I was reminded by Facebook that today is the seven-year anniversary of my fb friendship with my dear friend, Andy. That in and of itself would make today one of significance, but it actually means a bit more than you’d presume on face value.
It was about this time seven years ago that I truly began to question my Christian faith, ultimately coming to the realization that I didn’t believe in god(s) at all. This epiphany would’ve lifted a major weight off my shoulders if only it didn’t scare the hell out of me so much. My family is extremely devout, and no one, from immediate family to cousins and aunts and uncles, had ever left the church before. And here I was, 27 years old and married to a young woman who was also a member of this same church, asking the tough questions about the faith and coming to the conclusion that it was all just bullshit.
Exactly seven years ago this date, I hadn’t yet made that final step away from the theology of my parents. But it would happen very soon. And about a month later, with this terrible secret eating away at me from the inside, I realized that I had to tell someone about my apostasy soon before I did something rash that I’d no doubt regret. There was a lever that needed to be pulled to release the pressure I felt. And as it turns out, the person who allowed me to let off some steam was Andy.
At this time, the only close friends that I had ever made were all from this same church that I grew up in. And what’s more, my wife and I had moved to Grand Rapids, MN, about a year earlier and I barely knew any people in town outside of my in-laws. It should come as no surprise that I was seriously lacking any type of support network at this point in my life. But one of the people that I had met during this time was Andy, and I chose him to be my confidant. Not only did he not have a dog in this fight since he wasn’t a member of my church, but I thought that he might be able to empathize a bit with my situation because he was gay. I guessed, correctly I might add, that he knew what it was like to carry a damning secret.
Basically out of the blue, I contacted Andy to see if he wanted to meet for a cup of coffee. We’d never hung out like this before; I’d only ever run into him at a couple different gatherings, but we were on friendly terms of course. So I knew that this whole thing was suspicious. Once at the coffee house, each with a cup in hand, I came out with it as quickly as I could. This was the first time that I had ever told anyone that I didn’t believe in God anymore. In the years since, I’ve come to learn that a lot of people have this experience, but it doesn’t always stick with them the same way that it has with me. I envy those people because that means that the faith of their youth was relatively benign, something that they could shed without any serious social repercussions or potential disownment from family. But for myself, this was a transformative experience. It was an intensely honest moment, and in many ways, the end of what I’ve come to call my old life.
It turns out that I wasn’t entirely off base with my rationale for making this confession to Andy. After I told him of my apostasy, he told me that he guessed that I had asked him out to coffee to tell him that I was gay, and that despite the fact that I didn’t, my story very closely paralleled his own and that of other gay men and women he’s known.
Since seeing this reminder on Facebook, I’ve found myself in a contemplative mood today as I’ve looked back on the past seven years of my new life, how I’ve changed, and how the ghosts of my old life still manage to haunt me at times. Though it’s difficult to cope with certain elements of this equation, the overall proof could hardly be more positive and I’m continuously thankful that I’ve taken the paths in life that I have. If absolutely nothing else, it’s been a path of honesty, the only end to which is integrity.