Ever since beginning to deconstruct my faith, I’ve joked with myself it feels like I must be wearing a neon sign that says, “Hi, I’m going to Hell because I’m examining my faith more closely” when I’m in town and I bump into people from my old church.
I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve realized there’s no need to please anyone regarding my faith and what I believe. Not even my parents, and especially not anyone from my former church. This is my journey. However, whenever I encounter church members, I’d be lying if I said I don’t get a twinge of fear. I guess that’s because in my church, to question anything at all regarding faith was seen as sinful and now that’s ALL I’m doing, and quite joyfully so, most of the time.
Last week, I was sitting in the grocery store café, scarfing down an egg salad sandwich and coffee before heading in to work a shift at the women’s refuge. A few dozen feet away, I saw a lady who used to go to my church paying for the items in her shopping trolley. One of the things I really took issue with about my church was that there were lots of little “exclusive groups” within it, and if you weren’t lucky enough to be part of one of them, you were out of luck as far as fitting in.
However, this person was universally kind to everyone. When I was working at the church, she would give me a lift home every Tuesday because that was a day when she happened to be working near the church and her gesture would save me from having to walk home or take a taxi.
I hadn’t seen her for at least two years. She finished paying for her items and ran over to give me a hug. Sitting down beside me, she asked me whether I was attending another church. I told her I was going to a home study group but hadn’t found another church (I didn’t add that I’m not looking for one). Nervously, I asked. “What about you?” She got a stony look on her face and said, “No, no, I am done with that.”
Then, she clarified that she’d been doing a lot of studying on her own because she wasn’t happy with how many churches did not accept some people fully or argued that certain individuals would not get into Heaven because of their beliefs. God wants EVERY person with him in Heaven,” she asserted boldly.
During this time of not going to church, she had also come to realize a lot of the things she had thought of as certainly being directly from God were actually mistranslated and that there were many interpretations of Scripture. Furthermore, she admitted having a realization that the Bible wasn’t directly from God, but that it was written and/or translated by humans who were doing their best, and like the rest of us, prone to making mistakes.
I was shocked (but delighted) to hear her say this because when I knew her, she was firmly in the “God says exactly this and there is no room for discussion” mindset.
Near the end of the all-too-short conversation, she said, “I just want to do my best to live in the way Jesus did and love others as myself — ALL others. As far as getting caught up in all the details of Bible translations, that’s not as important to me as doing how Jesus taught.”
We exchanged phone numbers to stay in touch and afterward, I felt extremely uplifted. This person is in her mid-70s and has clearly gone through a huge deconstruction of her own, although she never actually called it that. If such an evolution is possible for her, it’s not too late for anyone, no matter how strongly they held their previous beliefs.