I Don’t Pray Anymore

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kierstyn King’s blog Bridging the GapIt was originally published on March 20, 2013.

When I was 10 and we were well into our left-the-cult-but-still-kept-everything-but-demons days we started going to church again. After being told churches in general were evil, it was weird going back to the buildings. My church experience was never great, we were never at one long enough to belong, because the pastor would say something and my parents would have a disagreement and we’d either leave or be asked to leave. I occasionally had time to make friends before we were shunned and never spoken to again. It was lonely, to say the least.

In September of 2001, 10 days after the trade centers fell, we had another reminder of the love of god – my mom had a stillborn. A boy, which was special because I only had one brother and at the time there were 3 girls including me (and another boy meant we’d have a chance of carrying on the family name, because that was somehow important — I remember that remark being made before). He died in the birth canal with the cord wrapped around his neck – he suffocated. My siblings and I were sick with the flu at my grandparents’ house, so it was just my mom and dad (homebirths were unassisted, always) at home and they called and had us come home and told us the baby died.

They showed us the blue and purple and red body, my mom was holding and touching it and wanted us all to hold it. I flat out refused, grossed out by the thought of touching a cold corpse (in who knows what state of decay *shudder*) I went to lay down and when I woke up a few hours had passed and the police and paramedics were there. I remember seeing strange people walking around while I was on the couch kinda delirious from being sick and dead baby, I think they tried to ask me something but I just mumbled something about just getting there and not knowing what happened and being sick. They were very very nice to me and understanding (which was comforting because I was scared), they took the corpse and my mom sobbed. I didn’t understand, I didn’t understand why they kept the corpse around for so long.

By the time the funeral had come around, maybe a week later, the paramedics had labeled it SIDS, which I came to understand as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. My parents said that this was all part of god’s plan and nothing could have been done to stop it. My dad somehow worked the love of god and the salvation message into the eulogy, talking about how it was a good thing, and told us kids how this would be a good opportunity to get my catholic grandparents to convert.

I didn’t cry.

I didn’t cry for many reasons, one was because I learned early on that crying was weakness, but also, because I truly believed with all my heart that god was going to bring the baby back, I prayed sooo hard and didn’t want to leave the graveyard because I knew that there was going to be a miracle, I had the faith of a mustard seed – though it felt like more; I didn’t know what a mustard seed was, but I figured I could be moving mountains because I believed it so much. That there would be cries of life before the coffin was lowered into the ground and everyone would be surprised.

But as we left and the grave-people were getting ready to bury the coffin, there was no noise, just silence.

This didn’t bother me until years later, I just assumed that maybe I didn’t have enough faith even though I thought I did and gave it all I could muster.

Cut To: 2004

Valentine’s day (2 weeks before my 13th birthday), 7am, we were all there this time. I was woken up and told to keep the kids under control/fed/etc as mom was in labor in the master bathroom. I popped on cartoons and fed the kids and those things that you do while trying to pretend you can’t hear the screams and noises of labor.

The worst happened. We all heard it, “BREATHE” was shouted over and over again and silence fell.  Color drained from our faces. I don’t remember any sequence of events after that, the memory is locked somewhere, but I remember touching this corpse (girl this time) because it seemed to be important to mom. Still cold and blue and purple and pink and gross. It was the same cause; strangulation, the paramedics labeled it SIDS again, but I think we were at our grandparents house when they showed up because I don’t remember interacting with them. My grandparents did their best to comfort us and just let it all sink in. They’re good at that, at giving us what we need and being generally unassuming. I don’t think they know how much that means to us.

My mom said, later, that she felt god telling her that he did this because he loved her, this was his way of saying I love you. It was her valentines present, taking the baby. Same weird salvation, this is good, this is love, etc message was preached at her funeral too – another opportunity for my grandparents to convert, and a few months later they did, so it was all seen as a wash and “worth it”. We laid her to rest beside my brothers grave. I didn’t pray for her return this time, I figured that Lazerous and Jesus were probably just one time things.

Honestly it’s the questions that got to me most. Because every pregnancy since the first stillbirth, my siblings (who were around to remember) have asked “is this baby going to be born alive?”. The thought of them asking that and me having no answer, and mom and dad’s pat answers still make me cry and my blood run cold. I hate that it’s even a question that had to be asked.

