Image by jcolman via FlickrI was raised Catholic and became Presbyterian in high school. I was so serious about my faith, excited about finding a church that acted as if God was real instead of trapped in a Latin Mass. And in all honesty, it was mostly wonderful. I was pretty awkward at that time and it was a place to belong. I didn't experience any of the horror stories many people relate. The people at my church were for the most part caring and conscientious. I left my hometown and went to college still a fluffy doe-eyed Christian. At that time it was the most important aspect of my life and there wasn't a close second.
There are a lot of things that people point to that led them to change their mind about God but there was no revelation for me. It left me slowly. I both became more liberal politically as I tried to nestle myself deeper into conservative Christianity. I began hanging out with the orthodox christians. But bits and pieces of what I held dear began falling away anyway. I ignored and ignored and ignored the problem until I got turned inside out and upside down.
My husband (then fiancé) and I had been at a picnic with some church friends and some fairly annoying church-planter had dropped by. While he preached away at his patient audience it occurred to me that I hadn't believed what he was talking about for along time. I wasn't a Christian anymore. I was terrified and horrified at this realization. I was devastated, I thought that life had pretty much ended for me. I even offered to break off my engagement with my husband because I was not the person he proposed to anymore.
I had a lot of trouble following my de-conversion. I became depressed and had a lot of difficulty finishing my senior year of college. It was a terrible time. I wept and pleaded with god to kindle that faith in me I used to have. I grieved as if someone had died. I was unspeakably angry with god and the people in my church. I forgot who I was. I couldn't figure out where i was going.
At the bottom of this funk I was getting married (my patient and caring fiancé not only did not break off the engagement but sat with me through all the various crying/screaming fits). My husband and I decided to have a conventional but god-neutralized wedding. Because I was honest with our two officiants about my own doubts and our choice of wedding service both backed out of marrying us. I was understanding with my husband's friend backed out. I wasn't very close with her. But about a week before the wedding my high school youth minister informed me that not only did he feel he couldn't do the sermon, he couldn't come at all. The stunned silence on the other end of this phone call was enough to encourage him to amend at least the second of the two decisions. When I asked him why he couldn't be a part of my wedding he said, "Well, I believe love comes from Jesus". It was the cruelest thing that I have ever experienced.
A year after getting married I have mostly picked together the pieces of my inner life. It's tough to have lost what I had in common with many of my friends, to lose my bearings in the world, to keep up a lie with my parents (they are wonderful and not scary conservative at all, I'm just a scared-y cat). But that refusal to marry my husband and I by someone who I respected and cared a great deal for still smarts.
Maybe I'll never change back to being a Christian, maybe I'll decide to be Buddhist, maybe I'll decide it doesn't matter and I don't care. But I'll never refuse to be part of someone's life because of what they believe.