I found out about this forum this afternoon, and after reading all of your heart-warming stories, I decided to share mine too. In the end, I hope my story will help others like all of your stories helped me. Before I even start writing something I want to tell you that it is a huge honour to join you.
I grew up in a very close Christian community in the Netherlands. My mother and father were raised Christian, as were my grandparents, my aunts, uncles and nieces. I have been praying and reading the bible from the start. Nobody told me why. All I knew was that God lived in heaven, he loved me, and I loved him. I went to church on Sundays; I went to a Christian preschool, middle school and high school. All of my friends could pick their own high school, but my high school was decided for me. It was a Christian high school after all, and my parents didn’t really open it up for discussion. Not that I wanted them to. We had just moved to a new city, and at the time the last thing I wanted to do was figuring things out for myself. I was glad that I finally had a chance of some peace of known, Christian ground. I was glad with the tranquillity of repetition.
I was a shy kid who couldn’t really get along with the others. Most of the time I was on my own, and I learned to live with that. For the first three years of high school I was just sitting in my room, avoiding my parents (I have never really had a strong family bond), or I was wandering the halls of the school without anyone noticing me. I was honestly comfortable with that. I saw how the others treated each other. It taught me things I would have never learned in a group. I grew into what I now like to call a “watcher.” I observed, yet remained silent.
After the third year of high school I started to question things not only about other people, but about myself, my way of life, the meaning of life in general and the influence I had on it. It started with simple questions like: would I have been a Christian if my parents would not have been? Why wasn’t I a Muslim, or a Buddhist, or an atheist?
I looked into the world wondering why everybody believed they had life figured out. Did anybody have the answers? My parents would of course have told me that we were just the chosen ones, and they would have told me to pray to God asking if he would take the doubt out of me. I say would have, because I didn’t. All my friends talked about their doubts, just to be convinced of certainties that had been spoon fed to them all of their lives. I wanted answers.
At first I thought it was the devil who was trying to take hold of me, who tried to lure me into his trap. After all, these were the thoughts that I was warned about. But more and more the realisation grew that the devil was just a “watch out for the dog” sign that was cleverly placed there to keep people from leaving the church. The bible unfolded into a clever web of rules and warnings that connected way to well with each other.
I stopped praying, I stopped reading the bible, and I stopped introducing myself as a Christian to new people. I was done with the traditions, and challenged God to convince me otherwise in person. He never did though. I lost my faith in the God I always knew, and I lost my trust in the church. It never grew back.
Ever since, I have been going to church and all the other church related activities just to avoid a family dram. I did not want to wake sleeping dogs. Religion was never really open for discussion, and I was scared of what I might unleash if I would confess my own opinion on Christianity.
Last week I was home alone for a week, and decided not to go to church on Sunday. Finally I could take of my mask and, if only for that week, live my life the way I saw fit. One week later my parents, brothers and sisters came back home. Of course they asked me who had spoken in church the Sunday they were gone. That was a turning point. Do you know those moments where you feel the whole universe shifting beneath your feet because you are going to make a life choice? That was it.
“I don’t know, I didn’t go.”
My mother was utterly surprised. With what reason did her young Christian son not go to church? Perhaps it was because I had a sleepover and I didn’t feel like going to church. And again, I felt the universe shifting.
“I did not have a sleepover, I wasn’t feeling tired. In fact, I did not have any reason not to go other then that I don’t want to go to church in general.”
My dad said that he didn’t want a conversation like that in front of the others, which I fully understand. My mom started crying. She couldn’t bear the thought of me as a non-believer.
I had been waiting for the confrontation all this week. It didn’t come. But I didn’t want to give up now. I had started something because I didn’t want to believe out of tradition anymore. I wanted to drop my mask. I wanted to be free and explore the world. So today I made the confrontation myself.
My mom was at work, and my dad was working on his laptop in the living room. For half an hour I sat there, gathering the courage to tell him. I pinched myself in the knee, and used a kind of alter ego telling me that I could stop pinching once I had my dad’s attention. So I did. With mist in my head and blubber for muscles.
“I don’t want to go to church anymore. I’m done.”
He closed his laptop, and looked at me with a kind of panic in his eyes that I had never seen before. But he’s a rational thinker, luckily, so he had a conversation with me instead of yelling at me. He told me he had doubts too, asked me why I hadn’t told him before, and why I was so convinced of this all of a sudden. He told me to tell my mom too. She came home an hour later. By then I had already packed my bags to stay the night at a friend after my final confrontation with her, just too grand myself some peace of mind.
She walked in, and as always, she asked how things were going. My dad said things could be better. “Your son has something to tell you.”
“I don’t want to go to church anymore.”
My mom was more emotional. A first she tried to have the same conversation she had with my dad, but more and more she started to break. She cried. A lot. She asked the same questions my dad had asked me, but like I said, less rational, more emotional.
“Where have we gone wrong? I read you the bible since you were born, I held you when you were baptized, I gave birth to you, and I love you. I can’t bear the thought of it, but you’re going to hell when you die.”
I hugged them both, confessed my love for them again and left for my friend’s house. He was standing outside the garden gate, and kind of dragged me to the car. I was so tired.
Where things will go from now is uncertain. Perhaps they want me to go to church with them anyways just for the sake of my siblings. All I know is that they are now in bed, still wide awake just like me, and praying for my lost soul, even though the east is already glowing red with the dawn.
I just feel so tired, even though I know I made the right choice.