Nothing’s fine, I’m torn
I’m all out of faith
This is how I feel
I’m cold and I am shamed
Lying naked on the floor
Illusion never changed
Into something real
I’m wide awake and I can see
The perfect sky is torn
You’re a little late, I’m already torn
My grandparents are still in my old church; they, however, are in slightly more liberal branches of the denomination. A few days ago, my grandfather passed away and I went out to my old church for his funeral. Funerals in my old church are huge affairs–my grandpa was not a super wealthy man, and he was extremely soft-spoken, but somehow everyone in the community seemed to know him, and over 300 people came to the funeral. The funeral was at the church, so I had to sit through a sermon and talk to hundreds of people that I don’t really know but who know me as one of my dad’s kids who left the church. They’re really sweet people, but it’s an awkward situation all the same.
My old church is almost Amish or Mennonite in many ways. They wear head coverings, never let women speak in church, have strong family and church ties, often farm (it’s considered the most holy occupation…although not said in so many words), adhere to strict gender roles, eschew LGBT* folks and secular therapy. Baseball games and movies are forbidden, along with, in many cases, Facebook and internet. There is no music except ancient hymns, and any kind of musical instruments are forbidden in church. Marriages are arranged and things like a “holy kiss of greeting” are pulled from passages in the Bible with no regard to context or anything.
And yet, they’re really good at some things. They came together and brought food for my grandma and my family all week. They left work and school on a Thursday morning to attend a funeral and make a huge meal at the church to feed everyone who came. People in the church can travel across the US and find others in the church who will welcome them into their homes for the night without a second thought, even though they may have never met them. There’s a sense of community unmatched in what I’ve found outside of the church. Everyone knows what they are supposed to do, and you know your salvation is safe if you follow the rules (and repent after every sin). You don’t have to make many guesses because you just follow what you’re supposed to do. And they care for the elderly really well. I work as a nurse tech in a nursing home and I know how rare this is.
It’s not been easy leaving. There’s really great days, yes. Days I love. I am making plans and dreaming of a life I’d never have gotten to have in the church. But sometimes it’s overwhelming. After being back in my old church this weekend for just a few hours, all my insecurities and questions and that feeling of being utterly, completely, totally lost in a foreign country I don’t understand came rushing back. I almost couldn’t breathe. It was so strong. Part of me wants to go back. I know there’s problems, and I know I could never fully agree with them on many things, but I could fake it through the entrance process and then I’d have that security and unambiguity that I long for. Change has never been easy for me, even if the status quo was miserable. And the thing is, I keep telling myself that maybe the misery would be worth the benefits. I could probably settle down into being a wife and mom. I practically raised my seven siblings, and I can keep a house with the best of them. I could pretend to be ok with that, and get by. I could settle down and quiet my fears and anxieties and be reasonably happy.
But deep down, I don’t know if this would ever work. And I know I would probably regret some of it for the rest of my life. Being that fake to myself would be hard. It would get easier, but it would kill a tiny part of me too. I know I’m probably romanticizing it a lot, because…I know there’s issues there too. It’s so hard, so lonely, sometimes. I want to curl up in a ball and cry. Can I really make it? Am I strong enough to walk away from the cult and build a new life outside of it? I don’t know. Some days, I just don’t know.