Sunday, October 21, 2007


Like I mentioned in a previous post, I am thrilled to finally have a decent testimony or personal story to share with people. I used to desire this personal story to help to win people for god, but my motives now are radically different. I want my story or testimony to help people free themselves from the oppression of religion and false belief systems. So here goes ~

I grew up in a christian home. There was never a time that I did not know about god or jesus. I watched my mother pray everyday for the same people in the same diligent way. I learned from my parents what it meant to be a good chrisitan; to be honest, hard-working, and have faith. I remember hearing and reading the classic bible stories when I was young. We went to church every Sunday, but were never very active in it because we usually went to churches quite a distance from our home. Therefore, the majority of my religious indoctrination came from the home. There was nothing outside of christianity. It was in everything and everywhere I looked and I never imagined or thought for one second that there was another option. At that point, it would seem silly to have the option to be wrong. It is silly but I even remember singing all the time. Recently, I found a couple cassette tapes with my young voice on them singing only hymns and other christian songs. There were all about god and jesus, because I knew nothing else.

Growing Up:
As I grew up, we changed churches frequently so I never really had a church family. When I was in kindergarten, my brother graduated college and moved away, leaving me at home with mom and dad. It was all great at home until upper elementary and junior high. I started hanging around different people at school and overall, had quite a rebellious attitude toward my parents and authority in general. I started dating boys, but the one thing that kept me from doing anything that is typical of the teen years was my mother's constant prayer that if I ever was doing something I wasn't supposed to, that I would get caught. Just knowing that my mother was praying kept me from exploring and experiencing the world.

During the summer of my 8th grade year, which would have been 1998, we started attending River of Life Christan Center in Plymouth, Indiana. I got involved with the youth group, made friends, and even joined the worship band. I found my faith again, mainly influenced by peer pressure. I struggled during my 9th grade year at public school for 2 reasons; I felt like the curriculum was going too slow for me, and I didn't like all the negative influences at school. It was hard to be a christian there. So, by my own decision, I asked my parents if I could be home schooled for the rest of high school. They agreed and starting in my 10th grade year I stayed at home for school and taught myself. Those were interesting times. All the curriculum of course had a christian underlying message behind it, whether it was chemistry, literature or history. We even had health class where I read books called "I kissed dating goodbye" and "boy meets girl" which advocated abstinence and even non-dating until adulthood. Even then, a couple should court instead of dating. During those years at home, I became more and more involved with church and christian homeschool groups, connecting only ever with others that shared my christian beliefs. I graduated high school one year early and volunteered at the church school for that year. I spent my entire day at the church; helping at the christian school, working in the church office, helping with youth group, etc. Church was everything to me. All the while, I focused on building my relationship with god and deepening friendships with others around me.

After a year of volunteering, I decided to enroll in Indiana University South Bend to study education. Following the advice from those health books, I courted a young man from my church during this time. We were married the following spring in 2003. We decided to move to South Bend to be closer to school and work, as well as have some much needed space away from family and friends during our newlywed days. We were both still committed christians and continued to make the 30 minute drive to our home church. During this time, lots of changes were taking place in the church. The congregation recently bought a new building and were constantly renovating it, getting it ready for future use. The previous worship leader (who was the pastor's daughter) left to pursue a job, and I was given the position of worship leader at age 19. This happened right around the time we got married. I cannot describe the stresses that I went through in that position. The pastor treated me awfully, even embarrassing and criticizing me in front of the entire congregation. I could never really live up to what his daughter was like as the worship leader. But I endured, all the while being the slave to the pastor and people in the church. Every time I had an idea of my own, I was told I was out of line. Every time I questioned something, I was simply told to have faith. Pretty soon, I realized that I was going to keep having ideas and questions, but my own church family did not want to hear them. I kept the questions to myself, and continued to believe while faltering in my faith. The so-called representatives of god on earth were telling me that my ideas were not good enough. I was told by those in authority to simply be quiet and go along with what god was doing. My husband and I saw an opportunity for change and to follow god's direction when our church decided to start a new campus in our hometown of South Bend. We were thrilled and put our time, money, and effort into the new campus. Knowing that I would be helping with the new campus, I was quickly replaced as worship leader in Plymouth, basically just pushed aside without ever talking about it which ended up being great for me. So, my husband and I, discontented with how things were in Plymouth, were looking forward to the change in South Bend. We thought that we would be able to connect with god and with people better up here since this campus would be much closer to where we lived.

