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Last night, I sat down face-to-face with three ladies I grew up with in The Church. It was the first time I’ve seen any of them in 13 or so years. It’s difficult to even begin to express how it felt and how it continues to feel. There’s relief that the initial mtg is over & the door to the past has been officially opened. There’s validation & more relief that I’m not alone in my screwed-up-ness. There’s anxiety that I word-vomited too much (I projectile-spewed, Exorcist-style for FIVE hours. Good god, give those ladies a medal. Seriously). There’s fear of what came to the surface last night, and what’s to come. There’s fear of repercussions and anger from family as I continue to dig. There’s guilt for “betraying” the hard-wired belief system. And there’s determination not to let this go.

Yes, it’s in the past, and it would be easier to just let it go. No, there’s nothing anyone can do about it now, and it’s technically water under the bridge. But. But. I don’t want to let it go, and I can’t let it go. I owe this to myself and the other screwed up kids produced by The Church. If I were the only defective product of that environment, I would just chalk it to “oh well, it’s just me.” But it’s NOT just me. The Face.book “Church Kids (Re)Unite” group proved that.*

*For past posts on The Church, the Face.book group, etc, click “TheChurch” tag in the tag cloud to the right

Creating the “Re(Unite)” group was a leap for me. Years ago, I left The Church and buried it deep, deep down. I put it in a little box called “I Was A Weird Kid” and stowed it on a shelf, because after all, we’re all sorta weird in one way or another, right? WRONG. After the initial rawness of Mama’s death, the box flew open with a vengeance. Her death, the loss of her, stripped me naked and tore away all pretenses of being normal or ok or fine. I was no longer able to ignore it. I felt haunted by demeaning and condemning voices I didn’t understand, by guilt that I “should know better,” and by fear that I was, indeed, going to bust hell wide open.

Before January of this year, I was fairly content with avoidance of God and all things religious. The box was closed, I knew God existed but pretty much wanted nothing to do with him, and sleeping in on Sunday mornings was something I was ok with *most* of the time. But then something snapped. It’s dawned on me suddenly that it’s NOT normal to have “that voice” in your head… that other people DON’T have that voice. And I got pissed right the hell off. WHY me? Why do I have this voice constantly chattering in my head about how The Church is the only way to heaven? About how “unbelievers” are going to burn? About how following the rules is the only way to *truly* keep God from being angry with me? Why do I have this elitism, this separatism, this “us-versus-them” mentality, built into my head, and I can’t shut it up even though I’m technically now one of the “unbelievers” that the voice is condemning? I have become the “them” that I was taught to judge and despise. Talk about confusion and self-loathing and mental disarray.

I was afraid to contact the kids I grew up with, the other products of The Church. I was afraid that they would think I was stupid for still caring, and would just ignore me. Or they would think that I WAS that weird kid, because obviously they all turned out just fine… and that would be final and irrevocable proof that IT WAS JUST ME. But the fear of being judged or ignored by them paled in comparison to the demons in my own head. I had to know, and if making myself vulnerable to potential rejection and ridicule by the people I grew up with was the only way to find some peace, then so be it.

Last night’s meeting was a result of the “Re(Unite)” group. Honestly, last night was the first time that I’ve ever talked, *really* talked to anyone from The Church. My father and my mom’s family are the only Church believers that I still have contact with, and they remain deeply entrenched in the beliefs that I’m struggling desperately to break free from. There’s no way to talk to them without having a fundamental disagreement, and that’s not what I want. I don’t want my family to hate me. I don’t want to be coerced or preached to. I want to be HEARD. Is that so much to ask?

Last night was only the beginning. Something’s going to come of this, and although I don’t know what the end result will be, I DO know these things:

  • The Church damaged me and a few others. There are wounded souls, victims of the fall-out, still wandering lost. I am not the only one.
  • The damaged ones deserve resolution, peace, and healing. I’m tired of feeling guilty for being broken. I didn’t break me — The Church and those who distorted good into ugly did.
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