First, some background. My parents have been believers since they were young. They were active members (my mom taught women's bible study, dad was a deacon) in the Church of Christ for many years. When I was a teenager they got "spirit filled" and we attended a non-denominational (charismatic) church. They have not consistently gone to church for about 20 years but have openly been believers. My mom is a survivor of sexual abuse and because of that has had many issues over the years with depression and anxiety. She's "self-medicated" with alcohol off and on for the past 12 years or so. Despite this, she's one of the strongest and funniest women I know.
My dad has his own issues, but he's a sensitive person with a huge heart. He’s been there for my mom through thick and thin. He is very easy going, but can tend to be close-minded about certain things (especially religion). If things come up that rub him the wrong way, he might make a statement about it but then he clams up…he won’t really dialogue back and forth. He has to go away and mull something over for awhile, he’s very slow to change. In fact he really dislikes change and will avoid conflict at all costs.
We were always a pretty close family, but when I was a teenager I began to really pull away from my mom. At that time she had become agoraphobic (afraid to leave the house, or even her recliner at times). I started having my own issues with anxiety at that time. I realized recently that my anxiety was a result of my belief in "spiritual warfare" and also the result of watching god neglect my mom despite how much we prayed as a family. I felt so very helpless during that time of my life. Then as I got older and more serious about my faith and church involvement, I became judgmental of her and less tolerant of her issues.
In the past 6 months I've felt so much more open towards my mom and we've had several good conversations. I hadn't told her where I've landed with my faith but had been pretty open. She was really understanding and said she'd gone through a lot of questioning too, but still believed. Last week she called me b/c her and Dad had seen J's status on FB where he called out the people from our former church for ignoring us since we left the church. They wanted to know what had happened (we'd told them a little but not many details).
I told her the whole story and also told her where J and I are at "spiritually". I told her in a round about way that we aren't really believers anymore. She was really open and again said she'd been through a lot of questioning herself. She told me before we hung up that there was nothing whatsoever that J or I could ever say or do that would change how she and Dad feel about us – that they support us no matter what. I knew deep down that’s how they’d respond but hearing her say it meant so much to me. I told her how much that meant to me and how much I appreciated them and loved them. I said that we’d met some people online these past few months who have literally lost their families b/c of their loss of belief. So their support was really special to me.
Some background on my sister and her husband: My sister has been a believer since she was little and her husband since he was around 20 (he got saved when they were dating). They were only really active in church for short periods of time here and there. My sister is 5 years older than I am. From the time I was around 13 we were really close - best friends. That began to change about10 years ago. We had all (me and J, my parents, my sis and her family, and my bro and his family) moved to Arizona to be part of this church where my uncle was an elder. By the end of our time there our whole family was pretty disconnected. But that’s another story for another day. My relationship w/my sister was never the same after that. We’ve always loved each other and loved being around each other…we just couldn’t get past these walls that were there.
So back to the present…when I talked to my mom last week she asked if we could all get together (her and my dad and my sister and her family). I said that would be great and we had them all over last Saturday. (They all live about 45 minutes from us.) We hadn't all been together since Christmas.
We weren't planning to talk with them about religious stuff – just wanted to have a good time and see where things went. Well of course my bro-in-law (BIL) and my dad started talking about how evolution is BS and all this stuff. J and I just kept grinning at each other. Finally one of them said something about how there weren’t any contradictions in the Bible and J couldn’t take it anymore. He said something about how there are many contradictions and they wanted to know what he meant. So he talked about the account of the resurrection and a few others.
My dad asked if he thought the Bible was put together by people inspired by the Holy Spirit. He said no and explained why. Then off we went…I can’t really remember all that we discussed. They were surprisingly open. My sister said she’d been having doubts for a long time. She said she realized that other than praying at the dinner table they’d been basically living their lives like there was no god. But she was worried about the idea of not ever praying anymore and not having someone "protecting" them. My BIL had just watched part of the movie “Prometheus” and was having some internal questions because of that.
My mom said she’d come to a place of deep questioning many times. She said she's always had a really hard time understanding how god could have allowed what happened to her. She’s also dealt with a LOT of guilt for not being able to get herself together and be a “good Christian” for the past 20 years. She was the most open of all of them and I think the most ready to walk away.
Dad was harder to read. He seemed somewhat open, but he was pretty quiet through the conversation. I was a little worried about how he was feeling about all of it.
J took my parents home (they both have poor eyesight so can’t drive at night). I sat and talked with my sis and BIL. My sister and I had a moment where we both realized that our religious beliefs were actually the cause of our disconnection all this time. She said she realized that her doubts about god were keeping her from talking to me b/c she saw me as this “spiritual guru” person and felt like I wouldn't understand. I told her that I was trying so hard to keep my head in that spiritual place and maintain my beliefs that I didn’t know how to connect w/her (b/c she wasn’t as hard-core as I was). We hugged and cried and expressed our anger at how that bullshit kept us apart. Then we jumped up and down and laughed and acted like goofballs b/c we were so excited to be back together. It was so funny, she stopped for a second and said, "Whoa, I'm only supposed to have this feeling when it's a "god thing"!" I was like, "I know! See!" It was awesome.
My BIL has always been pretty anti-gay and we got into a discussion about gay marriage. I tried to help him see all of that from a different perspective (one where the bible is not the moral compass). At one point as we were talking he said something like, “Wow I’ve always been pretty black and white on all my views about stuff but this is all really making me think.” That shocked me.
When J got back we all talked more and they continued to be very open. J said he talked w/Mom and Dad a lot on the way to their house. He said they both seemed more hopeful than they’d been in a long time.
I was amazed at how much closeness I felt with all of them that day. There’s always been a lot of love between all of us when we're together, but there was a realness and closeness that I don’t think we’ve ever had before. My dad called me the next day and wanted to let me know my mom was ok. He knew I’d be worried about how it all affected her. He also wanted to tell me that they felt more welcomed in our home and into my life than they’d felt in many years. He said it was good for us to talk about those things and that he was open to finding out the truth. He said it was so hard all those years watching mom struggle and praying for her countless times and it not helping…he knew something was wrong.
So since Saturday we’ve sent my mom some videos and her and Dad are watching them. She emailed me and said she talked to my sister and that she (sis) and Dad are still saying they believe in Jesus. She was kind of frustrated by that. We explained that this will take time and everyone goes through it their own way…and that even if they land on still believing, that’s ok. At least everything is out in the open and we’re all supportive of one another.
So that’s where things stand now. If anything big happens I’ll let ya know!
Edited by 2Honest, 21 June 2012 - 11:10 PM.