Well at first, all new things are great. You always think that this time it will be different. And it was good for a while at the South Bend campus, now called Church of the Heartland. Being the good little christian slaves that we were, we volunteered for almost every conceivable group at the church to help out in any way possible. During this same time, I also was hanging out a lot with my brother. Because I had been so busy with school and church, I didn't realize the incredible change my brother had gone through. One weekend at his house, he shared the changes that were going on with him. His entire belief system had changed. I remember that night and all the things he told me. I was really shocked. Mind you, I was already a faltering christian and the things my brother shared about his own personal loss of faith really hit home for me. I remember driving home that weekend and balling my eyes out about what he had shared. I remember thinking, "Oh god, my brother is going to hell now!" I was in denial, thinking to myself that the conclusions he had come to had to be wrong. After all, god is god and of course he is real. Because I loved my brother so much, I decided to look into the issues he brought up. I did my own research on the issues to find the facts out for myself, all the while hoping and believing that what I would find would point to god and jesus.

What I found was not what I expected. I found things about the bible that couldn't possibly be true. I read actual history books that recounted the happenings at the Council of Nicaea and couldn't believe the things I was finding. Bits and pieces of my belief system were crumbling down around me. It was all happening so fast. Once I found the truth about one issue, all the dogma that rested on that issue came crumbling down as well. Everything now was up in the air and nothing was certain. Mind you, during this same time my husband and I continued attending church, but I had new ears, picking up all of the inconsistencies that were taught from the pulpit. We had been so busy volunteering that we never really connected with anyone at the campus. In addition, I really did not want to get close with anyone there lest they find out what I was really thinking and feeling about the church and god. My husband and I even went to our pastor for council. We only told him about our troubles connecting with people and mentioned to him that we were considering looking for a new church for a fresh start. I can still hear his words to us ringing through my mind as he sat at our dining room table: "If you two leave the church, I will be VERY VERY disappointed." I knew as soon as those words left his lips that this place was not for us. We came to him for council and advice and the only thing he could think about was how he would feel. I was expecting something like: "god has a plan for us all. All you can do is try to listen to his voice. Wherever you go, the two of you will be blessed." But no, all we were given was a shitload of guilt. I think we went one more Sunday and then we just stopped going. Also keep in mind, that I was in the worship band (bass & singer), my husband and I did children's church twice a month, we volunteered in the nursery and welcome teams, and we were in the core group of about 30 regular attenders at the church. We never EVER heard anything from anyone at the church. No calls or emails saying that we were missed or if everything was okay. Nothing. We instantly were strangers to everyone there that we thought was our family. The lack of communication made it somewhat easier to deal with the break. At least we did not have to explain to anyone why we left.

Now & the Future:
It has been a year and a half since we left the church. For a while afterwards, we tried to continue being christ-like, although not necessarily ascribing to christianity. In the end, we threw all of the garbage away. What my husband and I have noticed since we left is that we have more money and our home is much more peaceful. Life is over all much better and happier. It was difficult those first couple months, but together we have come out of that difficult situation with a better understanding of who we are. And of course, it was difficult to let go of our entire upbringing, our entire way of thinking in this world. But it was easier than we thought it would be. It was natural. Some of our close family members still do not know everything about where we are. We are still building up the courage to just come right out and say it. The world is now an awesome playground with interesting ideas and people. In a way, I feel like i am playing catch up. I missed out on the world for the first 20 years of my life. The next 20 and beyond are going to be full of wonder, excitement, and true freedom. It has been a strange journey so far and we are both excited to see what will happen next.

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