Ink

moleskine

I’ve been sick since Friday morning and have had almost no voice at all since Friday afternoon. I was actually in denial of my own illness until last night, at which point I stopped trying to convince myself it was a severe allergy attack. Unfortunately, I had already exposed my colleagues at work on Friday and several church friends at a chili cook-off last night. After waking twice in the night soaked in sweat from fever breaking, this morning found me weak and exhausted. I fed and dressed the girls, then collapsed back into bed the moment that they left for church. I slept two more hours and was finally on the mend, folding clean laundry when they returned. My precious husband recognized my still-weakened state and offered (without even a hint from me) to give me one of my favorite gifts: time alone. I love that he can sense when I need it, without me having to ask. Even though he can’t always relate to me, he knows me. An hour after they returned home from church, he took our older daughter with him on a bike ride. “We’re leaving,” he said. “The baby is still asleep. Write.”

I wrote in my journal—something I’ve often neglected since I’ve been writing here. It is so hard to maintain both, but both are important in different ways. Today, I felt that what I wrote there needed to also be written here. It follows:

Sunday afternoon. Strong, black coffee and a Moleskine journal. Writing with pen and paper because it forces me to write slowly and with more thought. No backspace here. Mistakes can be covered up, but I cannot hide the fact that they happened. This is me, unedited.

I’ve been blogging for a year this month. On February 20th, 2014, I wrote my first post, “Cruciverb.” Almost one year and 38 posts later, here I am. Seventy-seven followers. One thousand, seven hundred seventy-eight views. One hundred fifty-one comments. Why all the numbers? They matter to me—and I think they matter too much.

Why do I write? What do I hope to accomplish with black type and a white screen that I can’t accomplish with ink in my own cursive handwriting? Why do I share my heart with strangers?

Because I’m lonely. Last night we went to a chili cook-off at our church. We sat at a table with two other couples, and the conversation quickly turned to God’s faithfulness to them in recent weeks. I listened and expressed my happiness for them—but it was difficult to connect. What if they knew of the struggle in my heart? Would they love me anyway—or would they cling tightly to their perception of God’s faithfulness, too concerned with defending it to reach out a hand to me? I’m lonely when I’m surrounded by people, so I find myself compelled to write to others. In writing, even to strangers, I find companionship. Alone, but not lonely.

Seventy-seven followers. Five (aside from my husband) who converse with me regularly: Ruth, Zoe, JJ, Howie, and Toad. Not one of the five (six, if you count my husband Russell) a believer.

Aside from the desire for companionship, I had a major goal for the blog—to soften the hearts of the believer toward the skeptic. Am I succeeding? Not by the looks of things—I have no consistent interlocutors who believe. I have deeply appreciated the friendships I am developing with others around the world who have left faith—but I didn’t want those to be the only relationships that came from this blog.

That brings me to my secret hope for the blog—that someone out there would find me and give me sufficient reasons to believe. That someone would say to me, “I’ve been stuck there too, and there’s a way out. Follow me.” I haven’t found someone like that. I know I can’t be dependent on others for my belief, and I keep trying to generate it within myself—consuming scripture with intense hunger, attending church, blasting worship music through the house while I clean. But at the end of the day, my greatest encouragement comes from those who don’t believe. The occasional believing commenter doesn’t return—my blog doesn’t attract that audience. I am thankful for the five—but is it worth so much vulnerability to try to gain five more in the next year? Is it worth it if my relationships there leave me farther from the secret goal of belief than I was when I started?

I check my blog stats during my first moments of wakefulness and during my last moments before sleep every day. Each time I check them, I’m seeking either affirmation or answers. Most days, I find neither. Most days, I don’t even have a blog hit. The numbers matter too much. My pride is too great, and the numbers are disappointing. I compare my blog to my husband’s, which he writes with his friend. Over 700 followers, acquired over the same amount of time. What am I doing wrong?

I have to decide what the grown-up response is and pursue it. Do I quit the blog altogether so I won’t judge the worth of my writing and the validity of my thoughts by the comments and followers that they generate? That seems too reactive. Do I take a brief hiatus and reevaluate my goals and my ultimate purpose for writing? That sounds a little more productive—but I know myself too well to be hopeful that I’ll ever stop desiring affirmation.

What is my message? Does the world need to hear it? And is it important enough for me to write it even if believers never validate my words? I still have to figure that out. In the mean time, I plan to do more reading than writing, more listening than speaking. There’s something that happens when I put my pen to leather-bound pages—and it needs to happen for a while.

[Image courtesy of Wikimedia commons, photograph by Andrea Pavanello]

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79 thoughts on “Ink

  1. And with perfect irony, my first “like” (within seconds of posting, before anyone could have had time to read my post) is by a blog called “Publishing Insights,” most likely on a liking spree in an attempt to gain followers. Another meaningless addition to my site statistics. Followers may be many, but friends are few.

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  2. I hear your loneliness. I hear your desire for answers. Sometimes I wonder what I came here for, why I started writing – on more then paper. I know why I started writing here, for me it was mostly because of the loneliness. Not that I was looking for answers. Though I had kind of hoped someone would present ideas in a way to show me there is hope, hope in faith, hope in belief. I found your blog. And I got … a realisation that that hope is shared with someone. Sometimes I wish you had found the answers, or direction that you seek, that I’ve watched you search for so you can show me, with your words. I enjoy reading Russell and Pascal (+ others as you have mentioned), and for the most part I understand, though no where near on a level to be able to hold an intelligent conversation/comment… I enjoy reading your words because you articulate the same things I’m seeking. You did it again here. Whichever way you choose to proceed, personally I do hope it isn’t to stop all together, but if you give yourself space to do, be, wonder and wander, I hope it enriches your life, the lives of those around you. And if you do take that hiatus, maybe you’ll come back with a revelation you can share 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi CC,

    These paragraphs stood out to me.

    You: “I check my blog stats during my first moments of wakefulness and during my last moments before sleep every day. Each time I check them, I’m seeking either affirmation or answers. Most days, I find neither. Most days, I don’t even have a blog hit. The numbers matter too much. My pride is too great, and the numbers are disappointing. I compare my blog to my husband’s, which he writes with his friend. Over 700 followers, acquired over the same amount of time. What am I doing wrong?”

    Me: With a light-hearted tone, ‘Welcome to the world of blogging.’ 🙂 You aren’t doing anything wrong. In my early days of blogging before the Follow button was operational in blogging I had readers from all over the globe. As I transitioned from born-again conservative evangelical blogging about spiritual abuse to doubting Christian on the way out my numbers shifted and then as I said goodbye to the heretical Christian phase (maybe the Bible is not inerrant) and slipped into agnosticism I lost almost all my Christian readers. If you want to compare blogs and feel better you might consider checking out my stats. I barely have any. 🙂

    You: “I have to decide what the grown-up response is and pursue it. Do I quit the blog altogether so I won’t judge the worth of my writing and the validity of my thoughts by the comments and followers that they generate? That seems too reactive. Do I take a brief hiatus and reevaluate my goals and my ultimate purpose for writing? That sounds a little more productive—but I know myself too well to be hopeful that I’ll ever stop desiring affirmation.”

