Honest With Myself At Last

sent in by Evelyn

I was initially raised in the Presbyterian Church, though I don't remember much about it. My parents were medical missionaries (Dad a doctor, Mom a nurse) who served in Asian countries right after World War II. I was born in the United States when they were home on furlough for a few years.

When I was three, the Presbyterian Church mission board assigned them to a small town south of Bombay, India, so I moved with them there. My siblings were sent to boarding school.

When I was six, my dad had a nervous breakdown and we came back to the US, settling in the San Francisco bay area. My siblings were graduating from high school, so they made their way back to the US as they headed for college. My father was so ill he was in mental hospitals for two years. The Presbyterian Church mission board was no help at all during this crisis, so my Mom became acquainted with some Pentecostals. She went to a prayer meeting and was "baptized" in the Holy Spirit without even asking for it. Call it a stress reaction or whatever. So, we started attending various Pentacostal churches.

After a couple of years, my dad recovered enough to resume work as a doctor and got a job in southern California, so he, my mom, and I moved there. We joined an Assembly of God church. I was baptized in water at age 9, though I recall "asking Jesus into my heart" earlier than that. At a Bible camp, I was "baptized" by the Holy Spirit at about the same time. I spoke in tongues and everything and felt quite high for a while. I've never done drugs so that's the only high I know about.

The summer when I was 10, my dad was having some mental problems, so my mom sent me to live with my oldest brother and his wife for a few weeks. They and my sister were members of a independent Pentecostal church that felt it had the exclusive truth. We went to Sunday school and church in the morning, street witnessing in the afternoon, and church in the evening. We also went to the Wednesday night service. They spoke in tongues, believed in the gift of prophecy, and all that. I believed it, too. A few years later, when my brother and his wife left that church because they disagreed on doctrine, they were shunned by all of their friends there. I was shaken when they left because I believed in that church and was shocked that they didn't. They didn't leave Christianity, though, as they are fervant fundies to this day.

I always had doubts and recommitted myself to Jesus many times as a teenager. I went to a Christian junior and senior high school and had Bible class as part of the curriculum, as well as weekly chapel services.

When I was 18 or 19, I went to another church for a while, a "non-denominational" one, because I was tired of the church my parents went to. Some time later, I moved to Oregon because I hated crowded southern California.

When I lived in Oregon, I attended another non-denominational church. They were not Charismatic, though I found some members there who were.

I didn't really go nuts, so some Christian kids did, when I went to college. I had only one or two boyfriends and only had sex with one and felt terribly guilty afterwards. I dated a man of a different race who wasn't a Christian. My family gave me heck about that and eventually I stopped seeing him. We had a great relationship, though.

I moved back to California in my mid-20s and some time later starting dating a man who would become my husband. He wasn't a Christian. He was raised Catholic by parents who only went to church at Christmas and Easter. He went to a Catholic high school for two years until he was kicked out. So, he had a low opinion of Catholicism and Christianity. I tried to convince him otherwise. I gave him a study Bible and various books. He showed no signs of converting, though. We had a great relationship and I didn't want to give him up.

He was the one who encouraged me to examine my beliefs and that's when I first started to seriously look at what I had been told all my life and ask myself what I believed. I drifted away from Christianity at this point because here I was in a great relationship and I couldn't marry this guy because he wasn't a Christian. That really made me angry.

We got engaged and then I got heck from my family. My oldest brother and I flew to a family gathering and I had to endure a few hours of him telling me why I shouldn't marry this guy because he wasn't a Christian. Ugh!

We got married. Then, my husband became a Christian a month later! What?!? He said God spoke to him and became real to him.

He got acquainted with a man who had a Christian bookstore and who was the pastor of a small church of about 20 people which met in the back of the store. We started attending this church. Alarm bells went off in my head, as they were serious Pentecostal fundamentalists. I told my husband, "Fasten your seat belt, you're in for quite a ride" as I had been part of a group like this when I was 10 at my brother's church. Little did I know how true my words would be.

After we'd attended that group for about a year, we decided to attend other churches. Things were getting weird at the group, as the pastor's wife was forming her own group within the small church. My husband later told me he had a dream or wide-awake vision that a member of that prayer group had tried to seduce and blackmail him into joining, so that's when he suggested we go elsewhere for a while. When we came back to the group, this prayer group was totally whacko. The pastor's wife controlled everyone in it and had them go on wacky fasts and had endless prayer meetings and so on. Shortly, we went to a usual meeting and noticed people were very tense. The pastor and an associate of his talked about the Old Testament scriptures about the rebellion of Sons of Korah and how this was happening in this little church. The pastor's wife and members of her group kept hiding in the bathroom. Very weird. Then, at the next meeting (the church met twice a week), the pastor reported that he and his wife were splitting up and that she had thrown him out of the house. This split up the church, too, as she took her group with her.

This church split, which I didn't expect because the group was so small to begin with, really shook up my faith. I went through a long dark time. We found another church and attended there for a couple of years.

We both got tired of the fundamentalist thing and started attending an Episcopal church, drawn by a newspaper ad that said, "Jesus died to take away your sins, not your mind." We both like intellectual discussions and the priest was a highly educated man with two doctorates. We found more stuff to think about from his short homilies than we ever did with one-hour sermons from other pastors. We went through the confirmation class and officially joined. At that time, I was fascinated by the liturgy and ritual. It was so different from what I was used to. The church is liberal and several members are homosexuals. Local self-help groups can use their Sunday school rooms for meetings for free and they actively support various local charities. We liked this a lot.

I don't know when I started to drift away again. I just noticed that I did. A couple of years ago, I became interested in Buddhism and read a couple of books. I liked what I read. The teachings made a lot of sense to me. I felt I was being unfaithful to Christianity, though. I was awakened in the middle of the night with a question in my mind, "Are you rejecting Jesus and God?" This wouldn't go away, so I said, "no, I'm not, forgive me." Then I could get back to sleep.

After that, though, I didn't feel like I could continue my interest in Buddhism, yet I wasn't interested in Christianity, either. I felt spiritually frozen and very frustrated for several months. So, about a month ago, I said to myself, "Enough of this, I'm going forward in my spiritual exploring." Soon after this, I also said to myself, "I'm not a Christian. I don't believe in that stuff any more." I was a bit afraid to tell my husband, though he noticed I was pre-occupied and asked me what was going on. I initially told him I am undergoing a spiritual shift and am exploring other paths and he was okay with it. I have since told him I'm not a Christian any more. He said Christianity works for him, though he has his ups and downs. He believes "god" speaks to people in different ways and that whatever path works for a person is valid. I am so lucky he feels this way.

I've explored Buddhism and am currently looking at Wicca. I also understand that I need to recover from Christianity before joining any other religion, as any unresolved problems would probably follow me if I quickly joined another religion.

What is surprising me is how free I feel. I feel good, happy, almost giddy. I hope it's not manic-depression, as I do suffer from depression now and then, though I've never been manic. I don't know how long this feeling will last, so I'm enoying it. I'm not sure whether I just feel free from a religious system or am happy to be finally honest with myself. I forced myself to believe for so long. Now I'm not doing that and maybe that's why I feel so good.

State: CA
Country: USA
Became a Christian: 8
Ceased being a Christian: 45
Labels before: Presbyterian, Assembly of God, Pentecostal, Episcopalian
Labels now: Agnostic
Why I joined: Preached at by family & church
Why I left: I realized I don't believe it any more.

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