wrong. I just am. And I’m learning. I’m okay. More peace.
I realize that there were parts of myself that I really loved, that I lost when I thought I was such a wreck. When I hated everything I hated too much. I’m letting them come back. Another deep breath. I’m okay.
If I’m okay, then everyone is okay. I’m breathing deeper almost all of the time now. I can remember the things I liked about him. I’m genuinely hopeful that he’s found happiness. And all without needing that to involve me.
My wonder and awe are back. I can see beauty where I never could before. I want to see more. I want to experience more. I want to love more.
There’s something deep in me that is big and loving. I don’t need the attention anymore. I don’t need love to come from somewhere or something else as much anymore. It’s just who I am.
I want to affirm the good I see, be honest about the things that might need to change, and love others wherever they’re at. I want to accept the things that are beyond my ability to change and work to improve the things I can. I want to allow it all, and participate in it all, without spiraling back into hate or fear. I’m just here. And I like it here.
That is how I met my God.
I’ll probably never know for sure if God is definitively one or three persons or a “person” at all. I’ll probably never know if calling God the “Father” means he is a man, or if he has a wife, or many wives. I’ll probably never know if the creation story or the flood was literal or figurative. There are a lot of things I’ll probably never know. And I’m fine with that now. I don’t need to chase that anymore because what I do know is infinitely enough.
I know God is love. God is what it is to be healed, and he’s always healing. Jesus embodied all of that in perfect solidarity with the rest of us, and for that I can confidently say he saved me. I can do that for others, and I want to do that for others.
As for everything else? Well, when I’m fully healed it will all make sense. Until then, I’m here. I’ll show up. I’ll participate. I’ll allow. I’ll be honest. I’ll mourn. I’ll speak up. Whatever showing up looks like in that moment, that’s what I’ll do.
“I’ll walk with you. I’ll talk with you. That’s how I’ll show my love for you.”
I’m loyal. I always have been. I used to hate that about myself. It’s too dangerous. But there is healthy loyalty and there is unhealthy loyalty. I’m learning the difference. And I’m loyal. It’s something I can say I love about myself now.
I can be loyal to the church which has been such a large part of my life, but that has to look differently now. No more apologizing for the things I know in my heart aren’t the good news. No more trying to fit my God into somebody else’s boxes. There is good there and I’m going to show up for that. I’ll participate, allow, and love. I’m already here, God willing, so I might as well truly be here.
I’ll try to stay open and honest, affirming and accepting. If someone isn’t going to show up in this relationship, it won’t be me. If the church doesn’t return the love, that’s okay. I’m big enough now. Most of the time.
And when I’m not, I know my God is. It doesn’t mean I’m a failure, or that I’m a bad person. All it means is that I need more healing, and that’s okay. It’s okay to slip back into one of the phases I’ve been through before because I know it doesn’t need to be permanent, and because my God is a healer. He knows my heart. He’s got my back. And in his strength I can do all things.