They reckon you need 3-7 connections with a Christian to convert or feel established into a new church.
I reckon you need around 5 connections to get you out of it.
A reader, we’ll call her Sarah, sent me this message this week:
I have been wanting to send you a message for a few weeks now, as I have been ferociously reading my way through your blog. Okay, that’s a lie – I read the entirety of your public posts in one evening, sitting on my couch with a bottle of wine and a growing puddle of tears. I want to tell you that I so deeply appreciate your honesty and authenticity in how you tell your story.
Much of what you share has resonated with me in some the big questions I find myself facing at the moment. I understand that these “all-the-important-things-in-life” conversations are best had in person (or at the very least, via hologram or Skype). If you ever find yourself in Melbourne, I would love to have a drink or few with you.
Of course the answer was yes. Aside from the fact that she said a ‘few’ drinks, I love talking about this stuff and catching up with people I only knew as a kid. I’m also personally so grateful to the everyone who was a part of my own journey out, even though for some of them it probably wasn’t that fun.
It made me start thinking of all the people involved in my own questioning journey… anyone else have similar sorts of people you talked to?
My poor friend Cassi.
She got the brunt of it. The deluge of new thoughts and shocking realisations, the constant to-ing and the fro-ing and analysing and discussing and processing of the first 2 years I began thinking for myself. Every new experience, every conversation or discussion or thing I read came pouring out over a glass of champagne in her spa for, quite literally, hours on end.
I didn’t mean to make our friendship purely about me processing the decision she’d already come to a year or so ago. She was just the only one I had.
There’s a period in your life where you’re questioning and thinking and wondering a lot but you’re still pretty entrenched in the whole thing. You can’t talk to your friends or colleagues or even your husband because they start getting scared that you’re going to hell.
So you need a Verbal Deluge Friend, someone who understands that just cos you don’t believe in Jesus today doesn’t mean you won’t be adoringly worshipping him again on the weekend. Someone who gets that there’s a difference between God and the Church. Someone who knows it’s a love/hate, emotionally devastating process to accept that there’s no god and gives you the space to process it. And especially someone who knows that you need to work this Stuff out for yourself and that it’s not gonna be over in a day.
Sam was my yoga teacher. A wiry, 50 year old, grey haired man who could stand on his head and fold his legs into strange angles, his eyes emanate the gentlest spirit of anyone I’ve ever known. Twice a week I got up in the dark at 5am in the morning, drove over to Manly Corso and took myself through the Ash Tanga MySore series under his direction.
He showed me that my body is not my enemy, to be subdued and fought against, but to be listened to and cherished. To just let myself fall without trying to prevent it and simply start the move again.
He taught me that life goes in cycles and some days you’re not better than yesterday, you’re just different. That sometimes simply breathing and holding gets the same results as striving and pushing.
He taught me that emotions live in your muscles and your physical body is as much a part of your soul as your mind and feelings. That Being is more important than Doing.
He told me to cry out the weeping that soaked from my muscles after every yoga class. The weeping that turned out to be unconscious grieving for the death of the idea of God and the gateway to acceptance.
I owe this man so much, it’s emotional to write about him.
When you’re letting go of truths, you need new anchors to hold onto. For a friend of mine, this was Richard Dawkins, for another it was a comedian. You just need someone who gives you a glimpse of what it’s like to live on the other side – any side of the other side – and makes it safe for you process that stuff.
That said, go to yoga. Go, everyone, to yoga.
Yvette was a business manager of another church overseas when she realised she didn’t believe in God anymore.
I knew her story for a year before I could bring myself to talk to her. Not just because she’s a naturally loud and opinionated person and I was a little intimidated but also because talking to her meant I had made a decision that it wasn’t for me, this church life. It meant that I needed advice on how to leave and get out of it, rather than just continue pretending that one day my faith would come back and let me go back to the life I knew.
At the time I didn’t believe what she told me, about what would happen after leaving. She told me my mentor and second-mum would drop communication with me. She told me the leaders of the church would get nasty as soon as I resigned. She told me my staff and friends would be banned from seeing me and most people, even my friends, would not be in contact, even to find out what happened.
I didn’t believe her at the time but was glad for the warning when all those things – and worse – happened just like she said they would. At least I didn’t feel like the problem was with me.
