For thirty years, I was, without a doubt, a deeply vested Christian.
For a year now, as my faith beliefs have been unraveling at the seams, I’ve imagined myself in a cocoon: laboring, waiting, transforming in the mysteries of darkness into a new being. Through a progressive loss of religious culture, beliefs, community (or semblance of it), spiritual practices and friendships, I’ve come to see the cocoon is not all I’ve thought it is. It’s not only this place or season where I tuck away to be reborn; it is also the shell and substance of my life that, once comfortable and well-fitting, now presses in and suffocates. It’s this cocoon I can no longer tuck away in. I must fight my way out.
Sometimes, it hits me viscerally: I am fighting my way out of God. Is that what this is, I ask? Am I parting ways with God? I don’t want to. I kick and pound desperately, grief-stricken, angry, against these walls, until they crack. I just want to breathe.
I poke my head through and find that God is not the cocoon, but air. And I am leaving the confines of Christianity’s walls. It used to hold me, but now it’s too small a cocoon.
During this year, I’ve thought I could parse out the good from the bad while remaining inside Christianity’s walls. I don’t need anyone to tell me of the good. I’ve spent a lifetime defending it. I’ve seen the beautiful lives of love and I’ve seen the bullshit. It’s all been poured into the same blender, handed to me in a glass, and I cannot swallow anymore without sickness.
Because there is beauty outside the cocoon, did you know? We cocoon ourselves and others within our conditions, setting up fences with “as long as” statements, to keep our fear of the unknown at bay.
As long as you don’t stay away for too long.
As long as you still believe (fill-in-the-blank).
As long as you still love Jesus.
As long as you don’t lose the faith.
But those as long as statements are stifling, weak replicas of faith, and I understand now I can’t know true faith without taking them down.
God has never been the cocoon. God, perhaps, has been whispering in the dark of the cocoon all along, beyond my sight, We’ll get out of here one way or another together. I am so much more than this. And so are you.
And slowly, the walls crack. My body is spent, beyond exhaustion. How much must I lose of my faith in order to save it? I whisper through the cracks.
Apparently, all of it.
So strike a match and let it burn, I answer. Let it crumble, let it die, and the way I’ll know what’s really real is when I see what grows from the heap of ashes.
This is my confession.
If you’re one of the ones asking, at the end of this, what in tarnation does this even mean, I’ll try to speak normally for a moment. Metaphors are my second tongue - I am drawn to how metaphors can convey the essence of a truth without picking it to pieces, systematically, I am drawn to a faith these days that can do the same - but they don’t speak to everyone. So, if you’re looking for the bullet points of what all I believe and why, you won’t find it here.
But I can say this:
Throughout this crumbling and shifting of my faith, as I’ve known it, I’ve held to one conviction: I must let this unfold without placing conditions upon it. In other words, I cannot say where it will end. It is faith in the reverse of what I’ve known. Letting go of control and professing a belief before I’m certain I can back it up, with the understanding that it is a dynamic ongoing process, evolving with time. It is looking fear of the unknown in the face and utterly denying it power.
Practically speaking, this has looked like me leaving church; distancing myself from much of Christian culture; unable to read the bible; wondering if I even know what or how to pray anymore; losing friendships; losing community; losing burdens of guilt and shame; shedding beliefs, reimagining and reaffirming old ones, gaining new ones; losing my comfort of easily relating to God, former definitions of spiritual intimacy; grieving; allowing myself curiosity in discovering God outside of Christianity; finding I have lost faith in the whole of Christianity, at least as the system I’ve known it; suspecting and searching for, and then discovering, a faintly growing hope that God is part of, but so much greater than, these walls of Christianity alone.
A God this great is even large enough to hold this tension, large enough for those who are outside, atheists and agnostics included. And in the process, I am finding myself, finding traces of the Divine, in the most unlikely places. Finding, along the way, home and friendships and sacred spaces wherever I am invited and free to be wholly me.
For wherever we are free, I do believe, there God will be.
Read more confessions from anonymous contributors.