A while back, I wrote a bit about my journey out of faith. It was a hard piece for me to write, and even harder for me to share. But it isn’t the end of the story. Nor is it the beginning. It’s not the entire story at all, and I’m sure it is something I will visit again and again. I’m trying to get it all straight in my head, and it’s hard.
There are things I don’t miss about the world of faith. I don’t miss the hypocrisy, or the gossip. I don’t miss feeling like I was always on the outside looking in, or the subtle social hierarchy that left me out of many conversations and connections. But I don’t want to dwell on that, not today.
I want to dwell instead on the good things, the things I miss.
The smell and feel of an empty church building, before the crowds, before the music. It is very similar to the feel of an empty store, before the sales associates and customers come in for the day. The prism of light through the stained-glass windows on a sunny day. The gleaming pews and smell of wax and wood polish. A building that sees large gatherings of people has a sense of anticipation in its emptiness. You can feel the building breathing, waiting. Often, Husband and I were the first ones in the building. I would start setting up coffee for the morning Bible Study, and he would set up the sound booth and microphones. Our son would play in the nursery. We would prop the door open, and keep an ear out for problems.
I miss the feeling of people gathered together for a common purpose. I miss the sound of voices raised together in worship. I miss the feeling of something very important about to happen. I miss Bible Studies, and mining the Bible for truths and insights. I miss my faithful little group of ladies, and in my loss of faith I somehow feel I’ve let them down. I miss the friends I had there, their smiles and love and laughter. I miss the children I’ve known since babyhood.
I miss Christmas in a church. I miss the candles and the huge trees on the altar, and the carols instead of the regular hymns. I miss the sense of expectation, of waiting for the infant Savior. I miss the candlelight Christmas Eve service, when the darkened sanctuary slowly lit up, one candle at a time, until the room was full of people holding glowing candles, singing Silent Night.
But, I can’t think of any of these things without thinking of the things I don’t miss. I cannot make myself miss them enough to want to go back and try again.
Because, I can no longer reconcile the things I miss with the things I don’t miss. The good things no longer make a strong enough case for me. And it’s sad. It’s a hard, lonely truth.
But it’s my truth, and I feel it’s an important one. Important enough to dig it out, and examine it. Important enough to write about it – and I’ve realized I am writing authentically for the first time in years. I missed my writing, and the ability to write seemed to fade in the years I believed. Admitting my lack of faith has brought my words back, and you cannot convince me the two are not related.
I believe this hard and painful truth is important enough to share with others.
And so, there will be more words. Because I don’t want to keep them in. And they don’t want to stay shut away, anyhow.