The Day Faith Left Me: Sarah’s Story

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Ryan Hyde.

I remember every moment vividly. I was sitting on the back porch. I can see it all clearly as if I was watching a video re-run of my life. The colors, time of year, even the size of that tiny porch.

I remember waking up that morning feeling something tight around my stomach. My first thought was that something was not okay. I wondered what it was. It wasn’t until my phone rang about 5 hours later that I knew instantly just exactly what it was that had my stomach in knots. Somehow my brain and body knew that this was the turning point of my life the very moment I woke up. But I didn’t recognize it until the phone rang.

I was living in the basement apartment of a couple who used to be resident directors at the college where I went to school. I hero-worshiped the two of them. They were everything a good Christian couple should be. I was honored and humbled that they offered for me to live with them for the summer. I had just graduated in May, and I was searching for a job. I had to move out soon because school was over; it was time to move on.

I was in this place in life where I had a lot of wounds. My childhood was a homeschool mess. My earliest years were being raised in crazy cults, and by my teen years my parents had settled into something a little more “normal” and enrolled our family in ATI. English and math gave way to wisdom booklets, attending counseling seminars and teaching at Children’s Institutes. When I left home at 21 to go to college I had never taken a test, never written a paper, and had no math past the 5th grade. It was only my freshman year of college that I realized just how abnormal my childhood was, even for homeschooling families.

I felt like an alien who had been dropped on a different planet.

Everything was new.

Four years of trying to figure out how to be a normal person. Everything about college was hard. But I prided myself on the fact that I picked a great Christian school, I was studying to be in youth ministry, and regardless of all I faced growing up I held to my faith like a rock! When it came time to graduate I applied for a job at my alma-mater as a Resident Director. I loved that place. I loved those people. They stepped in and were my family. I relied on them for everything. I knew they didn’t hire people just graduating, but still I made it down to the final two.

I had been journaling, and praying, and God told me I was ready.

I had what I needed to be a great Resident Director. I had my theme for the year planned out. I had verses. I was on my knees in humbleness, and I thought about what God had prepared for me. I could stay and be mentored by my spiritual mom, I could be near my best friend, I would be a part of this amazing Christian community, and I would be IN… like truly accepted as a Christian leader. I would help shape the spiritual lives of my RA’s, and I would be Gods broken vessel. A cracked pot that He made new and useful.

Back to that porch. My cell phone rang. I knew the number. It was the Student Development Office. I ran up from the basement to get better reception and sat on the very small stoop at the back of the house. Breathlessly answering. And with the greeting I knew, I knew, I knew… all was not to be. They felt God leading them towards the other candidate. I choked out something about being grateful for the chance. Hung up. And collapsed into a ball.

From my body came wails. Like deep, someone died, guttural cries of pain. The sound scared me.

I remember crying “Don’t Go! Don’t Leave Me!” over and over again. I still remember the feeling, as if in a movie, of something coming out of my body and floating off in the air.

I knew then, my faith was leaving.

I didn’t want it to. I begged it to stay. I didn’t want this. But I knew it was leaving. And I knew I was falling into depression.

I called my best friend to pick me up. I knew I wasn’t good on my own. We talked; she was a great support. But I’m not sure she ever really knew what happened.

You see, I would have bet my life that God talked to me. That He had planned for me to work at the college. I heard Him. I felt Him. I knew Him. But when the leaders I trusted didn’t choose me for the job, when God let them to the other candidate, I knew I didn’t hear from Him. The proof was in black and white. God picked them. God talked to them. And I wasn’t in the loop. I wasn’t chosen. I wasn’t in the club. And more than that, I didn’t hear from God.

If I had been so wrong about that, than what else was I wrong about?

Nothing I knew held any water any longer. Everything must be questioned. Must be looked at. Must be assessed. I was not to be trusted. My judgment was not to be trusted. I needed to leave the bubble of Christianity… well I was actually forced out… and I had no solid place to stand.

A month-ish later I got a job at one of the most secular high schools possible. Every day I had to face viewpoints that would have scared me months earlier. My roommate was gay. My students were engaging in premarital sex. Evolution was science, and creation was laughable. Choice and lifestyle were individual matters and not dictated. I floundered. Most days I thought I was drowning. I saw the opposite of everything I had ever believed or thought true. I begged still for my faith to return. I prayed. I wrote in my journal. I show up at church. I talked to mentors and pastors.

But once rational thought was let in, once I started to question, once I realized that what I had been taught had no logic… well I could never go back.

Here I am years later… and every moment of that day is etched into my memory and consciousness… the day faith left me.

5 comments

  • Diane Alton-Kaighin

    Thanks for sharing this.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    I felt like an alien who had been dropped on a different planet.

    This is actually called “Growing Up Martian”.

  • Welcome to the REAL world, Wende, the world of freedom. Freedom/responsibility is a double-edged sword, a scary thing until you start to explore it. Then it becomes something you. will. never. give. up.

    Your REAL life has just begun, and forgiveness of your past can help…look forward. Remember, in Christianity, Jesus was half human, so hold onto that half and follow the Golden Rule, NOT the Christian/pagan salvation myth that was created to control you.

    Netflix has a documentary “The God Who Wasn’t There,” produced by a young former fundamentalist, that should encourage you. Another one is “Marjoe.” They’ll both expose the lies you’ve had to submit to. Google the Center for Inquiry with its magazine “Free Inquiry” to share with us humanists our exploration of how to live an ethical life of non-belief. Our lives are rich with learning.

    Again, welcome Wende. Nothing’s perfect in this real world of science, but you’ll be able to find UNDERSTANDING, not manipulated faith; and you’ll be free to search for your OWN meaning in life, not someone else’s nonsensical evasion of it. (Hint: Start with the realization that snakes can’t talk; and the Garden of Eden and the downfall of the human race and its artificial guilt are a con job.) Above all: Have fun in life and trust your conscience to be your guide.

    • Thank you for your thoughts, lmanningok. I want to let you know that I am not the author of this story. Sarah is. I am part of the HA editorial team, and part of my responsibilities is formatting and posting stories people submit to HA.

  • Victoria Leavitt

    My step daughter and her husband are homeschooling their 8 children. While not quite as bad as some of the things i have read on this site, it is still horrible. I am a former elementary school teacher and now a nurse educator and I fear that this is what awaits my grandchildren. And there is nothing that I can do about it except let them know that I love them and will accept them unconditionally.

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