    Me: I’ve been blogging for nearing 12 years. I go through the above process most every day. I keep thinking to myself, ‘Shut this down and put pen to paper.’ I should mention that my entire reason for coming online to write was the fear of my journals being discovered and read by my then younger children and family members if anything should happen to me. I never wanted them to think any of it was their fault . . . something that happened to me as a child. That’s how I ended up here in the first place.

    You: “What is my message? Does the world need to hear it? And is it important enough for me to write it even if believers never validate my words? I still have to figure that out. In the mean time, I plan to do more reading than writing, more listening than speaking. There’s something that happens when I put my pen to leather-bound pages—and it needs to happen for a while.”

    Me: I’m thinking I’m not much of an encourager today. I still have’t figured out my message. I know when I created Secular Wings my hope was to demonstrate that being secular didn’t mean Satanic Evil Minion. That people of no faith, are people too. I doubt that I’ve been successful in doing so from a theistic standpoint. Living without God seems to be such a thorn in the sides of most people.

    In my years blogging I have seen others ask Christian’s to help them stay in the faith. I’ve watched interaction start with vim and vigour and I’ve watched as the Christian eventually wanders away unable to convince or win the other over. Almost always it ends up ugly with the Christian leaving assured that it is a character flaw of some sort in the unbeliever. And this often leaves the unbeliever feeling even worse for wear.

    I wish you the best as you sort through it all. You’ll never go wrong with “listening.” 🙂 Or for that matter with “pen to leather-bound pages.”

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    • I’m glad you can relate, Zoe. I wish I could meet you, because you seem like the perfect friend to share a cup of coffee with. It’s because of people like you that I know I’ll never just throw away the blog. You’re too valuable to me.

      I do plan to do more listening—I need to catch up on your blog and several others that have become important to me. I need to read some books that have been important for my husband, because I’m seeking a way deeper into his heart. And I need to read books that oppose my current worldview so I can fairly examine it. Then I will write again.

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  4. Pingback: looking forward. | theconflictedchristian

  5. Okay, here’s my thoughts on your message and whether the world needs to hear it (this is long, but it’s one of my favorite quotes, and it keeps me going even in the face of deafening blog-silence):

    “Whoever hesitates to utter that which he thinks the highest truth, lest it should be too much in advance of the time, may reassure himself by looking at his acts from an impersonal point of view. Let him remember that opinion is the agency through which character adapts external arrangements to itself, and that his opinion rightly forms part of this agency–is a unit of force constituting with other such units, the general power which works out social changes; and he will perceive that he may properly give utterance to his innermost conviction: leaving it to produce what effect it may. It is not for nothing that he has in him these sympathies with some principles and repugnance to others. He, with all his capacities, and aspirations, and beliefs, is not an accident but a product of the time. While he is a descendant of the past he is a parent of the future; and his thoughts are as children born to him, which he may not carelessly let die. Like every other man he may properly consider himself as one of the myriad agencies through whom works the Unknown Cause; and when the Unknown Cause produces in him a certain belief, he is thereby authorized to profess and act out that belief….Not as adventitious therefore will the wise man regard the faith which is in him. The highest truth he sees he will fearlessly utter; knowing that, let what may come of it, he is thus playing his right part in the world–knowing that if he can effect the change he aims at–well; if not–well also; though not so well” (Herbert Spencer, First Principles, 1862).

    In other words, yes, the world needs to hear what you have to say, and it is valuable, simply because you’ve said it.

    I also struggle with the disparity between “followers” and readers. I’ve asked myself these very questions more times than I care to count. But here’s my answer: I’ve got this small group of folks who have stuck with me through thick and thin: the Muggle, Victoria, Randy, Tony, Tina. Without these folks, I don’t think I would have made it through a few key moments in my life. I haven’t met a single one of them face to face, but they have been encouragers and friends nevertheless, So, as frustrating as it gets, it was worth it just for meeting them. From one lonely person to another, I hope you truck on, because your words make the rest of us feel just a little less lonely.

    This is already becoming a ridiculously long comment, so I’ll sign off with this: I can’t give you reasons to believe, but I will also never try to convince you you should not. If belief is your hope, then I sincerely hope that you are able to find it. And that you feel better soon. :0)

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    • Thank you, Toad. I loved the quote, and you’re right—the friendships are worth it.

      I do hope for belief. Thank you for hoping with me, for my sake. My husband has done the same for me—he even tries to facilitate my faith because he thinks it will make me happy. I know it’s a sacrifice for him, and that unconditional acceptance means so much to me—from him, from you, and a few other followers here. No one has ridiculed me for wanting to believe.

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  6. Okay, so I am a newbie here. Your comment on one of Toad’s posts brought me over. Looking through your posts, I know I’ll be more than just a lurker.

    I stopped looking for reasons to believe a long time ago, before I started blogging. I don’t really know why I started, but looking back, I think some of our reasons were the same. We want to be heard, we want to be seen. We are desperate for others to reach out that hand. Your blog is not full of the clickbait that leads to fast followers, but it fills a need. It affirms your life and acknowledges he lives of others. I rather selfishly hope you’ll continue so I can get to know you better. Either way, I hope you find peace.

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    • Thank you for taking the time today to get to know me a little more, M—I appreciated your presence here and on my other posts. I look forward to getting to know you too—you are welcome here.

      Part of my goals for a “break” from the blog include reading other blogs and interacting more with those who follow here—so I’ll be visiting your blog too. I’m a big fan of poetry, though never brave enough to post my own, which stays hidden inside journals and the “notes” app on my phone.

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  7. CC, I remember like it was yesterday the period where I wanted so much for people to come up with good reasons for me to continue along as a Christian. This period may have lasted about 3 or 4 years and it was in a time that I still called myself a Christian. That finally broke for me and that was when I told my pastor and left the church, but that doesn’t have to be your story. We’re all different.

    Sometimes I think that if there is a god that created humans and this god really does love and care about those humans then my guess would be that it would want any search a person is on regarding ultimate questions to be a peaceful and enjoyable one. Perhaps that’s wishful thinking, but it’s just my thoughts.

    I can also relate to your thoughts on blogging. I often think of quitting. What I did last year when I almost stopped was to write a list of reasons why I blog on my About Blog page. I go back and read as well as update it often and every time I do I decide to continue. As others have said I selfishly hope you continue blogging, but it may very well be that quitting is the best choice for you and if that’s the case then you should do that.

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    • Howie, what changed after 3-4 years? Did time finally weaken the desire in you? Or did you or your circumstances change somehow? I’m trying to see if I can glimpse a light at the end of the tunnel somewhere.

      I won’t quit—not forever. I just need to reorganize my ideas and read more. I commented on JJ’s post on her own blog today that if I ever stop reading, I would have to stop writing—I would run out of things to say. Reading gives me new ideas and arranges the old ones in a new way. I’ve been doing much more writing than reading, and I just need to step back. I also want to read more of my friends’ blogs (including yours)—I’ve been spending so much time maintaining my own that I haven’t been a faithful contributor elsewhere. I’ll come back—after I check out your “About” page. 😉

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      • CC – I think all of the doubts and issues just built up until it no longer looked true to me. I was teaching Sunday School for the singles group in my church at the time I told my pastor. I told him there was no way I could continue teaching because I felt like I was being dishonest about who I am. I think having to do it in such an abrupt way made it kind of like a switch for me. My pastor was awesome about it and I agreed to meet with him weekly for lunch to discuss books that we agreed to read during each week. We did that for almost 2 years and finally it ended up in a bit of a tiff. While we stopped meeting weekly our friendship is still intact and we still meet about once or twice a year.

