Why I Decided to Publicly Admit My Faith Shift
I'm a very genuine, authentic person. What you see is what you get. Who I am on Sunday is who I am every other day of the week. I've always been that way. Peer pressure was never an issue for me as far as my behavior, because it mattered greatly to me that I was acceptable to God, my parents, and any/all of those in authority over me.
I had a lot of integrity. I was honest in even the tiniest things. I did not ever want mistake I made standing between me and another person, because that also would mean that I was building a wall in my relationship between me and God. I was always on edge over this, worried that I was messing things up.
And since we were taught we had sins of commission (sins we knew about) and sins of omission (since we did not knowing we did them)...I felt helpless to ever know where I actually stood in my relationship with God because I was guaranteed to have sinned that day according to that viewpoint. And, well, how could I confess sin I didn't even know about? And how could I really be that bad!? Those thoughts are defeating to a kid for sure.
As my belief system began to shift, about a year ago, in fall of 2018, only a few people knew about the questions and doubts going on in my head. I was not questioning whether or not God existed at this point. I was questioning my perspective and interpretation of the Bible.
My questioning and embracing different perspectives and beliefs got me labeled a heretic by default, as authorities in my life labeled authors that I was reading and agreeing with heretics. I loved God more than anything else in my life, and I could see these authors did as well, because I could see their viewpoints almost perfectly - they resonated so much with me!
So to hear these God-loving, amazing people, who had deeply intense relationships with God and sought truth, labeled heretics by authority and some friends in my life - this cut me to the core. Why couldn't we admit that there CAN be different ways of seeing things, and we cannot know THE BEST & ONLY WAY when it's something we cannot see and we were not there for?
This was kind of the last straw for me. I was grasping to hold onto a more progressive view of Christianity, and being labeled a heretic caused my mind to completely release EVERYTHING in relation to my ability to have any faith at all. I didn't see it coming as drastically as it did.
I woke up one morning in January to a complete shift in my belief system. It literally felt like I went from a whole-hearted, all-in, God-loving Christian to an involuntary atheist...an atheist who was desperately hoping that I would snap out of all this asap and wake up again back in the faith.
My entire foundation had crumbled. Everything I knew I was felt like it had died.
I created a fake twitter account under the name Kayla Jo (my legal name was Kimberly at the time). Here I explored hashtags looking for people like me...#exvangelical, #atheist, #emptythepews ,#atheist, #agnostic... I also joined some secret facebook groups where everything was hidden from the public eye and people that knew me, so I could ask questions there too.
Y'all there's an entire community of exvangelicals out there and we are incredible people who have very similar stories - we have lost our faith...and we have increased our ability to love and not judge others as a result. However, with that amazing (often accidental) freedom also comes a significant loss, where we are left to create an almost entirely new identity.
I would say a majority of exvangelicals stay hidden. It's slow at coming out or admitting our faith shift. For some, it may not ever happen. A faith shift out of evangelicalism, and other fundamentalist groups, is not well received. The members that remain in the group feel the need to draw us "back to the fold" as if we are wrong in making decisions outside of their paradigm. And the majority of them genuinely believe lies that we are mad at God or the church, a prodigal, backsliding, wanting to sin, or were never saved to begin with.
Being such an authentic, genuine, what you see is what you get, what I say is what I mean type person, the need to stay hidden was killing me inside. I wanted to bad to be real. I hated hiding. But I knew my faith shift (if it didn't shift back) was unacceptable.
So I waited, and waited...expecting my faith to shift back. Surely God would know my heart and give me that back. Even though I couldn't even imagine he existed anymore. If he was really God, he could fix that...
Weeks went by. Months went by. And my faith and belief system did not return in the LEAST. I was so confused. Where was this God I had always believed in? And would my literal inability to think a thought (trusting Jesus to save me and all the other little details fundamentalists add to that such as believing in a virgin birth etc...), would I go to hell because I didn't have the capacity to think those thoughts anymore?!?
Defeated, terrified, lonely, lost, & surrendering to the shift, I walked away from church in March, 2018. This created another shift. A magical shift that allowed my depression that I had been struggling with for 2-3 years to disappear more and more every week that I was not in church. Peace was coming. Peace that passes understanding. Peace that I was told is not on this side of the faith, yet I was experiencing it more than ever.
Cutting my ties with the church, people were gonna talk. People were gonna know. People were gonna assume they knew what I needed. (and in MOST situations, NOBODY knows what you need better than you! NOBODY knows you better than you know yourself - and you can trust yourself).
I was dying to be real and to say "hey guys, this is me...I hope you still love and accept me and don't see me as somebody needing to be fixed or changed." And I was also terrified of what that would actually mean to tell the world about my faith shift.
With my passion to work in the helping profession, whether it be psychotherapy or coaching, I knew I had to be public about my faith shift, because my desire is to help people like me! To walk them through any shifts in their life, religion, identity, lifestyle, career...and to be able to do that, I needed to be vulnerable. With social media being a huge platform for therapy/coaching, I needed to come out of hiding.
So I bit the bullet, and decided that since it needs to happen sooner than later, I want it to be sooner. I knew the bondage I was in from hiding would break when I set myself free.
I texted my parents and siblings to give them a brief summary of my shift. Not too much happened there. None that I'm going to blog about anyway. They were obviously saddened and confused and some of the relationships did go sideways.
Later we did chat on the phone and no matter what I said, or how intricately I tried to explain the process, there were attempts to tell me that I was running from God, that I was a prodigal, and that God was going to get me good for my going my own direction. I understand the viewpoint they were coming from because I was there at one time. That helped me have compassion while keeping my boundaries. I love them all deeply. They just cannot understand me. And that just has to be okay.
When I became real again, meaning I talked about my faith shift on Facebook, it was both anxiety-provoking and liberating. Some friends were in the same boat as me and private messaged me. Some friends that were Christian accepted me where I was. Some accepted me where I was, but said I need to come back. I guess that's not full acceptance lol. Some attacked me and called me an "enemy of the cross of Christ" and blasted me all over their facebook with some other "friends."
I GENUINELY love all these people. I'm not mad at any of them - they just don't understand. When you can view people and their perspectives from a lens of compassion, you feel so much love for them. It took some time and stepping away for me to be okay with how some of these people treated me. But I'm good now.
That doesn't mean I don't have boundaries. I have blocked people from my Facebook that feel the need to continually tell me and my friends on my page that they have the ONLY RIGHT belief system. That is control, and I am not going back to that, no matter what my belief system, or how amazing I think it is.
Once I publicly admitted my faith shift, freedom grew more and more every week. It was like a wall came down and I was free to grow into the person I am meant to be. When you have nothing to hide, it feels liberating. Yes, I still have an internal struggle where I wish people could understand me and see I'm still a good loving person and I'm not bound for hell.
BUT THEIR OPINION IS NONE OF MY BUSINESS AND IT'S NOT MY RESPONSIBILITY :).
So was it hard, admitting my faith shift? Heck yes! But what was harder, was having to pretend I was still identifying as somebody I was not. And it took deleting 200-300 people so that I felt like I had a safe place to reach the people I am trying to reach with my story when it resonates with theirs.
My Facebook page is not a place to debate whether or not you like what I post or agree with it. It's a place where I am free to be me, while also reaching others that resonate with me and need the encouragement.
My faith shift is changing me into an amazing person. I really like who I have become and am becoming. My faith shift is not a permanent one-stop, all done type of shift. I am constantly evolving and looking at different perspectives. I don't ever one to get stuck, thinking I have the one right answer ever again.