Yesterday, you asked me point-blank if I still believed in Jesus. Yesterday, you found out I’m no longer a Christian. Yesterday, the daughter you love, the daughter who would spend forever by your side, died. Yesterday, you had to face the fact that your daughter no longer lives in the faith she grew up in.
I wish things were different.
You called me a lost sheep. In fact, you confirmed a lot of fears that I have had about telling you the truth. In your eyes, the most important thing for me to believe is to believe in Jesus Christ, but I don’t. When you said, “In my opinion the dumbest believer has a lot more going on their favor right now,” I felt my heart break. We both know the harm and horrible things a few Christians in our life have done, but you think they have more going for them than I have going for me. Because I’m going to hell and they aren’t.
I never planned on telling you. I was going to carry the burden of falsehood to my grave. I knew no matter how I tried to explain myself that you were going to be hurt. I knew you would cry and wonder where you went wrong. I have cried and cried over the pain of the secret I held. You’re hurting right now, but it feels like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I don’t have to hide myself from you any longer. If, or when, you find my blog, it will only carry a few secrets rather than the enormous one I have been carrying.
I like to think you didn’t go wrong, that I’m still the little girl you’ve always loved. I’m still the smart, funny, articulate woman you raised. I like to think that I can still make you proud. I’ve always been too liberal and too outspoken, but you’ve always said you loved me despite those facts. I’m the writer, the poet, the girl who speaks too loudly and too passionately, but, by God, won’t stop speaking. I’m the girl who wants to be honest, who doesn’t want to hide. I’m like you in so many ways, ways you probably don’t like. Lying to you hurt me because you always taught me to value honesty. Now that I’m honest, I’m hurting you more. I don’t know if you’d prefer the hard truth or the easy lie.
In truth, you’d prefer if the lie wasn’t a lie. You’d prefer if I still followed Jesus and I worked tirelessly to please God. You want me to be the six year old “church lady” who begged to go to church, the girl who loved Wednesday night service and went to four Vacation Bible Schools a summer. I loved being the girl. I loved singing and playing and worshipping. I believed in God whole-heartedly and without remorse. I’m glad I had those experiences, and I would never erase them for the world.
But I don’t believe like that girl did. That little religious girl fought and fought to keep her faith. She went to church, she read her Bible. She memorized the Sermon on the Mount. That girl hungered for God with such passion, and still lost her faith. I tried and tried and tried, Mama. I wouldn’t pick this. I didn’t pick this. I’d rather have faith than not.
I miss so many things about the church, about God. I miss the community; I miss the family I had found there. I miss feeling like my prayers were heard. I miss feeling connected to something bigger and better than me, but I can’t make myself believe any easier than you can make yourself not believe. If faith is a choice, I chose it again and again, but it didn’t choose me back.
I don’t want to be a disappointment. I don’t want you to cry over me. I wish you could see me, the whole of me, and say, “This is my daughter, I raised her this way, for good or ill, and I love her regardless.” I know you love me, but it feels like I am nothing now. It feels like you’d rather me be the evil people we know with Christ, than the daughter you’ve always said you’re proud of without Christ. It feels like my goodness, to you, depended on my belief.
You think I’m going to hell now. I can’t change your beliefs, and they do say I’m going to hell. I wish you didn’t think that way, just like you wish I believed. If I live a good life and God sends me to hell, I can’t stop him; I can’t do anything about it. I’d like to think that if God exists, he’ll be reasonable. I like to think that he’d love a kind agnostic over a cruel Christian. I don’t know though.
I’m comfortable with my “I don’t knows.” I’m okay with saying I have no clue. In my wanderings of faith, I don’t mind being ignorant and trying to learn. I don’t know a lot of things. I don’t know if God is real and if he’s real which god he is. I don’t know if heaven is real or if hell is real. I don’t know if I’m doing this right. I don’t know what the absolute truth of the universe is, if there even is one. Ultimately, none of us really know. We just believe in the path we’ve chosen.
I believe you can learn to love me through this. I believe we can love each other through our differences. I believe that, no matter what, you’re my mother and you want to be proud of me.
I believe we can make it through this. Do you?