        Even though the switch kind of flipped when I left the church, that period right after was a really dark one for me. I remember one night waking up in the middle of the night to a noise thinking that God had sent someone to punish me. A couple of experiences convinced me that I needed to close the books on my search and move on with my life and simply live. Paradoxically for me at the time, what ensued was a period of great light, filled with friendships, family, love, falling in love, getting married, having children, etc.

        I’ve written 2 blog posts with a little more detail, so if you have time after reading my about page I can point you to those. 🙂

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  8. I would consider myself to be a “believer,” but even how I define that word has changed over the years. Growing up, I would’ve considered myself to be a conservative Christian, believing that the Bible was the inerrant word of God and that belief in Jesus Christ as Savior was the only way to heaven. However, the lens through which I viewed the world (and faith) radically changed during graduate school. If felt like my faith foundation had completely crumbled underneath me, and I didn’t know what to do. I felt paralyzed by my unbelief and doubt.

    To make a very long story short, it was only after joining a different faith community that allowed and encouraged me to question and doubt my faith that I have somehow built a new foundation. It’s still a bit unsteady and is definitely a work in progress. I now consider myself to be a Christian agnostic. Many conservative Christians would say I can’t possibly be Christian if I am agnostic, but I wholeheartedly disagree. I believe that there is a higher power that created the world and that the Christian faith and the life of Jesus is what resonates with me the most. However, I am the first to admit that I can’t prove that there is a god/God, and I certainly cannot offer cut and dry answers to some of life’s most difficult questions. While I believe that the Bible was written by people who were working within their own cultures and worldviews of their day and that the stories were meant to be parables rather than literal, I find these teachings to be more valuable to me now that my worldview has shifted.

    I used to think that if I believed in God hard enough, read the Bible long enough, and prayed hard enough that somehow all my questions and doubts would simply fade away, but they didn’t. I don’t think I’ll ever “believe” 100% like I wish I could, but I am okay with it. The tension between my faith and doubt is painful, uncomfortable, and completely at odds with the way in which I was raised. However, I welcome it with open arms because I believe there is much to be learned from it. I also hunger and thirst for conversation with people of other faith traditions as well as people who do not adhere to a particular faith, for I believe that engaging in such dialogue is healthy, productive, and makes me a better person.

    What you have to say is worthwhile simply because you said it, and I appreciate the vulnerability you express through your blog. It’s a risky thing to do, and I thank you for it.

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    • Thank you so much for writing here. If I ever have faith again, I feel like it might look something like what you’re describing. I look forward to reading more about your journey!

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  9. Greetings sister (and I mean that in the adopted fraternal, not spooky evangelical way),

    Why blog? The first Christian heart that needs to change toward the skeptic is yours. I’m a close second. If you remain a skeptic, then your heart towards yourself will need to change. I don’t know why Russell and I have followers. He thinks it is my posts on Romans. I honestly don’t know. He’s right about a lot of things.

    Confession? I care about the numbers too. And it really bothers me that I care. Then I retreat to the paper journal read only by the God I still believe in. You know my perspective – – I think there is a purpose to life. I think the friends that converse with you on this blog are precious. The conversations that I read here are big part of my heart change – – something that I hope makes me into a more authentic follower of Christ – – one who actually loves.

    Your brother,
    Pascal

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    • Hey, brother.

      I was baptized in a rural church at the age of 8 by a very large, very hairy man with a distinct odor. He stated the traditional words, “I baptize you, my sister, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…”—and I protested afterward to my family that I did NOT want to be his sister.

      Not so with you, Pascal. It is a joy to be your sister in the adopted fraternal way. I have spent a lifetime trying to replace three biological brothers. You have been more of a brother in two years than they ever were. I wish I could call you brother in the spooky evangelical way, too.

      What do you mean when you say that my heart towards myself needs to change? That’s a challenge, and I’m willing to take them from someone who cares enough to call me a sister—but I guess I need you to spell it out.

      I agree that my friends here are precious. I won’t leave them. If anything, I want to spend less time on my blog and more time on theirs. I also want to read more books that have been important to Russell—understanding my husband’s heart is important enough to me to make me open a book I never would have read on my own. I want to have more conversations, fewer speeches—I want to contribute to my friends’ blogs the way they have contributed to mine. I don’t have time to keep up the pace on my blog and offer or gain anything substantial anywhere else. I’m giving my own voice a break so I can hear others (including yours and Russell’s) and offer more than a “like” in response. Not a long break, but a needed one.

      Thanks for stopping by, Pascal. It means a lot to me.

      —your sister

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      • “What do you mean when you say that my heart towards myself needs to change? That’s a challenge, and I’m willing to take them from someone who cares enough to call me a sister—but I guess I need you to spell it out.”

        Simply this. I’m going to stand by you and Russell either way. You need to say that about yourself as well. I know that you’ll love your husband out of human loyalty or even ironic scriptural obedience. Will you love yourself? Please do. I’ll always argue that you have value because your spirit is custom made by a God who loves you – – and who am I to argue with that ultimate authority? I’ll always assert that the simple commands of Jesus, “love God, love others” will take a lifetime to realize. That motivates me – – not a fear of hell (personal or projected).

        Start with yourself. You’re not a counterfeit christian. You’re an authentic doubter. The latter is far more healthy. Just give yourself the same grace that Christ motivates me to offer.

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        • More detail under Howie’s comment. The short version is this: I appreciate your words and your loyalty to me and Russell in friendship. But you only see one side of me. I’m an authentic doubter here, with my husband, and in your home with friends that we now share. Everywhere else I am a counterfeit Christian—a side of me you may never actually see. If there is a God, I’m not sure he’d be able to forgive that.

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          • “Everywhere else I am a counterfeit Christian—a side of me you may never actually see. If there is a God, I’m not sure he’d be able to forgive that.”

            If there is a God, a specific God, then there must be a specific revelation. That is an honest reason why people doubt – – which specific revelation?

            I’ll only answer consistently according to my beliefs: since I believe that there is a specific revelation and since I believe that the gospels are a faithful presentation of the words of Christ, I can answer that I am sure he is not only able, but willing to forgive that. Ironically, there is more grace to you be me holding believe than you offer yourself by loosening your grasp on it. If your grip on faith does not match mine now, would you join me in reaching again for grace and mercy?

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            • If I knew how, I would. I feel a desperate need for it, and I don’t understand that—I do not believe. To reach for grace and mercy would negate my belief position. My reasoning mind tells me I don’t need it. My spirit cries out for it and would find it the most miraculous thing—because I am the least deserving. Why would anyone give me a gift when I don’t believe in the gift or in the one who offers it?

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              • Ok, there goes that funky feeling again that Pascal and I are on the same page with differing worldviews and we’re both trying to help you see it our way. 🙂

                I’d like to help you reason through this CC, but maybe we have to break this up into 2 scenarios. First scenario is that your atheist viewpoint is the correct one. Wanna start there?

