We grew up in strict Christian households, with crucifixes on the walls and collections of Sunday dresses hanging in our closets. We did sword drills (which have nothing to do with swords, by the way), after-church potlucks, and played all of the crazy, occasionally gross games our Youth Pastors planned for us. We begged our friends to see the light, and in order to remind them of said light, would put sticky notes with our favorite Bible verse (Jeremiah 29:11, naturally) in all of their lockers, with a heart and a reminder that we were praying for them. Yeah, most of us were pretty intense middle schoolers.
But our years of blind faith have come to an end, and we stand at a crossroads. We wonder how something that used to feel real has fallen so flat. We want to separate ourselves from out past, but our heart strings remain solidly planted in the past, though our brains urge us to move forward. We want to run from the wasted years, but our feet are buried in Bible verses that describe the fiery pits of hell, the gnashing of teeth, and three headed monsters. We know better, but we’re scared anyways.
We can acknowledge the grief- it exists, and it deserves to be recognized. We gave our hearts to a book that just gave us paper cuts in return. We poured out our supposed sins in the stale rooms of the Church, asking the Holy Spirit to cleanse us of the darkness inside. At the time, it made us feel whole, but now that we turn away, it leaves us gutted of any reassurance the man at the pulpit ever gave us.
We can take a moment for the anger to set in. We spent years trying to believe in something, but now that the façade has lifted, we can see all the lies religion fed us. For some of us, we become enraged over the time we spent submitting to the patriarchy, allowing those who represented God to make us delicate and small when, in fact, we were born to be vast creatures of great importance. We stayed neatly within the lines when all we wanted to do was color all over the page, and we cannot get that time back.
This is how we leave. We smile at the moments we are fond of- the friendships that were born out of solidarity, the mentors that will always be near and dear to us, the moments of deep-belly laughter during church skits, the beautiful melodies of Amazing Grace, always singing us home. We turn from the lies it told us, but also embrace the truth it taught us – how loving the person next to you has always been the most important thing, how judging others negatively impacts your character, and that, above all else, love prevails.
We move on with our lives, pursuing whatever it is that our passion calls home. Some of us will turn cold, but most of us simply move on with a deep understanding of spirituality and a large dose of reality. We learn how to leave the decision making to our brains, but also maintain the depth that spirituality gave our hearts. We fight. We learn. We love.
Most importantly, we let go of the dead faith tied to our ankles, and swim to the surface. We crawl onto land and try to navigate our way in this new world. Losing our religion has put our souls back into our hands, and this time, we’ll be the ones to save them.