Friday, October 19, 2007

Me? Avoidant?

Among my abundant flaws is my at-times intense need for privacy. During my teenage years, if mom or dad asked how my day went, I would get all indignant at their egregious attempt to invade my privacy. This is not normal behavior, I realize. I've gotten better.

But still. I crave privacy. I like working out all of my theological demons anonymously online. I like exploring and challenging ideas and putting some of my internal "stuff" out there for examination...by strangers. By people I can't disappoint or upset.

To get to the point: my college discipler/mentor in Campus Crusade was a woman named "Janet". She and I have stayed in touch since then; for awhile I supported her when she went abroad as a missionary for CCC. In recent years I have mostly stopped supporting her financially (as I am just no longer a fan of CCC theology) but we still exchange Christmas cards and I saw her a year or two ago in Asia during one of my business trips. I believe on that trip I told her some of my struggles with faith, my waning prayer life, lack of enthusiasm for God. Okay, fine she more or less handled that okay, but I am certain she has been concerned and praying for me ever since.

It turns out she is in my city for the next month or two while she raises support, and she has been trying to contact me to get together. So far I have been ignoring her. I'm not proud, but I don't want to see her! I'm afraid conversation is going to turn spiritual, and I just don't feel like explaining/defending/discussing where I am spiritually these days. She is no longer a confidante of mine, and I don't feel like opening myself up at that level.

I know I am being rude by not returning her emails and IM pings... but our entire relationship has been predicated on this spiritual/Christian connection that is just not there for me anymore. What kind of friendship can it possibly turn into when I have turned away from the thing that is at the core, the center of her life? What on earth will we talk about? We used to have these deep conversations about our faith. I don't have those kinds of conversations anymore, nor do I want to.

So what should I do?

14 comments:

Sinikal Saint said...

I'm not gonna act as if I have a nifty answer for your predicament, but I will say that I somewhat know where you're coming from. I'm going through what I think are similar spiritual struggles (though I don't see myself ever abandoning my Christian faith, I do see myself shedding or altering what I understood to be Christian faith or "following Christ" or "obeying God" or "listening to the Holy Spirit"), and while I yearn for advice and input from people, believers and unbelievers alike (though mostly believers, at this point), I'm very hesitant to discuss the nature of my struggles with other Christians. It's in part due to privacy issues, and also because I'm having a hard time articulating the things that I'm struggling with--indeed, I suspect I'm at a far earlier point in my journey than you are.

But I'd say my difficulties with discussing these things are mostly due to the fact that I kind of know what I'm gonna hear. I'm gonna be told to pray more; to stop resisting God, that I don't want to let go of sin, or let go of this or that; to obey the Word of God, etc., etc. I'm sure you know the drill ten times over, by now. In my case, all of these things may be true, but that's not what I'm looking to hear, right now. I'm looking for another POV, another way of looking at the situation--not necessarily and unbelieving way, but a way that does not inherently involve indirectly getting on my case (even in a gentle, sincere, kindly and loving manner, which is almost always what I get and it's much appreciated) about doubting, questioning, and feeling like Job in the first place.

Do pardon, I'm rambling about myself. Where I'm getting at is, if this is a person you really respect and care for, I think perhaps the right thing to do would be to go ahead and contact her, talk to her, and then just be honest with her 1) about where you're at, 2) you know what she's gonna say--in fact, say it before she does, and 3) you've been through all that and would prefer not to trudge through the spiritual BS. Then tell her you appreciate her prayers, and try to mean it, because I'm sure she'll mention them. It'll sting for her, but it'll give the right message.

Do pardon my long-windedness. God bless!

SocietyVs said...

"What kind of friendship can it possibly turn into when I have turned away from the thing that is at the core, the center of her life? What on earth will we talk about?" (Slapdash)

I think you should meet with her - at least that way she knows you both have nothing in common - and she can go on her merry way? Or maybe some other alternative happens and somehow you stay friends?

I don't see eye to eye with most of the people in church I used to hang out with - but I am still friends with them. I think we get into debates about the faith but they just can't hack the differences so they drop it pretty fast. Maybe this will work for you - I think honesty is a good gesture though.