                Also, I’m commenting through my WordPress reader page this time. Let me know if it gets through to your e-mail.

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                • Got it in my email.

                  You’re truly engaging me. Awesome. Yes, let’s start there. Currently painting the trim in my daughter’s nursery, so I’ll reply tonight. Otherwise, I am SO the girl who would drop an iPhone 6 into a can of paint.

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                  • Ok, I’ll add some of my thoughts/questions – take your time replying and whenever you reply don’t do it around any paint cans. 😉

                    If atheism is correct then the only beings around that could make you feel like you need grace are other humans or yourself. Sound correct?

                    Ok, so if we assume atheism and you agree with the above – I don’t see anyone on this page suggesting you need to feel badly about your choices regarding your family even though you have to tell some white and maybe even gray lies sometimes. Maybe others outside of this page would judge you for it. Do you think it’s coming from there? Or is it coming from yourself or a combination?

                    I’m curious too, is Russell going through the same scenario with his family?

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                    • What if I’m right?

                      I guess I can’t be right if I’m not making a claim. I don’t really claim that there is no God; I only mean to claim that I don’t personally put my faith in one. So perhaps the better question is “What if I’m not wrong?”

                      Either way, I get what you’re asking and appreciate your question more than you can know. You’re talking me through this and making me think.

                      If there is no God, then my counterfeit life and my lack of faith cannot displease him. If there is no God, then only other humans or self-reflection could make me perceive a deficit within me that must be addressed. My family doesn’t know of my counterfeit life and lack of faith. Those who do (mainly here on the blog) have not ever been judgmental toward me. So where does my perceived need for grace and mercy come from, if there is no guiding spirit within me? Am I simply being too hard on myself?

                      I didn’t give up on morality when I left the faith I grew up with. In some areas, my convictions are stronger than they were before. Yes, it hurts me to lie to my family, and yes, I think lying is wrong. But Howie, it is so much more than that. As much as it bothers me, I don’t hate myself for lying—it’s for my family’s protection from a painful truth. What disturbs me the most—if God is not real—is how convincingly I play along with a religion that is oppressive to people I care about. My parents think gay people are sub-human. They think Muslim people are dispensable. They think atheists are their enemies. They make comments along these lines, and I don’t speak up in defense of fellow humans. I selfishly don’t want to ruin things with a family that is finally whole.

                      If there is no God for me to honor, then I have to build my life on something else. For me, I think that something else might be loving and serving other humans and promoting peace among all of us. But I can’t do that if I’m stuck living this lie. So my lack of contentment with myself comes not from the fact that I’m speaking lies, but from the fact that I’m NOT speaking peace and love when my family is full of hate. When I’m pretending to build my life on a foundation of faith, I cannot build it on what I believe to be true. I’m completely worthless—I can’t truly build anything. If there is no God…my life is meaningless. And it’s my choice and my fault. I’m stuck.

                      And what if I’m wrong? Is that the second scenario? That might be an even longer answer.

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                    • Ok good. Let’s not jump to the second scenario just yet. By the way, I’m sure your life gives great meaning to Russell and many others even if you are pretending to be Christian. And there are other avenues for you to speak peace and love as I believe you are doing in your blogging and probably elsewhere.

                      But I understand what you are saying. I share those values with you. I want a world which is full of love and kindness and I want to be a part of helping it be more balanced in that direction.

                      So ok, clearly this choice you are making is going against strong values you have. You say that you selfishly don’t want to ruin things with a family that is finally whole – is that completely selfish? My guess is that it isn’t, but perhaps it is and I can’t answer that for you. I do think it would help you if you thought and decided on that.

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                    • Is my desire for my family to stay happy and whole completely selfish? No—you’re right. My decision is as much for their sake as it is for mine. You’re getting really good at picking up inconsistencies in my words. 🙂

                      Does my life have meaning? I am a loving wife and mother, and a hard-working, capable professional. Many people are glad that I’m alive, and I do enjoy my life. But many well-loved people live good and productive lives…and then they die. And this just goes on until our species is extinct? I want more. But anything more that I could potentially strive for to derive meaning from existence is severely limited by my counterfeit life. I can’t right the wrongs of religion if I’m pretending to be devoted to it. If I’m pretending to be two people, I can’t be fully devoted to anything. My circle of influence is only as big as anonymity allows.

                      If I had never known what it felt like to be created with purpose in the image of God, maybe I wouldn’t care. If I hadn’t believed that every moment—no matter how insignificant to the world—could be an act of worship if nothing else, maybe I wouldn’t feel the need to expand my circle of influence.

                      I’m trying to regain a sense of meaning and significance—not just mine, though. I’m not wallowing in self-pity here. I’m trying to find meaning for any of us, really—meaning that goes beyond the vapor of an individual life. If we’re alive simply because environmental conditions allowed it…who cares? Yes, I’ll make the most of it while I’m here and leave some kind of legacy. But do you know anything about your great-great-great-great-grandmother? Even her name? We are quickly forgotten.

                      The way I’m heading, I will be remembered for two mutually exclusive things that cancel each other out.

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                    • Oh and I forgot to add—Russell is not quite going through the same thing. His father is an atheist, and his brothers are not religious. He has one family member in our hometown who is close to his age and a strong believer, so he “pretends” around him twice a year—but that family member is somewhat more progressive and easier to get along with than my family of fundamental far-right Baptists. There are a few other believers in the family we see fairly often, but religious topics never come up with them. His hardest time is with his mom’s family across the country—she was a faithful believer until the end of her life, even though her husband didn’t stand with her in that. We see all of them at Christmas and two of them twice a year. They always admired Russell’s faith, and he has to put on a bit of a show with them—but again, their faith is not really offensive. It’s still a struggle, and Russell usually tries to find a way to structure his speech so that he doesn’t have to actually tell a lie—but that tactic doesn’t really go far enough with my family.

                      Like

      • Hi CC,

        I hope it’s not rude of me to jump in the middle here. I’m not sure how you took Pascal’s latest reply to you here, but I thought it was very good. When I read it I felt in a bit of a bizarro world, because even though he and I see the world very differently I could have written the exact thing (minus the religious stuff of course 🙂 ).

        Perhaps you are already perfectly comfortable with yourself – I’ve read a smattering of your posts and I can’t tell for sure (they seem to go either way), but given Pascal knows you a lot better maybe loving yourself is a challenge for you. I can tell you it is for me quite often, and I haven’t had some of the challenges I’ve seen you write about in your life. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I ruminate a bit too much.

        I think he’s right – “counterfeit” doesn’t seem to fit you at all from what I’ve read of your posts and comments. You look like a genuine, authentic skeptic.

        I wish it were possible for you to meet my wife. When it comes to psychological health she beats anyone I’ve ever met. She is a source of inspiration to me in this regard. She has always been an atheist, but theist or atheist doesn’t matter – I believe one could have a healthy view like hers either way. While I think there are some worldviews that are harmful to us emotionally, just believing in God alone seems benign to me. So whichever way you go I think you’ve got a positive road to look forward to.

        Liked by 3 people

        • Apparently I’m no longer getting alerts when you comment on my posts, Howie. This is the third time that I’ve found your comment only because I happened to be on here for another reason. I have emails for every other comment on here, but never yours!

