It’s been almost ten years since I officially left the Christian faith. And like any process of this magnitude, these ten years have been fraught with highs and lows.
The process of consciously leaving took about four years. Every single day of that time period was terrifying. I toggled between belief and unbelief where the notions of heaven and hell were still real in my mind. Leaving meant I’d bought a one way ticket to Beelzebub Blvd. Horrifying thought.
The pros and cons of leaving are myriad. There really is no way to cover this topic in one post. But I’ll start with this:
CON #1 – No more church: Going to church was like visiting extended family. People knew who I was, called me by name, and invited me to be a part of whatever was going on. I was always welcomed and my presence was desired.
Having a place to plug in to belong is like having an anchor to keep you from flailing about. Church people were ‘my peeps’ and when sick, recuperating from child birth, or just in need, I had plenty of helping hands, care and love. A sense of belonging and support is powerful.
Equally powerful was the frequent interaction with fellow believers of a like-mind. We would recite the Apostles Creed every Sunday together, reaffirming our faith as a unit. When a group of several hundred people stand in one accord, it is a moving and validating experience. You know you are not alone, standing hand-in-hand with the crowd. It’s a validation of your faith.
I have missed these aspects of belonging to a church. A shared experience can be enriching.
PRO #1 – No more church: The very same church I describe with affection was also the bane of my existence. At the root of this was the foundation that had been laid for me as a subordinated female in scripture (Ephesians 5). Because I found the concept of being subordinate to my husband repulsive, his being a pastor and I his wife, seemed perfectly in step with that concept to me. And I loathed it.
It really didn’t matter that my husband thought the Ephesians model for marriage was stupid. Rather than preaching that wives should submit to their husbands or that husbands are the God-given leaders of their wives, he believed and preached an egalitarian message instead. But…
The root of this pain for me wasn’t what my husband thought. It was what God thought and what His word said.
For the life of me, I did not want anyone in our congregation to think that we somehow condoned that teaching. But something about my husband’s role as pastor and mine as his wife just felt… Ephesiansy. As if even without speaking the words themselves, we were still a living example of the Ephesians model for marriage. And it made my skin crawl.
Aside from that core issue, there were practical CONS with church. We didn’t worship as a family because “daddy was preaching.” I had to get the kids ready for church by myself every Sunday, because my husband was already there preparing for services. We didn’t sit together at church as a family, my husband was always up on the stage. We didn’t enjoy Christmas Eve services together, he was always preaching. And Christmases that fell on Sundays were the worst, especially when the kids were little.
And don’t even get me started on Easter Sunrise Services with babies or toddlers! I used to think sunrise services were some kind of sick cosmic joke God played on pastor’s wives.
To this day I’m not entirely sure of the negative impact on my two oldest children being raised as PKs (preacher’s kids). But I am aware of many of the specific things they were subjected to. And I feel guilty.
I can’t deny we’ve lost the camaraderie of corporate worship and the sense of extended family by leaving the church. However, leaving Christianity was an absolute must for me psychologically speaking. So, I take the good with the bad for the sake of that sanity and my emotional health.
What I can see now, ten years later, is that life after God is of far greater quality all around. I feel better about me as I’m living honestly, I feel more confident and less peripheral on the whole. But I can’t deny there are losses. They just don’t outweigh the gains.