Cut To: 2007-2008

My life had become a living hell. I was 16-17, I was growing into an adult, forming my own opinions and, to their credit (and chagrin) my parents didn’t raise a weak daughter. My boyfriend-now-husband and I were in this process called “courting” à la Josh Harris. I don’t remember where my parents heard of the idea, probably a homeschool convention that also included HSLDA and Mike Farris. For those unfamiliar, it’s like, trying to date but with your whole relationship being micromanaged and manipulated by control freaks and outsiders who have no interest in the relationship itself, just in dictating things without taking the time to get to know anyone. In our case it went from my parents trying to marry me off at 16 because as soon as the word “relationship” entered it was like wedding bells were ringing. At 17 my mom got pregnant and the cycle of my existence as a person ended (again) and my existence as my mother’s sentient broom began – only this time, I fought back. I was just getting into my personhood after a decade of not having one.

I was dragged out of bed and cornered and bullied by my parents for hours. Told I wasn’t being godly enough, told I was a better daughter and better skilled when I was 8, that Alex was generally evil, and corrupting me, that I was on my way to hell and had better shape up, that god disapproved and I needed to make it right. It was my DUTY to end my life and be a live-in slave to my parents whenever they demanded it. That because I was a woman/younger, THEY heard from god for me, and there was no way I knew for myself what was best for me, and god wouldn’t tell me something against their will.

Unfortunately for them, they spent the 6 months prior drilling into me that I was an adult and capable of making my own decisions. I quickly came to the conclusion that people didn’t have the power to bestow and then relinquish adulthood at the drop of a hat, or plus sign of a pregnancy test.

I was devastated when my mom told me she was pregnant. No, not devastated, enraged, panicked, and hurt. I had spent the last hellish year, and especially six months praying oh-so-hard for god to work, to make it better, to make things okay. And the result of my prayers, every single time? The problems made up by my parents just escalated, escalated, and escalated until my parents told me that I was no longer allowed to talk to Alex. My prayers were hitting the ceiling, I felt pieces of myself dying as I spent those last six months of 17 plotting my escape and trying to fly low enough under the radar so as to not be noticed, so my near-suicidal depression wouldn’t cause room for concern and cause more squelching. I misdirected to survive, letting my parents think I was “over” Alex just to get me to my next birthday. I felt abandoned by god, which crushed me, because I had done everything, I had given up having my own life for years, I rarely saw friends, I didn’t ask for much, I worked so hard.

Cut to: February 28 2009

I left on my 18th Birthday, I had a party away from home (that took a lot of work) and Alex and I left that night. My parents went nuts when we called them. They went from acting concerned and sad to bullying, not hesitating to pull god into it.

Cut To: March 4 2009

Newest baby was born by Cesarean due to complications and that the previous child (boy) had been an emergency C-Section. The reasons for this C-section? Umbilical cord wrapped around her neck.

I don’t think it hit me then. It hit me on the anniversary of the first stillborn. It could have been prevented. It was the same thing that killed him and the other one, but this one made it because they happened to be at a hospital. I’ve rarely been more crushed and angry than when that realization hit.

*****

I stopped praying because my prayers didn’t do anything good, they only made things worse. I stopped praying because god obviously never listened to me. I stopped praying because I was tired of being let down and abandoned by someone who was supposed to never abandon me.

I’ve cried and wrestled and fought over this. Why didn’t god listen? Was I not good enough? Does he not care? If he did care, why did he let this happen? Why would he abandon the fervent prayers of an innocent child, of a young adult? I don’t know. All I know is, praying has left me disillusioned, callous, and cynical.

8 comments

  • It’s hard for something that doesn’t exist to answer your prayers. What really infuriates me about my growing up is when I would pray really hard and god wouldn’t answer, my mom would tell me things like “God doesn’t always say yes” or “This wasn’t part of god’s plan for you.” The essence of christian homeschooling is that the children have no knowledge or ability to determine what they like, what they enjoy doing, or what they want their path to be. The parents are the only ones who can talk to god and pass that on to their children. Except they don’t; they manipulate and control for their own selfish desires, all the while hiding behind false pretenses.

  • Kierstyn, OMGOSH what heartbreak and anger!
    I hope the reprehensible days are behind you and I hope you keep that strength and move on to create a life of love, strength, wisdom, and peace.
    Whenever I hear of parents emotionally injuring their children I get so angry and I feel so….powerless. I wish there was a way to send Healing vibes your way. But I’m counting on that amazing brain you are discovering!

    Peace.
    Karen

  • It is four years later. I hope you have found an equilibrium and peace with yourself. You don’t need God, or Goddess, or religion. Or maybe you do. It seems to be very individual.
    In my family my brother and mother are complete atheists. My father is a born-again fundamental christian who does it himself. he has no pastor or church; it’s all his own dialog with Christ. And he is a very accepting person. I am a witch, a neo pagan and a Pythia of Apollon. And I had to develop with these things in an extremely hostile environment, which I also fled.
    I wish you the best and most stable life, where you find what YOU feel about God, or Gods, or Goddess, or Goddesses, or Deities, or spiritual paths without deities, or paths without the need for any external validation.
    You’ve done an amazing job so far. I wish you well.
    Where I grew up people with the same name call themselves “tocayo.” Or for women, “tocaya.” And you are my tocaya, which is a fictive sister. I send you a strong virtual hug.