          Of course, feel free to jump in. This is a public forum, and I never consider it rude (unless you actually say something rude, which I have only seen once on my blog and never from you).

          Regarding how I took Pascal’s comment—I’m rarely ever offended by him, and he has earned the freedom to say whatever he wants to me. Do I agree with him (and you)?

          I am an authentic doubter at my home, here on the blog, at the table in Pascal’s home, and when I’m sitting in a coffee shop across from one of my closest friends. That’s it. Everywhere else, I’m a counterfeit Christian. If Pascal could sit with me in my parents’ living room, his jaw would drop at the things I say to fit in. Same thing at my home church. Pascal knows that I tend to form strong opinions and voice them, and I always did that growing up as a believer. How could I stop now? So I have to keep my real opinions to myself when someone says something I disagree with. And to keep people from suspecting something, I actually have to often SAY the things I secretly disagree with. Counterfeit. No way around it. I live a double life, and I hate myself for that.

          Aside from that, I don’t think I have much of an issue with loving myself. I have the insecurities that are typical of a very average 28-year-old woman planted in the middle of high achievers. Not everyone can be the best, despite giving all we can give. I’m blessed to be able to learn from the best and always improve. My insecurities (based on appearance, performance, etc.) might indicate that I have trouble with loving myself, but I think they actually might be evidence that I love myself too much. If I had less pride, some of these things wouldn’t matter so much to me. I’m working on that—even if there are no eternal things, some things are worth more of my time, effort, and thought than others.

          My only area of pathological self-loathing is with regard to the double life. And if you could see me on the counterfeit side of it the way you can see me here, you might agree that it’s warranted.

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          • I was thinking about that the other day CC, and was wondering if that was a part of the trouble. I wish I could say I could relate because sometimes that helps, but my situation was different and I didn’t have to go through what you are going through.

            However, I have had several friends (both online and off) who have had to go through this, and I completely understand, and I am pretty sure it would be my choice as well – coming out completely to your family may end up causing more pain in their lives than good, and so you are making that choice for very good reasons. I don’t think you need to feel badly about that choice. I god who is loving who would not understand that seems bizarre to me.

            But it’s not that simple and I realize that. You are in what I would call a very nasty pickle. In order to keep from hurting your family you need to continue looking like you are Christian otherwise a snowball effect could ensue. And trying to look like a Christian goes against very strong feelings of wanting to be an honest person about who you are. I cringe just thinking about what you and Russell have to go through in this.

            Does that describe things correctly?

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            • Hi, friend. You are very perceptive—you get it, and you describe things correctly. The funny thing is that I actually have no problem looking like a Christian. I want to be like Jesus. When I struggle with my family is when they begin to judge others who they deem to be “non-Christians”—like democrats or homosexual people or Mormons. While proclaiming what they believe is truth in the name of Christ, my family starts to look nothing like him. I can’t argue with them using scripture, because their attitudes are supported there. If I verbally disagree (a mistake I actually made only once), they accuse me of being a “liberal” and tell me that Satan is using my advanced education to turn my heart away. Then my mom wonders with tear-filled eyes if I’m going to “end up like [my] brother” who left the church as a teenager. My dad starts shouting scripture. If Jesus is real and good, my family must break his heart. The way they live can’t be what he intended.

              It’s a little easier to pretend at church, unless it’s one of the harder lessons about something like predestination or hell or homosexuality. Even the “security of salvation” topic is difficult for me, because of the “Once saved, always saved” idea that is frequently found in Baptist churches. What about someone who turns away from faith?—“They must not have been saved to begin with.” I’ve tried to argue there, too. Again, it didn’t go well. People get defensive, people get hurt, and I would rather not do that to them. I’d rather be hurt than hurt someone else.

              I don’t believe all of scripture, but I don’t have a problem with the morality of Jesus, so I don’t mind acting like a Christian in that way. I do have a problem with other things, like the exclusiveness of the religion, the whole idea of eternal punishment, etc. Those are the things that make faking it difficult for me.

              Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi CC,

    I remember an interview Oprah did with Rev. Ed Bacon. He told the story of when (if I remember correctly) he became a minister of a particular church and someone in the congregation said to him that she wanted him to tell her what to believe. He said he found that scary.

    Anyone who says they can tell you what to believe or why to believe has a lot more growing up to do. We all have different stories. We all have different journeys to take. I am a Christian and I can only tell you about my journey and my experiences. I can only tell you one thing I know for sure. God really is love and his love is deeper than we can fathom. I know this because I keep discovering more and more depths of his love. All the other stuff that we are taught by church or by Christians or books should never be blindly adopted as truths unless we feel the truth in our own hearts having either explored it for ourselves or through a revelation of God. Why? Because nobody really knows the truth of things except God. This isn’t to say we should dismiss books and people’s beliefs. I have learned so much through books and people but I only accept their viewpoints as truths in the light of God’s love. If anything contradicts the love of God, then I dismiss it as fallacy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think love is a great standard to use. My family disappoints me often, because they have what seems like strong faith—but they don’t have love. Clanging symbols. I’m learning to recognize their faith as broken. Even if I return to faith, I know it will be different from anything I ever saw at home. As a side note—individual stories, journeys, experiences—those matter so much to me. Feel free to share here any time.

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      • So many share your experience of disappointment with ‘Christians’. I don’t know why it is but I also had a hard time at one point in my life with struggling with my faith and what to believe because of the inconsistencies in others. It shouldn’t matter but it does seem to affect most of us. What has helped me renew my faith is perseverance and reading books by Christians who are the real difference and books by people of other faiths who love God as well as meditation and knowing with all my heart that God’s love is bigger than many Christians make it out to be. Thanks for welcoming me. If ever you want to discuss things privately, please feel free to email me homeandspirit@gmail.com. You will not find me to be judgmental or badgering to believe something you are not ready to believe.

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  11. Hey Howie—We can take our conversation out from under Pascal’s comment and move it here if you want to…it was getting really buried for anyone who doesn’t get it in their WordPress app and wants to follow along with comments. Here’s my latest reply (also found up there):

    Is my desire for my family to stay happy and whole completely selfish? No—you’re right. My decision is as much for their sake as it is for mine. You’re getting really good at picking up inconsistencies in my words. 🙂

    Does my life have meaning? I am a loving wife and mother, and a hard-working, capable professional. Many people are glad that I’m alive, and I do enjoy my life. But many well-loved people live good and productive lives…and then they die. And this just goes on until our species is extinct? I want more. But anything more that I could potentially strive for to derive meaning from existence is severely limited by my counterfeit life. I can’t right the wrongs of religion if I’m pretending to be devoted to it. If I’m pretending to be two people, I can’t be fully devoted to anything. My circle of influence is only as big as anonymity allows.

    If I had never known what it felt like to be created with purpose in the image of God, maybe I wouldn’t care. If I hadn’t believed that every moment—no matter how insignificant to the world—could be an act of worship if nothing else, maybe I wouldn’t feel the need to expand my circle of influence.

    I’m trying to regain a sense of meaning and significance—not just mine, though. I’m not wallowing in self-pity here. I’m trying to find meaning for any of us, really—meaning that goes beyond the vapor of an individual life. If we’re alive simply because environmental conditions allowed it…who cares? Yes, I’ll make the most of it while I’m here and leave some kind of legacy. But do you know anything about your great-great-great-great-grandmother? Even her name? We are quickly forgotten.

