What You Gave Up

“What is something that you gave up for the church/god/Christianity?”

There is a lot there. What did I give up for faith or god? In my eyes, I gave up a lifetime. From birth to my mid twenties I was either in a church or participating in one regularly.

My parents choices for our family revolved solely on service to god. My parents met in a bible college with the assumption that they were going to marry and serve god as missionaries overseas. As a toddler I moved with baby sister and parents to Canada to fulfill that. My first memories start there in Durham Ontario. In so many ways I’m glad that is not the direction my continued in. (Later, I learned that my family only dropped out of the missions program because my father refused to attend marriage counseling, but that’s a story for a different time.)

When that fell through, my family returned to our hometown. They then decided to start homeschooling us. I’ve discussed this before in the blog but in many ways this choice decided a lot for the future of our family. This was a choice, by my mother and father, to be set apart and teach their children “the things of god.”

What I would point out is that this started a period of my life where I had very little knowledge or interaction with anything that could be considered “secular” – no non-Christian TV / movies, books, radio, music, or other types of entertainment. This was very much by design. My parents felt that “the world” had influenced their generation in many negative ways. (My parents would often reference this.) So they worked to create a generation “set apart” for god, without any “worldly” influence shaping their childhood.

While I may have interacted with others, these people were generally those from the same Christian homeschool group or from my church (often these two groups overlapped). So I had very little exposure to those who believed and thought different than I did. This would continue far through my teen years and into my college life.

Although I will say I was allowed to attend boy scouts and even worked for a summer at camp there in-between my senior and junior high school year. This was a “secular” camp in my parents eyes so I’m surprised they allowed me the opportunity. I wish I had more experiences like this in my life as I did meet a lot of people and learn about the world a bit.

However, following graduation from high school I immediately entered college. In the past I’ve wrote on my experiences there. Pensacola Christian college is a independent fundamental Baptist college that in many ways borders on cult like treatment of their students. Students are treated like children, unable to make basic life choices. Like when to go to bed, where to attend church, or if they want to hang out with a group of friends off campus. My four years there were some of the worst years of my life.

Add all of the years up by that point and I’m at 21 years old at graduation. That’s 21 years of my life where I couldn’t make any of my own life choices. Instead I was “protected from the world” and ushered along by my family and then following that PCC.

The period of my life that I had “control” was following college onward. Me and “Her” quickly married following college. By quick I mean that we married two days after we graduated. Much of that, if I’m being honest, was fueled by a lot of sexual guilt and fear of judgement.

We then moved back into my hometown and returned to my family’s church, a conservative Baptist church. We had a children quickly (my daughter was born one year after we married) and tried to settle into a routine conservative Christian life. We continued to try to “make it work” for another three years.

At that point things started to crumble, and I was faced with the choice of examining my own beliefs (for honestly the first time) or letting my family fall apart. I chose to take a look at my faith / belief, and came away with no answers only more questions. I’ve posted many of those very questions here, and I’ve continued to try to explore what I believe.

I’ve given a lot of my life and time over to god. The idea of god influenced and shaped my entire life through my mid 20s. Those years I will never get back. The time when others were finding out who they are I spent under the “spiritual authority” of others. I didn’t have a choice to give that up. But I still mourn the loss nonetheless.

As for the choices that led me to having multiple kids at a young age and marrying right out of college, yes I do regret those choices. I was merely blindly following the path laid out for me by my conservative upbringing. (Someday, I need to sit down and explain fully the pressure within the conservative Christian social bubble to marry and have children at a young age.) And in doing so I lost the chance to grow and be an “adult” without the added responsibility of caring for two little ones. And while I love my kids, me and my wife needed time to repair our broken relationship. Kids only deepened that hurt for a long time.

Yes, I do feel anger when I dwell on it. This was a life and lifestyle that was presented to me as the only true way. The best way. And it did it’s best to destroy me and “her.” I feel sadness for the little kid that never got to see what childhood was really like in the 90s and 2000s. I feel pain and anxiety thinking back over the years I spent at college. Forced to conform to a mold or be kicked out. Fearing that I would be caught and forced to return to my parents with my “sin” in my hands.

In many ways I mourn for what could have been. It’s sounds so selfish, but that’s the only way I can put it. I know I can’t change the past – only the present. And I really am trying to work on that, but for now some of that is allowing myself to feel some of my grief and anger.

2 thoughts on “What You Gave Up

  1. I think it’s important to mourn what could have been, to acknowledge the wrong done and be in touch with those ‘negative’ emotions (in reality, just emotions) we were told we shouldn’t have. In so doing, we can own the emotion and truly move on. I didn’t have the same experiences exactly – but small town UK evangelicalism isn’t too dissimilar so can relate to much of this! Wishing you well on your continued journey as a family.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. Learning to earn to accept all parts of oneself is hard, especially when it goes against ones upbringing. Wishing you all the best as well.

      Like

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