There comes a point when you’ll make a decision and some hard, practical advice on what that’s going to mean for your life is just the thing to get you through. If you can find them, someone who’s been in the same position you are (Pastor’s daughter, gay, Anglican, worship leader etc) is best.
I had no idea what to do with the salt shaker. A shot glass of tequila was pushed onto the counter top and someone started saying ‘ready?’. Kendyl jumped over and told me to lick between my thumb and forefinger and shake some salt on it. I got it done just in time to lick it off, down the tequila and suck the lemon just a couple of beats behind everyone else.
There’s going to be a lot of new experiences in your new life, especially if you’ve jumped straight from being a married Pastor to a single Uni student (for example), that you’ll have not the slightest idea about. You won’t have any club appropriate shoes, you’ll have boy questions, you won’t know anything about Sex and the City and most innuendos will go over your head so you need someone to help you navigate all this. You’ll also just need a good ol’ partner in crime.
That’s where your New Life Best Friend comes in. Kendyl was adorable and a deep well of never ending patience and fun. She didn’t care so much for the philosophical thinking and that’s exactly what I needed. An escape and introduction to the best my new life had to offer…
No one in your new world is really going to understand the part of you that once was a Bible-believing, Jesus-loving, tongues-speaking, Holy-Spirit-praying Pastor. They’ll find it fascinating… for the first 20 minutes, maybe a one hour tell-all session if they’re the Curious type but after that you’re on your own…
You’re on your own with that random night terror of Ps Chris sitting on a red chair in her office, wearing a multi-coloured kaftan, cackling over her new magazine coffee-table style book. You’re on your own with the incessant urge to read anything that has to do with some old Asian pastor convicted of embezzlement… with those moments you get contacted by Someone Else Who Left… and the pure awkwardness of running into a Connect Group of people you went to bible college with just two weeks into living in Sydney again…
All of these moments will seems like nothing more than a dream, a news article, a rumour and a random meet with old friends to everyone except your De-Converted Best Friend.
Jyana understands what a freakin’ big deal some of these things are and how much they jarred my day-to-day reality. She responds with a huge ‘Oh my gaaawwwwd, I can’t believe that happened!!!!’ and I don’t have to even go through the process of explaining what a Connect Group is.
I was in Portugal a couple of years ago whenI lost my camera (again). I went to an agency to get the police report translated for the insurance claim. I had to call the insurance company to check something about the documents and had a slight moment of shock when a girl with an Australian accent picked up the phone. I’d been travelling about 8 weeks at that stage through countries where english wasn’t their first language. It’s necessary to speak a different kind of english to officials, waiters, taxi drivers, shop assistants etc; a stilted sort of english where you reduce it down to the basics and say things nice and slowly.
Suddenly, I was talking to a native Australian and it was like jumping into a pool on a hot day. She understood me straight away. We had the fastest conversation I’d had in months and frankly, it was over too quickly. I hesitated when she asked if there was anything else she could do for me because I was trying to think of excuses to keep talking to her.
If you grew up in church, you need to speak with someone who speaks your native language every now and again – you just gotta let it out and go back there and reminisce and laugh and get angry and rant and gossip and confess and philosophise and all that stuff that’s impossible with anyone – no matter how much they love you – from the New Life. And that’s your Deconverted Best Friend (or friends, if you’re as lucky as I am).
If I can be any one of these people for you, please feel free to write me. To my friends Cassi, Yvette, Sam, Kendyl and Jyana… thanks. Xx
God is not afraid of your brain.
I write this because I used to think he was. I would never have phrased it that way, of course, but that’s the reality of it.
When I was a Pastor, I picked up a little book in the library called ‘How To Know God Exists.’ About the size of a napkin, it had a cartoon on every page and no more than one sentence under the cartoon, aimed at the 5-8 year old market. It shocked me that a book of such clearly Christian persuasion would be in a Public Library and I wanted to find out how they managed to do that.
Turns out, they managed to do that because it wasn’t actually arguing for God’s existence. Quite the opposite actually. It’d be more aptly titled, ‘How To Know God Doesn’t Exist’. The book ended up in the boot of my car for a few weeks as the return reminders piled up. One afternoon, one of my staff members – a mum with 2 kids – saw it when we were collecting some items from my car and picked it up.Read More