    The way I’m heading, I will be remembered for two mutually exclusive things that cancel each other out.

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    • CC, I really want to talk about the whole meaning in life thing because I’ve got a lot to say but I don’t want to get too sidetracked. I’ll try and remember later.

      I’m glad to hear about Russell because it’s hard enough dealing with one side of the family.

      The reason I pressed you on the “selfish” comment regarding your parents was because I think it’s a big key to seeing that you are doing your best to solve a tough situation. It looks to me like there isn’t a choice here that is a win-win. I don’t want to diminish the fact that this really sucks and I really feel for you, but as far as feeling you need grace from your decisions I don’t see the need. In fact as far as I see it the choice you are making as you said is for their sake – a choice that goes along with your values of love, kindness and peace. I know that in order to do that you have to sacrifice other areas where you can improve the world and you also have to tell white lies, but it looks to me like your hands are tied. Either choice has bad consequences as well as good consequences in different ways.

      Unfortunately I haven’t found any good ways to put these kind of things on 2 sides of a balance scale. Perhaps some day you’ll feel the balance leans more toward coming out with your beliefs, or doing some kind of in between thing, but I think for now you’re probably making the choice that is best, especially since you aren’t totally sure in your own worldview right now. And even if you were, it doesn’t seem like to me you could make any difference in your parents’ views – the annoying talk about gays and the shouting scripture would probably remain if not intensify.

      I hope that helps, but this may just be one of those things that reason doesn’t help much with. Like I said it just plain sucks. 😦 Any thoughts on all that?

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      • I don’t want to sound hopeless—I have a very happy life and I love waking up each day and enjoying the people I’ve been blessed (by God or by chance) to love and serve. But deep inside, if I slow down enough to think about it, I’m unsettled. If there is no God, I am desperate for meaning and purpose. If there is a God, I am desperate for grace and mercy. Either way, I’m desperate for something.

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        • That doesn’t sound hopeless, it sounds like something a lot of us go through especially those coming out of Christianity. I don’t believe everyone goes through it though. I know for sure my wife doesn’t (although she’s never been religious), and I’ve met some deconverts online who are very content with their new worldview (or lack thereof). I’m sort of in between although I’ve gotten more used to it over the years. There are times when I’m with friends or family where I feel on top of the world and think “what more meaning do I need than this?”. Sometimes it’s something as simple as tickling my kids and hearing them laugh. But then there’s the times where I’m going through something difficult and I think “seriously?, what’s the point?”.

          Ok, so why would you think that if God exists he wouldn’t understand the choices you are making regarding your family? I’ve seen you say if a God exists then you would believe he is loving. I’d kind of think he’d like the fact that you are doing your best to make the choices to further peace, love and kindness, and that he’d also understand that you aren’t perfect in attempting that. This is where Pascal even seems to agree (although his description may be a little different).

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          • It’s about more than just my deception with my family. I have been angry and irreverent toward the idea of God. I have done things I know are wrong out of rebellion (no details here). I have refused to have faith simply because I desire a God who reveals himself plainly—as if I want a God who is simple enough for me to understand. If the God of the Bible were to turn out to be the true God, I would be too ashamed to face him. I can understand that you might not see that here, but I know the attitude of my heart and what scripture says about people with that attitude. It would take a miracle to redeem that.

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            • This is a tough one for me CC. There seems to be many gods of the bible so I’m not even sure what it means for “the god of the bible” to exist. The old testament god seems quite scary and if he does exist then I’m afraid for all of us. If the god of some New testament passages like Revelations 14:9-11 and Romans 9:18-23 then I’m even more scared for all of us. Then there’s other places where he appears more merciful like the sermon on the mount and 1 Timothy 2:4. I no longer spend energy worrying about all that because it looks a bit too much like myth to me. But you’re at a different place so I’m not sure what to say. Do you think that if a god created humans that he would care about all of us kind of like parents care about their children, or is that not a given for you?

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              • I agree with you—I struggle with how the Old Testament God and the God of Romans 9 could be good. Romans 9 was one of the first stumbling blocks to my faith that I brought to Pascal when our friendship formed. I don’t understand that God—I don’t have a good answer for you.

                I think it was you who asked a long time ago about books Russell and Pascal have read that helped shape their worldview. I’ll answer the question too. The most impactful one for me has been God in the Dark by Os Guinness. I finished it exactly two years ago this past Monday. I emailed Pascal just before midnight on February 2nd 2013, right after finishing it, and asked him to read it. He bought it a few hours later and read it in the subsequent weeks. We both agreed that the last two chapters were the most powerful. I felt that I could think of “sure and sufficient” reasons to trust God, and that I needed to be willing to “reserve judgment” on the aspects of God that I do not understand. If you want to understand my struggle a little better, add that book to your reading list (don’t worry, I have no expectations—it’s not exactly your genre).

                Nothing is a given for me anymore. Many things were, but I’m trying to loosen my grip on the “givens” and seek truth with open hands.

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  12. Cool, I’ve added that book to my reading list. I’ll read it after “The Call” which Pascal recommended. I’m gonna get quite familiar with this Guinness guy. 🙂

    Going back to the meaning thing, I’ve written posts on meaning that you may find useful, but I’ll tell you that you will find it doesn’t satisfy your desire for meaning as set by a perfect creative mind. There may be something you can get out of it though. The second one drew out a lot of really well thought comments:

    https://truthiselusive.wordpress.com/2013/05/12/is-meaning-possible-in-a-world-without-god/

    https://truthiselusive.wordpress.com/2014/11/19/can-there-be-a-purpose-to-this-post/

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  13. “CC
    February 6, 2015 at 8:49 pm
    It’s about more than just my deception with my family. I have been angry and irreverent toward the idea of God. I have done things I know are wrong out of rebellion (no details here). I have refused to have faith simply because I desire a God who reveals himself plainly—as if I want a God who is simple enough for me to understand. If the God of the Bible were to turn out to be the true God, I would be too ashamed to face him. I can understand that you might not see that here, but I know the attitude of my heart and what scripture says about people with that attitude. It would take a miracle to redeem that.”

    I haven’t read everything you and Howie are chatting about because my screen just shows one very thin line of text the further you two go. 🙂

    In an effort to try and summarize and get to the point CC are you saying firstly that you’ve been an impudent brat? Secondly, it’s unforgivable from God’s point of view?

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  14. I think that is correct about your point of view. I’m just not going to scroll down that long skinny line of text. 🙂

    It’s the reason I don’t have the reply option on my blog in the commenting section. Just too difficult for me to read as people keep replying in the same thread. But I do know others like it and some limit the number of replies so the thread doesn’t get too long.

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    • I don’t blame you! I just assume people who are conversing back and forth with me have “followed” the comment thread and get it in full paragraph form in their WordPress app. That’s definitely the case with Howie—neither one of us would have survived the conversation this long otherwise!

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      • Hahaha! I sat and read through the skinny line before finding the whole conversation a bit further down in much more easily read paragraph blocks.