Slapdash said...

SS said: "But I'd say my difficulties with discussing these things are mostly due to the fact that I kind of know what I'm gonna hear."

YES. This is part of my reluctance.

I hate that I am being such a wuss about this. I don't want to just slink away and ignore and avoid all the christians in my life. Maybe she's as good a starting point as any. But it would really help if I had an "elevator speech" of some kind to explain how I've gotten to where I am... a way to take away some of the mystery of how/why I've lost my faith, but also a way to indicate that I just don't want to go into details. It's way too complex a process to hash through over and over and over with each person who wants to know what happened (and how they can pray for me, and how I need to let go of sin, blah blah blah).

Maria said...

I have no more advice to add except to say that I feel the same way. There are a number of people in my world who see the proverbial tip of the iceberg of my views of Christianity and spirituality and religion and insert your own descriptor here. All of them live 1200 miles away and still every time I speak with any of them they make sure to tell me that they're praying for me and they hope I'm doing the same. I say "okay" when what I'm thinking is "I really wish you wouldn't and I'm not."

I have no idea what I would do in this situation. Well - if I'm honest I would probably run/avoid and then feel guilty about it. Best wishes to you. I'd love to hear how it turns out - whatever you decide to do.

Jon F said...

This is a really raw point for me. When I was in my last church I really supported the leaders (one couple in particular) financially (I gave them thousands over a 3 yr period). Once I left the church, the friendship just seemed to dry up because I was no longer part of the club. Now the problem is that now when we do bump into each other there is this awkward silence around the subject of my "eternal well-being" that seems to be the only thing they are interested in talking about. NEver mind the other 99% of the relationship. It seems that when you leave the christian faith you have to leave a lot of the friendships behind as well.
Jon

jennypo said...

Slapdash,

As a Christian, here's what I'd expect from a friend who has changed her mind about God and doesn't want to have to explain to me and fifty million other people why: a phone call. In which she'd tell me that she's changed her mind about being a Christian, but isn't ready to discuss it yet, and is either not willing to continue our friendship for the time being, or is willing to continue it only if we can build a new friendship based on something other than shared experience.

It's not only Christians that have a hard time maintaining friendships with people who have changed their minds about at least a number of the things that bound them together - whether that be simply culture, or perspective, or beliefs, or experiences. Most of us have friends that we are friends with for various reasons, but I'll bet a good number of our friends are our friends exactly for the reason that we see something the same way - something that is important to both of us. If that changes, we either need a new friend, or we need a new basis for our friendship.

In any case, it's fair for you to be upfront and set limits about what you're willing to talk about right now, but if I were her, I'd at least appreciate the honesty and unselfishness of a friend who would take responsibility for her change of heart and let me know it wasn't something I did or was that lost me a friend.

Sometimes life is tough and we change or other people change and we lose relationships. It stinks. But we deal. You can't erase your past or escape the awkwardness of a transition from it without losing something of yourself. If your friend has to be hurt, then at least let her hurt for something that is real, something that you can't change, not because she can't figure out what happened to you two.

And yeah, if I were her, I might tell you I'd pray for you. But that comes from love, because (let's set the issue of ultimate truth aside here) I - right or wrong - believe it to be a kindness. If I'm wrong, who have I hurt by praying for them? If I'm right, you might possibly appreciate it someday. If you have a Muslim friend who is praying to Allah on your behalf, or a Buddhist friend who is burning joss sticks for you, or a pagan friend who is sending healing thoughts into the universe for you, forget about whether they are right or wrong and be thankful that you have someone who cares about you. You might not be able to support her work, or go to Third Day concerts together, or exchange prayer requests, but you can still care for and respect each other.

(That was my 2 cents...)

Steven Bently said...

I do not think you owe her anything any longer, life is too short to have to be in a bundle over seeing someone whom you know is totally engrossed in her mental delusion, and most likely it will be a one way conversation, hers.

Most people whom talk to themselves are put in mental institutions, but people whom talk and pray to their imaginary gods are considered sane, go figure.

I would avoid her like the plague.

I personally have become a hermit just to avoid hearing the same old tired worn out metaphors and christianese rhetoric, try doing what slapdash wants to do, not what is expected of her by others, IMHO.

