A long journey

sent in by Rachel

I was raised in a Christian family and my mother remains one of the people I respect most in the world. A desire to please her, and a natural child-like acceptance of what I was taught in, I do believe, good faith, led me to 'give my heart to Jesus' at 8 years old. My parents became disillusioned with the congregational church they then attended and moved to the Brethren shortly after my own conversion. Thus the religious influences on my adolescent years were strict and uncompromising; I had to cover my head in services and was expected to submit to male authority. Cinema, dancing and 'worldliness' was disapproved of and I think I welcomed those clear rules. I was different and I liked that distinction. Once I left school and went to university to study literature (a subject I was warned against because of its influences), I was exposed to a broader Christianity and was very actively involved in the student Christian movement. I learned about speaking in tongues etc and wanted to be 'filled with the spirit', feeling i was an inferior Christian. I prayed earnestly for this and had no answer(!)

I began my first job as a teacher well away from both family and friends. for the first time my immediate circle was not Christian. I joined a church but never felt part of it and the questions in my mind were getting bigger all the time.

I prayed; I asked for prayer; I was desperate.

I met and fell in love with a divorced man who had a vague connection with Christianity but barely thought about it (like most Brits). This was crunch point. How would my parents react? I couldn't bear disappointing them and I realize now that this was part of the reason why I decided to work abroad. I ended up in a Muslim country where I met locals who were devout and wonderful people and ex-pats who were completely irreligious - and wonderful people. I encountered kindness, generosity, etc etc, all of the qualities claimed by Christians as their own. Gradually, over this time, I admitted I was no longer a Christian. I saw too may things I couldn't reconcile and asked questions which the church could not satisfactorily answer.

On my return I married my 'non-Christian' man and we've been together for 13 years now. We're happy but he struggles at times to understand why my Christian past still has a hold.

My Father died recently. The support given to my mother by her church (not Brethren - she persuaded my Father to leave some years ago) has been great and reminds me of what I valued in the church community. I also miss the comfort she finds in believing that their separation is only temporary. I seethed through his funeral where the vicar warned the congregation that they were sure to be condemned to hell if they didn't share Dad's faith. i don't find being an ex-Christian easy; I do, however feel that I am being honest with myself and others. I thought I would find the same certainty elsewhere. I haven't. Maybe one day it will no longer matter to me. Meanwhile I find many things in life to enjoy and believe that I am still a decent respectable woman with a personal morality which stands up to scrutiny!

Left: gradually, through my twenties
Was: Christian Brethren, evangelical
Now: open-minded
Converted because: family
De-converted because: too many doubts/ had to be honest with myself

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