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        • I actually haven’t moved it yet, but the tail end of the conversation was a bit farther down the page. I’m still going to re-post it when I have time (likely tomorrow). It is key to understanding me.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Oh. I could have sworn I read the same thing twice. May just have been me. I was minding a toddler today, very easy to get lost, dazed and confused with one of those running around when you are no longer used to it. 🙂
            I’ll come back and read it (again) once it is easier to read and I have the house to myself.

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  15. A superbly honest and open place to be. I have stumbled here after stumbling upon Russell and Pascals place. I have sent my ENTIRE morning reading there and then came here to visit your space. I have got no further than this post…yet. I hope I shall be able to come by from time to time to share in parts of your journey.
    So much taken in already but if I recall from the ACTUAL post…though it seems fairly minor statement to make in comparison to the stunningly human discussion taking place here – but –
    None the less…
    We write because we need to. Why here? You answered this somewhere. It gives you anonymity – and it does give you a voice. No matter how counterfeit or authentic you feel or are – here is a place you are able to speak and at the same time listen without ramifications – probably because so many of us are here to find answers to our journeys – or at least – the ones who are… are the ones we can feel as part of the process. Sometimes that road is short – sometimes long.
    I have a blog with 2000 followers – If I have 5 regular supportive folks – it is a lot. Those are the ones that end up becoming friends. The rest? Passers by…and yet somehow – perhaps I learn ‘something’ from them and they I – in the short time we cross paths.
    For near on two years I have been on wordpress. Not so much really…but the reason I started was because I felt I DID have something worth sharing – my voice and my journey. For me? Sometimes. For others. Often. For other goals? I try and fail – often!
    I second guess my time spent here…and yet – how much would still be so so different if I had not come and met people and allowed them to touch my soul and heart.
    I often feel overwhelmed and just want to leave it all alone and bake cookies with my little one and listen music with my older kids… but I leave for a few days and I am back. It is therapeutic somehow – within limits and balance. Oh my – and as per my usual way (and I always second guess myself when I do so) I am rambling on. I know NOTHING of you, so please construe none of these words as any form of advise – simply perhaps – encouragement to continue airing your feelings – your process and know that those who must read – will. Those who must reach you – will. The words you must say – will be said and the words you will say will from over time.
    You could grow to a million followers…I suspect deep down – this is not truly what you seek.
    Your words (all be this ONE post with comments) touch my heart so dearly. They softened it and truly…gave ME incentive to continue what I started..even as it changes and progresses to become what it must, as do I.
    Forgive me for taking much space here – as a stranger – though I felt most comfortable in this space..and I am often fearful of overstepping the mark… but sometimes, I guess – we have to kinda just go with it 🙂
    One – one last thing:
    The three of you lovely people I have read this morning – are simply – remarkable…and if the world could understand the sentiment you put forth and the love that emanates from you all… it would truly be a blessed world indeed.
    I lied – ONE more thing! 😛 (in a more HIGHLY simplified spiritual conceptual way)
    People as yourselves are the future. We are taught not to doubt. Not to stay in doubt. To fear being in doubt. Some will bury their heads in the sand and avoid striving beyond this doubt to find their truth. Some will simply – move beyond it. As doubt sets in – so do questions. The answer is simple really I suppose. We seek. I would be dishonest if I were to not say this now… but you said you wished at times someone would have taken your hand and said ‘follow me I will show you a way through to the other side of doubt..’. as god damn arrogant as this will sound – I feel so much like a wish to say this to you… simply because I have been where you are – and still am in a different way – but have made my peace with the place I find myself in now..though I cannot and will never stop seeking answers in whatever way I am led to find them. Some would say I have done a 180… but I have not – I simply – progressed to a different understanding.
    But I cannot say this to you!? My answers may be different to yours! – Simply because – it is your journey to discover what lays ahead –
    I can tell you this: You will.. because you have a humble heart (Oh I know YOU do not think so but it is clear as daylight to others and through my eyes and soul) and whatever the outcome – whatever the truth is for you – it will be that – YOUR truth…not something imposed upon you by indoctrination. I could tell you all the things it could be – may be – should be…. but your road to discover it is not the same as mine.
    Your husband is an exceptionally wise and in-tune man… and he too will be blessed for his heart is pure. Hold his hand and together – you will remain and grow as one to know your space in this place.
    Be at peace dear. All is as it should be.

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    • You may not know me at all—but I want you to! And I feel like you already do. Thank you so much for your comment—I never mind the length of comments (or emails or letters) when they’re written to me. The longer, the better. I see you are also a fan of the “dash” in writing—please come often.

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      • Yeah – the dash – Handy little thing 😉
        In all that I did forget to mention… how much I can agree on with you on the difference between writing with ink and paper and on a keyboard. It seems both have merits – I find keyboard can make me almost frantic, and the way you described how writing the way it was first designed really refreshes that aspect of it for me. I remember sitting QUIETLY (no tap tap tap) just me and the instruments, sometimes I would write and sometimes it would instead become a drawing – or the drawing would develop into words. Kinda miss it and should do it again.
        Thank you for being so welcoming 🙂
        I hope it is that our journey will be more than fleeting, but I must be honest – I always leave when I feel it is time.

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  16. I’m just a cartoonist so I find such things overwhelming to think about… and yet thinking about them is all I do. A bit of a dilemma really.

    I’m glad I followed the link from over at Wary Wonderlust. Reading through this post and the accompanying comments has been an emotional experience, I have to say. I kind of feel a little dismantled. This isn’t a bad thing, although it doesn’t feel super peachy great either. It just is what it is, and now I have to sit with this awhile.

    I grew up in a secular household, became a Christian around my early twenties, and then left the faith again about five years ago. I was completely bitter and twisted and… well, tired when I finally called it quits. It has taken me this long to be even remotely okay with where I find myself now. Is this the best possible outcome? I’ve no idea. I can only be what I am at any given time.

    Authenticity feels like little more than a fever dream to me, but oh boy is it a beautiful one! That’s all I want. To be real. To know that I’m real. Maybe I’ll feel it one day.

    All this to say that you have a new follower, and it’s a pleasure to meet you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Such a pleasure to meet you too, Tony. I think we needed a cartoonist to join us over here. How did you get to where you were okay with it? Did it just take time?

      I feel dismantled today too. I had a long drive, and that always does it to me these days. Just too much thinking.

      Stick around. I’m glad you’re here.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Long drives send me to the Land of Nodsville, so it’s a good thing I’m never the one driving!

        As for how I got to where I’m okay with this, it’s a good question and one that I don’t have a cogent answer for… not that I want to convince you of anything. In my limited experience, the lack of belief presents just as much of a challenge as outright believing. I often find myself between the two, feeling like I’ve been lost in the cracks somewhere.

        You see, I find belief in a supernatural, creator god (and all that that entails) to be kind of absurd, and yet blindly accepting that we live in a seemingly godless, random universe feels just as absurd. And when I say absurd, I don’t mean it in a pejorative sense. I mean that either way, mankind’s origin seems so wildly improbable to me, so why are we even here.

        And yet here we are. Someone made us or something didn’t.

        This is beyond the scope of my understanding. Yet I have to somehow reconcile myself to this bewildering universe and my place in it or lose my mind in the trying. I’m thinking that more than a little luck and a whole lot of patience is required… and a determination to see this story through to the end.

