A Letter to My Mother, Three Weeks In

We’ve been on a roller-coaster of emotion, haven’t we? This has been hard, no doubt about it. I’ve seen you go from devastated to angry to accepting and all the way back round. I don’t think you know how to cope with this.

I’ve had less of an emotional journey. At first I was swimming in guilt, wondering if I just went back to pretending if we’d be fine. I’ve been angry, frustrated, exasperated. We’re both drowning in our feelings, desperate for a life vest.

You told everyone. You told everyone you know who prays. You told them that I didn’t believe and I was infuriated. You posted a picture of my first Bible on Facebook and people commented things about me falling for an “anti-God” culture. I was utterly humiliated. You later took it down and claimed that you hadn’t intended for it to become what it did. I’m not sure I believe you. You apologized, but I’m not sure if I’ve forgiven you.

For a few days, we had a nice peace going. When I told you that I truly believed I had been saved, you were content. You believe that if you’re saved once, you’re always saved; you believe there is nothing I could do to renounce God’s love. You confidently said, “You’re just lost and doubting, you still believe, deep-down.”

You didn’t like when I rebuffed that. You didn’t like when I said, “You don’t get to tell me that I believe. You don’t know what I believe better than I do.” Perhaps that wasn’t kind. Perhaps I should have just let you go on with it.

We’ve fought a lot. You told me: “I still pray that you find THE WAY and that is Jesus Christ. And I don’t want complete peace until you do.” I was hurt and angry. I shot back at you: “There are 5 billion people without Jesus. If he’s the one true way and sends us all to hell, I can’t do anything about it. That just doesn’t seem kind. It doesn’t seem loving.”boxing-415394_1920

You told me that you couldn’t win. You reminded me that you loved me. I was still angry and I went for the throat: “Love is an important step, but it’s nothing without respect…Words are easy. Living it and showing it are what make it true.”

After that conversation, we had a few more days of peace. You seemed to realize I wouldn’t just back down and allow you to stomp all over me, but—like aftershocks of an earthquake—you got angry again and told me to just get “all this Jesus shit figured out.” You even brought up Christmas, saying I can’t “double-dip” by not believing but still receiving gifts. When I brought up the fact that almost nothing we do for Christmas involves God, you mentioned that we talk about him. I—ever the smart-ass—said: “If you get a birthday cake for Jesus, I won’t partake.”

I’ve been angry and frustrated with you. I haven’t been as kind as I could have. I could have showed more compassion, but at the time I felt so degraded I didn’t pause to consider it.

I know you love me. I know you and your posse of prayer warriors are begging God to save my soul and help me return to the light. You tell Satan to release me so I will not be distracted by the things of this life.

I don’t mind that you pray. I know you believe prayer is a kindness. I mind that you claim to respect me while begging for your friends to pray to change me. I mind that you tell me you’re proud of me, but make it abundantly clear you hate my clothes, my hair, my tattoos, my piercings, my political beliefs, basically every part of me. When I bring this up, you always say, “Nothing I do is ever good enough for you!” in a defeated tone. You claim I hold you to a high standard when all I want is for you to not want me to be different. I want you to love me for me, not for the child you dreamed you’d have.

I’m not the daughter you dreamed of. I never have been. You’re not the mother I dreamed of. We both have to compromise, but I don’t know how we meet in the middle here.

In my dream world, we simply don’t talk about religion, or—if we do—we talk about it like civilized adults. I don’t try and tell you why your beliefs are wrong; you don’t try and convert me. I answer questions you ask honestly, and you don’t berate my answers. In this dream world, you aren’t concerned with my appearance, you’re proud that I’m the daughter you raised: fiercely independent, fiercely opinionated, and unwilling to compromise on my beliefs.

The daughter you raised isn’t the daughter you wanted. I can’t do anything to fix that. I guess I could change, but I’m not going to. I won’t light myself on fire to keep you warm.

Love is an easy noun, but a hard verb. We can say we love each other all day, but we don’t live like we love each other. We live like we begrudgingly tolerate each other. You want me to get my head out of the clouds and start being normal. I want you to celebrate the fact you gave me wings to soar.

This has been a sort of miserable three weeks, but we can only go forward.

3 thoughts on “A Letter to My Mother, Three Weeks In

  1. This really resonates with me. I am also a Mississippian, and yesterday I told my parents that I am no longer a Christian (or more correctly, never was). It all sprung from a discussion with my father about how I am moving in with my boyfriend in a few weeks, and his concern that my boyfriend is pulling me away from God. I said that no one can pull me away from something I was never close to, and the facade of guilt, pressure, and anxiety that I had been holding up for twenty-three years came crashing down.

    My parents told me they still love me and always will, but I know that our family dynamic has shifted. Church and God are such huge parts of their lives and no part in mine. It scares me – I love my family more than anything, and they have always had a very active role in my life and I don’t want that to change. But at the same time, I feel so free to finally be myself.


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