Sunday, October 3, 2010

Losing My Religion - Part One

So I have been thinking a lot lately about faith and religion and want to share my story.  I started this thinking that it was going to be a couple of paragraphs, but it has turned into something much bigger.  So I decided to make it a two parter.  Part one is the background of my religious experiences and it may explain why I ended up where I am today.

Feel free to leave comments and questions and if you want to share any of your experiences.  This has been a bit therapeutic for me as well.

I grew up with most of my family being Jehovah Witnesses.  My grandmother who raised me never really committed to the the faith but did study and adopted some of the practices, like not celebrating holidays and birthdays.  While growing up my aunt would study with me in hopes of me being a witness.

When I became an adult and was living on my own and not being directly involved with the faith I always felt like I was not as close to my family because of my limited practice.  So when I was in my early 20s I took the 'leap of faith' and decided to complete my learning and be baptized in the faith of my family and for a short time all was well.  I made some friends and became closer to my family.

But, I was in an uneven marriage, my husband was not a JW and it started to become an issue in our relationship along other things.  I would take council with the elders of the congregation and would try my best to 'suffer' through my trials.  Well, it got to the point where I couldn't handle anymore and decided to leave my husband.  I moved back to my home town and started over with my life, but had to accept the fact that I was  to be alone, because I couldn't divorce or remarry because I didn't leave my husband for biblical reasons.

Eventually I slowed down in attending meetings and going out in service (door to door) and did meet a man.  Well, I started a romantic relationship with him without marrying him.  So when the elders of the congregation that I belonged to found out they counciled me and when I wouldn't stop my relationship with him they disfellowshipped me. This basically is an expulsion, I was essentially kicked out because I wouldn't change my ways.  This also included my family doing the same thing and was not included in any family social events.  So in one afternoon not only did I lose my faith but also my family. 

Well, in time I did marry this man and even had a baby with him.  While I was pregnant I missed having any kind of contact with my mother, aunts and cousins, so I decided that I wanted to return to the faith of my family so that I could have the much needed emotional support provided by ones blood.  So I wrote the elders to tell them so and I had to earn my way back in. I guess you can say they gave me limited membership pending observation of my actions and approval.  I went to meetings, but couldn't talk to anyone except if I had any kind of spiritual questions I could approach an elder.  I was to 'be no part of the world' so I had to limit my socialization with ones not in the faith.

So I found my self with no friends in the congregation because I wasn't allowed to socialize or talk to anyone and no friends outside of the congregation because I was 'to be no part of the world'.  Looking back, I know this is where I became socially retarded.  I know some do not like that word but that is exactly what I felt.  I lost the ability to meet and make true connections with people on a personal and mental level.  At this point I became the master of building walls to 'protect' myself.

This reinstatement process that I had to go through was one of the most difficult things for me to go through on a emotional, spiritual and mental level.  I had to become strong in the faith but was not allowed to build the much needed relationships and support systems needed to succeed.  It took me two years to complete this process and the only reason why it had happened when it did was because I had finally asked the elders what else I needed to do because I was starving on a social and emotional level.  I was dying and needed to create connections, friendships and my own network of support.   

Two years later I found myself welcomed back into the fold of my family.  I was so happy to be able to talk to my aunts and mother.  I was able to call them and be included in family functions and social events.  But, I had been branded.  I use to be a disfellowshipped person, I had failed on a spiritual level.  I let my God down. Mind you I was not in the same congregation that I started out in.  I had moved to a different state and was surround people who I didn't know, so these people that belonged to this congregation only knew me as one that was disfellowshipped.

So for five years I tried my hardest to make true connections with ones in the congregation that I belonged.  I wanted to make friends and be included.  I went out in service (door to door), attended every meeting and other event that was happening.  All the while this was happening I found myself in an uneven relationship again.  My husband didn't understand what I was going through and it was hard for me to explain it.

Looking back the reason why my second marriage failed wasn't because of our difference in faith, but because of other issues.  He wanted to married for marriage sake, being from India, I believe he was pressured to find a wife and start a family.  His intentions were good, but with cultural and personality differences it just didn't work.  I kid you not, he fell in love with the idea of being married than with me and so after we got married he truly changed.  But that is another story.

So I find myself welcomed back to the family but in a marriage that was built on false promises and ideas.  We were both unhappy and to save my sanity and his life I had to leave.  I moved, bought a house and created a new world for me and my son and all was good for now.  And of course I swore off of men at this time.  Nope I was not going to do it again and go through the pain and anguish of losing my family and faith again.  Boy  was I wrong. 

Enter my current man.  We worked together and I remember the very first time I met him.  I thought "what a handsome man" and was instantly attracted to him, to the point of picturing doing things with him that was forbidden.  Then he spoke.  It ruined all my fantasies.  He went from Wow to 'what an ass' in two seconds flat.  So began our relationship.  It was like what you see in the movies.  They fight, yell, try to get each other in trouble, fired and just plain torture each other.

Without getting to far off track and make a longer story short we eventually ended up together. It was nothing like any other relationship that I had.  He was my friend, his true self and after seeing me at my worst he still was attracted to me and fell in love with me as I did with him.  I did not want to lose this.  It was what I had been missing in my other relationships.  So when the elders found out they came to me and I found my self right back where I was before.  I had to choose.  At this time I had been in my relationship with him for almost a year and knew that I couldn't walk away.  I loved him and knew in my heart it was right.

So if you are thinking that I was to be disfellowshipped again, you are right, I was.  I knew at that time, no matter how I tried I could never please God and live up to his standards.  I found myself in a total spiritual breakdown.  To me I was failed by my religion for not accepting me for my faults and all.  Failed by my God because I wasn't strong enough to face my trials and my family because I couldn't live up to their ideals.  I was a failure because I couldn't make it as a Christian.

I was in my own dungeon.  I was a failure.  I couldn't even make it in a religion that had an automatic out with forgiveness with Jesus.  Not only that, I also had two failed marriages.  What was I doing?  What was I doing wrong?  What was wrong with me? Why did God expect perfection out of me? These questions and doubts beat me like a slow flogging with a cat-o-nine with rusty nails.  Every one opening up a new wound and not letting the others heal.  I was truly beaten down and had no idea what to do next. 

Since I became an expert at building walls around me, that is what I did.  My fortress is strong, I am an expert at letting no one in and am not vulnerable.