        Sorry, I’m waffling. I’m just typing whatever comes to mind, and it doesn’t answer your question in the slightest, so let’s get to that. If I had to hazard a guess, I think I just muddled through the emotional jangle that is my life and eventually ended up here. The destination wasn’t intended, and maybe this isn’t the destination it appears to be. Sometimes I just wear myself down with too much thinking, or get worn down by circumstance, and so I decide that here, right now in this moment, has to be good enough. It just has to be. It doesn’t mean that I stop wondering, that I stop asking questions. It doesn’t mean that I’m not engaged. Perhaps what it does mean is that I’m parked at the side of the road to sojourn awhile.

        Honestly, I think I just got to the point where I was tired of feeling like a counterfeit Christian. I think I felt like you do now, and was weary of it. I wanted to move on, and by the time I finally did I was done with a religious culture that very little to do with basic Christianity. It was time to head out on my own. It was scary. Truly.

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  17. Hi CC.

    Yesterday I got to thinking (sometimes it comes in handy) 🙂 . . . why don’t I save the one liner conversation and paste as a draft and voila I’ve got your conversation in regular format. So I did just now and I’ll be able to read what you and Howie were chatting about. 🙂

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  18. CC
    February 6, 2015 at 4:20 am
    “[…]

    Does my life have meaning? I am a loving wife and mother, and a hard-working, capable professional. Many people are glad that I’m alive, and I do enjoy my life. But many well-loved people live good and productive lives…and then they die. And this just goes on until our species is extinct? I want more. But anything more that I could potentially strive for to derive meaning from existence is severely limited by my counterfeit life. I can’t right the wrongs of religion if I’m pretending to be devoted to it. If I’m pretending to be two people, I can’t be fully devoted to anything. My circle of influence is only as big as anonymity allows.

    […]”

    Emphasis added by Zoe.

    I remember reading this and found it as I went back over the comments on this post.

    There’s so much packed into this one paragraph I’d like to tease out but for me I’d have to maybe write my own post.

    The part I identify with is the “counterfeit life.”

    Your last sentence in this paragraph describes the angst of my heart.

    It’s like being a divided soul (meant in a non-supernatural way) . . . a divided personality if you’d rather. It feels like an unhealthy compromise.

    Do we honour ourselves with our truth or do we honour the truth of others? And do we do it at the cost of our own authenticity, our own identity?

    If we do it for others than we lose parts of ourselves and parts of our truth. What the “others” don’t realize is that in doing so, in living out their truth instead of our own in order to spare them and spare ourselves we deny them of us. I have done this, I am doing this and I will likely continue to do this. I too live a counterfeit life. Perhaps we all do?

    I’d like to come back to some more in this but right now need to take a break. 🙂

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  19. CC</strong: “I can’t right the wrongs of religion if I’m pretending to be devoted to it. If I’m pretending to be two people, I can’t be fully devoted to anything. My circle of influence is only as big as anonymity allows.”

    I still feel like two people but not because I’m pretending to be a Christian. It’s because I have to try and pretend not to be an atheist.

    I’m a writer by nature. I found my way to the internet to blog because I didn’t want to leave a paper trail to be misunderstood if found in my absence. That in itself makes me feel like two people. Pretending I’m not a writer when I am.

    I’m silent amongst my grown children now so they don’t panic when I open my mouth. I don’t get to be fully me. I have to pretend that an infant baptism and rebuking Satan out of said infant is okay and fear possibly having a panic attack during the ceremony. It’s not okay for me to cry in anguish or ever say, “why in hell would you do that to your kid?” No. Instead I’m the designated grandma taking photos of the baptism to keep myself in check and the dichotomy . . . oh the terrible dichotomy of doing so when every cell in my body screams abuse. No. I have to try and find a moderate place, a tactful place, a tolerance for it all and it squashes my own sense of authenticity.

    I love to speak more than write. I lost my voice. I am now quiet. I chose my words carefully and sparingly. I use to be spontaneous. I am now cautious. I have overcome much but I can’t freely tell a story because the story also is someone else’s story and my telling hurts them. I acquiesce to others.

    I live a small contained life when at the heart of it I use to live big.

    I have a photoblog that is private. I am me there and then Zoe is me here. I would like to be me openly but doing so on the internet seems not wise. I use to have the emotional fortitude to fight the good fight. Not so much anymore.

    Now in order to create less stress I have worked to rewire my brain to not approach it all in a black and white way but to see colour. I am not a failure because I write on the internet instead of a published book. If I am a failure than I’m not alone. How many people use the internet? 🙂
    If I never speak on a stage or another seminar am I a failure? Can one not live a small life and still live big in that small world? Can I not wait for a moment to speak to someone who is waiting for my voice? This happens a lot with me and my camera. I have people stop and watch me and then talk with me asking me what bird this is and what creature is that and I end up teaching them something they never knew. I’ve helped countless people as one who is not a Christian and they don’t have a clue I am not. I got a thank you note from a women’s shelter thanking me for what I make them as they care for hundreds of women seeking refuge every day. They don’t know I’m not a Christian. I don’t need for them to know or to save them. I care about keeping them warm. Heck, I just plain old care. But, I will never escape the knowing that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light and to many (if they knew) I’m one of those angels. Talk about tattered threads of authenticity.

    One more thing. My leaving came at the age of 48 after years of immersion. I can’t go back but I do wish I had never put myself through what I put myself through when I was your age. I wish I had known about what the fear and the belief was doing to my brain. I gave to those around me and gave little to myself. I am very fortunate to have had/have the husband I had/have.

    I could go on forever. Here’s the thing. We are as humans many faceted and all those parts make a whole. I’m getting use to seeing that anonymity in itself is its own circle. Part of the many facets of me. The only way I stay or have stayed here as long as I’ve have is due to my anonymity and learning I am not a failure because of it. I’m not sure if I’ve totally learned the lesson yet but I do now consider my place here as authentic.

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  20. Pingback: The Internet Stranger | anglophiletoad

  21. Hi J – looks like it’s been exactly 2 months ago that you recommended “God in the Dark” to me in one of your comments on this post. I finished reading it last week. I’ll admit that I wouldn’t have guessed that this book would have been the most impactful for you, but thinking more about it, I think it makes sense. I have some related questions if you are interested in talking more.

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    • Of course; fire away! Although I might need to re-read it before I can answer them. It may help you to know that the last two chapters meant the most to me.

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      • Yup, you had mentioned that in your comment before so when I got to the last 2 chapters I tried to concentrate a bit more.

        Actually, my first question is about what you mentioned in that comment (which relates to the last 2 chapters):

        I felt that I could think of “sure and sufficient” reasons to trust God, and that I needed to be willing to “reserve judgment” on the aspects of God that I do not understand.

        In a lot of your posts on your blog I don’t really get this sentiment (only very infrequently). So you felt that way after reading the book, but this has changed? How would you say it has changed?

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        • I will get to this soon, friend. Interestingly, you may find that what I posted tonight lines up more with that sentiment than many of my other posts. 🙂

          Excellent questions—I have an answer, but it’s long. I’ll probably answer tomorrow night when I stay up insanely late so I can sleep the next day to prepare for working overnight.

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