Zeke said...

Funny I should read this post today... I went to church this morning (a rare event, one I probably won't repeat soon) and had a random thought about having a conversation with an old friend from my early evangelical days. I wondered what it would be like to talk to him now, especially since the church I was sitting in was an "open and affirming" one. I imagined that I would just tell him I didn't have the energy to go through yet another conversation about homosexuality and the Bible with an evangelical whose frame of reference is so absolute and driven by fear.

So I won't blame you for passing on certain conversations. I can totally sympathize with you... they can really be a drain on one's peace of mind.

jennypo said...

Hang on there, guys, you're stealing our lines! We're supposed to be the narrow-minded ones who can't talk to anyone who doesn't see things our way, remember?!!

Just kidding, I really do understand your tiredness of the same old conversation - even more tiring when you're still sorting things out. Couldn't let the apparent irony go, though...
:^)

Slapdash said...

It's hard not to feel defensive when I think about meeting with her.

But I finally did write her back, after she emailed me for about the fourth time from a different email account, worried that her previous messages went into a spam folder.

She is sooooooooo eager to see me. She emailed me back right away, asking for my cell phone number, asking if I am available afternoons. It's just hard to not feel like this is a missionary call on her part...as cynical as that sounds, and as long as we've been friends. :(

Aaaaaw said...

S-

Good for you (for contacting her). If you're truly still searching for truth and meaning, if you haven't totally given up on God yet, and if you did respect her at one time, it seems like a good idea to talk with her. I've been reading your blog for a while and it seems that, aside from jennypo, most of your commenters are in the same boat as yourself. If you're truly looking for the truth, shouldn't you keep your mind open to both "sides" of the argument? Besides, she may just surprise you and understand. Best of luck...

tracyace said...

I've been reading this blog for a while, but haven't ever posted anything. There are so many posts you have written that I can relate to. I need to go back through a lot of your old posts and comment on them...

Slapdash said...

Hi traceyace, thanks for posting and welcome. :)

A quick update on meeting my friend: we are having lunch on November 16 - the first day I am in town and free to get together. I'm not entirely sure what to expect, but will report back on what happens. In the meantime, I picked up "The Bible" by Karen Armstrong - recommended by a work colleague. Armstrong is a former nun who left the convent and entered academia. Her book looks like it will be an interesting read - taking a historical approach to the Bible, why and how it has come to be viewed as sacred text, and how it has been used over the years.

Rachel said...

Just stumbled across your site today, great stuff! I'm finding myself in much the same situation with respect to talking to others about faith. I’ve recently de-converted from Christianity and nobody (except my other half) knows where I stand with faith now. All I've let on to other people is that I was having some issues and thinking things through. I know I'm going to have to face up to telling people soon but I'm not looking forward to it. I really agree with your comment -

"What kind of friendship can it possibly turn into when I have turned away from the thing that is at the core, the center of her life? What on earth will we talk about?"

- as I have several close friends from university who I used to pray and read the bible with but now I just feel like I have nothing in common with them. I'm worried about the next time I speak to them as they'll be asking how my walk with god is going and wanting to know what god has been teaching me lately etc. Someone emailed me with the question, "How's God stuff?" several weeks ago and I've still not replied to them. Serious avoidance going on here!

I know people are just concerned and want to help out but I'm still worried they'll have that look of disappointment, possibly also condemnation, thinking I've abandoned my faith to indulge in a life of sin and back-sliding. It's not like leaving school or university and slowly drifting away from just a couple of people. In the last year, through losing my faith, I feel like I've lost a major thing (sometimes the only thing) I had in common with many of my close friends. So, I guess I'm just wondering how, and if, these friendships can progress and whether they have any future.

Maybe I'm just being stupid and over-reacting about things that will turn out fine. Maybe I should give people more credit and not assume I can predict their reactions exactly. I think I'm just going by what I would do if the situation was reversed; be a little scared of their freedom, throw every "argument" I can find in favour of god and Christianity at them and also quote the bible about how god will always be there for you, and so on. And that’s not what I want to hear right now.

Sorry to write an essay!