I was born to a couple who hated each other’s religious beliefs. My father was obsessed with abuse, alcohol, and weird religions. He used to be obsessed with the devil and told me, as a little girl, that the devil comes into your bedroom at night. I still have a sleep phobia and cannot sleep with the lights off. I envy people who can curl up in bed and sleep. I am still looking around and trying to feel safe.
All my life I tried everything to get God to like me. Everyone else seemed to have no trouble hearing him and having supernatural experiences. I wanted them and begged for them all the time. I asked to see just one angel, or hear one word that would show God is real and loves me. I prayed, fasted, attended church, and continued to try to convince God I was worth loving.
I became severely depressed as a teenager. I was obsessed with studying about cults and couldn’t figure out why God wouldn’t talk to me or come to me so I could know that he/she/they were real.
I have been in quite a few religions “seeking truth”; Catholicism, Judaism, Buddhism, Baptist, Pentecostal, and became a Methodist clergy because I was very good at public speaking and wanted to help the poor. I still miss that. I went to seminary while my three sons were teenagers and figured that the best way to force God’s hand and make him tell me he liked me or at least noticed me was to become a clergy. I always felt God ignored me and it tore me to shreds mentally. I was told that all I ever would be was a worthless, evil, depraved sinner who deserved nothing but hell. I hated myself more and more and became very abusive to myself engaging in high risk behaviors.
I had served as a Deacon at 2 churches for 2 years and had worked hard to go through all the paper-writing and interviews for Elder’s ordination. The day I was told I was accepted and would be ordained I thought I had achieved the pinnacle of all that I had wanted and spent 10 years working on. NOW, at last, I would experience God in a way that would prove it was all real.
What happened blew my world apart. You see, I was ordained two weeks after my oldest son was killed in a car accident. I had asked to hold off and wait a year to be ordained but was told I’d have to rewrite all my papers if I waited. There was no allowance or “grace” made for me in my horrible situation. My spiritual beliefs and searching for proof of God exploded and I was left with empty darkness. I was sitting on a pile of rubble that was my life. I did all that work and gave my life to a God I only wanted to love me and this was how I was repaid? People said that God must have loved my son to take him that way. They said it was God’s will and he needed another angel. I kept wishing God didn’t love him at all and I’d still see his smile and feel his loving arms around me telling me how much he loved me.
I left ministry for good after having served for 5 years. I knew I didn’t believe in God and never really did. I had spent years in frustration as I forced myself to keep inventing newer and more creative ways to “prove” God existed and they all showed me only one truth. There is no God. I knew this was where I was and it was no longer fair to the churches I served or to me. I loved my parishioners and in my last act of service, I stepped down and never returned to ministry. On top of that, my 15 year marriage ended, I filed bankruptcy, and lost everything I owned. The one good thing? After having lost my son, losing everything else didn’t matter.
I used to stay tied to religion with the blackmail of hell. I was so terrified I’d go there. After the death of my son the fear of hell didn’t matter. You couldn’t invent a hell that was worse than losing my sweet boy. You couldn’t concoct anything that could ever hurt that much or be that evil or horrible and so the fear of eternal damnation didn’t exist as I felt I was in hell having to live without my son for the rest of my life.
I had a total mental breakdown two years after my son died and was hospitalized. To my horror I ended up on a psych floor, being on suicide watch every 10 minutes, and sobbing alone in the bathroom. I could hear my cries echoing off the brick walls and I never felt so empty and alone. I had no idea how much the religious abuse had taken its toll on me. I totally hated myself and believed I was worthless. I was the worst loser of all because God ignored me. I can’t love myself if God hates me, right? During that time I got the help I needed and I began to journal, a lifesaving practice I still love.
As I healed, I realized that there is no God. All my life I thought there was and I was just “so bad” that he ignored me. Once I realized that there wasn’t a god/deity I began to feel better about myself. My self-hatred started to go away and I used my social work degree to work with the mentally ill for the county. I have worked there now for 11 years.
I am on good medications without any further mental relapses. I was in therapy for over 7 years. I take good care of myself and can have fun with a few friends. I love drumming, reading, writing, and trying new activities. I meet new people and continue to work with the homeless.
I had a second failed marriage but I have learned that I have to heal from all the religious abuse and all the esteem destroying beliefs of my being evil, unworthy, and unwanted. It was shocking to see what those beliefs had done to me and how I see myself and others.
As I wandered around lost, voicing my unbelief, I suffered extensive shunning. I felt I was crawling on the ground, bleeding, trying to find a place to voice all my doubt and pain. I cried a lot watching people I loved step over me, as I hurt, and act like they never cared at all. My putting doubt into words terrified them.
I suffered from crippling panic attacks and have a phobia of churches to this day. I can’t go inside them without panic moving through me. I don’t miss church at all. I loved some of the beauty of the services but after leaving ministry the people I tried to talk to about my doubts and unbelief were very cruel and heartless to me. I am now free to be who I always have been. I am no longer afraid to think what I know to be the truth.
It’s been a hard road but I know now that I have always searched for truth. I can’t settle for fairy tales or lies. I have to prove it for myself. I will not be told what to believe. I will not believe it because you say it’s true.
The Clergy Project allows me to connect with others so that I can see I am not alone in leaving ministry and no longer believing in God and can grow in my love of myself and learn new ideas.
I am very happy today. My future goal is to work until I can retire, move to Galveston Island in Texas, and spend my life’s end on the beach. The ocean is everything to me and I want to run along the beach’s edge and know that while this life is all we’ve got, life is so wonderful, beautiful, and precious. I want to travel and see a bit of the world and bask in the sunshine, free of snow, and the cold.
Life is short, let’s dance along the shores and enjoy the sunshine together.