It wasn’t true, you know. I did care what the Bible said. But I had believed for so long - and verbally espoused - certain views about homosexuality and now they were being challenged.
Because when my dear friend told me he was gay, I knew beyond any shadow of a doubt that it wasn’t his choice.
And if I didn’t believe that one thing about my faith, what else didn’t I believe? The girl from another denomination who told me I was going to hell, the boyfriend who tried to pray my personality into more submission, the Christian boss who tried to enforce a bedtime...it was too much. Once I started I couldn’t stop giving voice to the hundreds of doubts and inconsistencies I saw in my religion.
And so I pressed pause.
A year or so went by. I didn’t think about the hard stuff. I decided that no part of me believed that my friend who was born gay and my friend who was born Jewish was doomed to burn in eternal hell. Now that that was out of the way, I pressed pause again.
I married the kindest and most generous man I’ve ever met, something that most people find hard to believe because everyone knows Jesus doesn’t approve of potty humor.
When I was early married, I tried a church in my neighborhood that was known to be fairly liberal in its teachings, but a young-ish guy came up and tried to welcome me. I hated that so I never went back.
If it seems like I’m skimming over years here, it’s because I am. “Pause” lasted for a long time.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, I realized that some of the sadness I was feeling wasn’t just hormonal, but part of the ache of missing my faith. My spiritual pause hadn’t been barren, I never felt separate from my God. I still prayed a little. But I was no longer sure of how realistic it was to have a personal relationship with the Creator. A Lord who granted parking spaces and favored certain nations and sports teams seemed ludicrous to me now.
Then a couple of things happened. One of the most beautifully faithful people I know told me that she believed our friend was born gay, too. Another friend of seemingly unshakable beliefs told me that she thought women were meant to teach in the Church. I stumbled across a few blogs and then whole books written by people about my age who loved Jesus, but were having a hard time reconciling what we know in 2012 with the intricacies of an infallible Bible. I wasn’t alone.
Hiding my head in the sand about my doubts had made me think that everyone else was still operating with their youth group faith. I hadn’t give people enough credit to see that everyone, by my age, had experienced doubts and hurts. It was freeing, finally, to see the gray.
My soul defaults to prayer. I had never given that up, even if my prayers had become less like I was talking to a chatty BFF and more like I was looking toward the God of the Universe. I love that Anne Lamott says every prayer boils down to either, “Help me, help, help me,” or “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Since I know all the Christian lingo, I braced myself for accusations of “picking and choosing” what I believed from the Bible, or for entering a marriage “unequally yoked.” But I waded back in slowly, bit by bit rejoining the larger discussion and trying to be more thoughtful about what I believe and why.
There is no ending here. I’m still a former Oklahoma girl, with former fundamentalist beliefs, living in Hollywood with a man who makes R-rated movies. None of it clashes as much as people expect it to, and it’s still my truth. Only now you know a little more about it.
I wrote this story because some people thought I was something I am not, and others thought I was not something that I am. It was hard for me to tell it, but my story is not all that interesting. Girl finds Jesus, girl rebels, girl finally finds a middle place. I imagine the church has seen it a million times.
I do not know where I stand on every issue from mission trips to priesthood celibacy and everything in between. I’m still figuring it all out, I suppose I will always be on that quest. I have a few things I hold very strong opinions on, but I pledge to keep this blog a place free of divisive posts that may harm another.
Gun shy as I am, it would do me some good to find a church home here in Los Angeles, and one of my resolutions for the new year is to learn some of the Bible stories I missed having never attended Sunday School. Those things, too, are part of my ongoing story.
The Community Church I started attending in middle school, the place that fostered my faith into adulthood, has expanded exponentially in my hometown. Turns out I wasn’t the only one who felt God’s presence among those people. From what I understand, it is still a strong and hospitable community. I miss it, and worry that no other church home will ever measure up to those standards.
It’s important to me to tell you that I do not see myself as a Prodigal Son. I never denounced my faith. Almost none of my issues had anything to do with Jesus. I needed the religious pause I took to mature, in mind and spirit.
Putting this all to paper has been much harder than I expected. I deeply hope that I didn’t offend or hurt anyone in the telling of the story. This week has solidified for me that we should tell our truths, write them down even if it is for no one but ourselves.
Thank you reading, and for letting me tell.