  • Hi Kierstyn: Wow, that was a difficult read as a mom with 7 kids, 2 of which were born at home (assisted by at least 2 midwives, thankfully). It makes perfect sense why you don’t pray anymore. And I can’t blame you one bit. Having to touch a dead baby when you did not want to was not right. As a mother, I cringed inside when reading it. That was for your mom’s emotional needs and not yours. Your feelings did not matter. The business about God’s purposes for the baby’s death when your parents failed to take adequate care of the pregnancies was a flat out lie and if you have never labeled it before, let me do it for you: it’s called spiritual abuse. Spiritual abuse is a hot topic for me and what you have experienced would make many people run from God and never want anything to do with Him. Understandably.

    I have a lot of “God” issues and have now come to realize that it is because people completely misrepresented the loving and gracious God that I now know. I still fight those old tapes in my head of who God is. I’m so sorry to hear what you went through. That’s a lot of pain for a young person to carry into adulthood. It makes me angry to read it. I hope you are doing well now and can find peace and healing. ~Julie Anne

  • > it’s like, trying to date but with your whole relationship being micromanaged and manipulated by control freaks and outsiders who have no interest in the relationship itself

    Oh man that is such a perfect description of the idea of courtship. Totally stealing that.

  • Anonforthisone

    I don’t pray anymore either. I had a much anticipated pregnancy, my first being unexpected, this one planned. All was well, until it was not. I prayed just as much with the second as with the first, but the second, my sweet wanted daughter, at six and a half months, died in the womb. The doctors don’t know why. This was not “part of gods plan”. It was terrible, it was life. My mother, on the day I called to tell her that Sunny’s heart wasn’t beating, literally prayed for her to come back to life. Like that would happen. Miracles are full of sht, excuse my language. I’d like to say more, but I’m a bit overcome. Overcome with anger, with righteous indignation, with anger at the people who pray life away. Prayer doesn’t fix it.

  • I googled something like “I don’t pray anymore” and I ended up here. Thank you for sharing this, and thanks to the commenters for sharing their words of wisdom and honest feelings, too. It’s a breath of fresh air to read these posts with nothing held back. I don’t feel so alone. … I guess many of us have our own unique experiences concerning this subject, and somehow or another through a series of life events, doubts, disappointments, devastations, and everything in between, we’ve arrived at a place where we don’t pray anymore. Or can’t. I think that’s where I’m at – I just can’t. I don’t know what to pray for anymore. Nothing ever seems good enough and I’m tired of being saddled with doubt concerning every thought, feeling, and instinct I have. I know all too well about those excuses of “it was not part of God’s plan” when a prayer goes unanswered and yes, some of the things I’ve prayed for I’m glad never panned out, but if God knows what’s best for us, then why do we need to ask him for anything? Shouldn’t it be enough to just trust him and use the great brains he blessed us with to put one foot in front of the other everyday to handle everything else thrown at us in the natural world? This is what no one can seem to answer for me. In one breath they’ll say “God knows your heart, you don’t have to explain,” and in another breath they’ll say, “pray for this, pray for that.” It fills me with such dread, panic, and fear when someone implores me to pray. And then I have a whole other batch of misery with the worry and fear that comes from “flying blind,” from NOT praying, feeling like I’ve turned my back on God or that I’m just being lazy. Really, I tell you, I’m just exhausted by it all. Worn out by spirituality! I’m actually ashamed to say that. But so help me, it’s true. I guess I’ve been a victim of spiritual abuse (to credit the other commenter with that term) and I’m just now finally realizing it or accepting it. After all, spirituality is supposed to lift us up above the mess we’re in, not expect us to sit in the rain until some storm passes. … And to Kier Simon, your post is so spot-on. You make a great suggestion – hey, why not decide for yourself what you believe? 🙂 Honestly, for me I don’t think it’s ever occurred to me that I had any say-so in the matter of my own spirituality; I thought it was everyone else’s business. And if that’s not a sign of suffering spiritual abuse, then I don’t know what is! Be well and kind to yourselves, everyone.

  • [HA note: comment modified in light of Comment Policy #3.]

    God loves you all and He cares for you.And not everything is the will of God,Jesus said”The thief does not come except to steal,and to kill,and to destroy.I have come that they may have life,and have it more abundantly.”

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