Or that how it feels, anyway. I accidentally “came out” to her as an agnostic during our family vacation last week. On the first day of our vacation, no less.
For months I have more or less managed to avoid getting into any kind of direct, explicit conversation with my mom about my growing doubts. As you may have gathered from other posts of mine, she is a conservative evangelical Christian. She was raised in a First Evangelical Free church in Iowa, and she raised us in the same church in our hometown. So Mom has a very well developed, and fairly black-and-white world view based on a literal interpretation of the Bible.
I love my mom very much. She is a role model in lots of ways, and the last thing I want to do is hurt or disappoint her. Which is why I have been trying to shield her from much of what I’m going through. This is not to say she’s been completely in the dark, though: she knew I wasn’t going to church regularly and that I have been dating non-Christians in the last couple of years. And I know she has been concerned about me.
But other than that, whenever spiritual topics have come up between us, I have for the most part deflected, given an ambiguous reply, or changed the subject. Not entirely honest, I suppose, but I imagine that others of you who have gone through a de-conversion process understand it – it’s really, really hard to tell people in your faith community that you’re having serious doubts and/or you no longer believe it all. Now magnify that anxiety by 100 times when it’s your family members.
It accidentally tumbled out. Mom and I were on the way to meet the family for lunch. I’m not even sure now how the conversation started: Mom was saying something about her concerns about me and my choices in life. I guess I just lost my cool. I said that I just don’t believe things the same way I used to, which led to Mom asking incredulously “so you’re saying you’re not a Christian anymore?” Followed shortly afterward with “I don’t want to talk about it anymore” as she started crying.
It was awful. And it was weird, too, because this unbidden prayer suddenly popped in my mind: “God, please help her feel better.” Force of habit maybe, or a continuing hope that God is somehow still out there, and hears our prayers? (Even though my own prayer experience is much more consistent with the idea that God doesn't really answer prayer…)
I still feel awful about the whole thing. I really don’t want my mom to spend time worrying about my soul and my eternal destiny.
But it has also spurred a lot of doubts about what I am going through: Mom said I’m just rebelling against God right now. What if she’s right? What if I am just reaping exactly what Christians say you’ll reap if you stop going to church? Stop hanging out in Christian community, stop reading your Bible, and gee, don’t be surprised if your heart hardens and you turn away from God. ...and then don't be surprised when God turns away from you. (And say hello to hell, which is what you deserve, you horrible apostate!)
My emotions and history in the faith community get so jumbled into all of this… when I write about the various things I’m questioning, I think “Yeah! This thing has never made sense to me, and the big picture doesn’t really hang together.” But then I get into conversations like this with my mom or other Christian friends and suddenly I get scared, I get nostalgic, I get wistful, I feel confused, I get defensive...
I guess all of this is to say that I’m still very much in the middle of the process, and still unsure where it’s going to lead. It also helps explain why I chickened out of inviting my sister to contribute to my blog: I'm not ready to come out to the rest of my family.