Two years ago, I came to the realization that I was spending all my time with people who wanted me in their lives, but not necessarily with people who I wanted in my life. They were people who said they loved me, people who seemed to need me, people who wanted something from me.
I realized I didn't like living like that, and decided to make a list of the people I would want in my life. One of the friends that topped the list, was Sara. I called her - she felt the same way, and we had a ton of fun together. And then, in August of last year, we just sort of stopped hanging out. Occasionally, I'd text her or she'd text me. We even talked on the phone a couple times, but something had definitely changed.
For me, I was a little nervous about what she'd think if she knew I'd left the church. I was worried that I might say something that would start her questioning, and I didn't want to do that. I was really angry at the church for a while, and I was worried I might tell her about my anger. (We'd always been incredibly open with each other. There isn't a topic we haven't discussed at length.)
Last week, I got a text from her saying, "I miss you. I need a friend. Can we hang out?"
I've become pretty comfortable in my own skin, and felt ready to tell her about my status with the church. I was not quite comfortable enough to wear a tanktop to her house, but when she came to her door, guess what she was wearing?
It took me back a little. One of the things we had in common was we were both very devout members. I didn't say anything then - I waited while we filled each other in on the last year. It got quiet, and she said, "I need to tell you about where I stand on religion. I'm SO nervous, but... I just have to tell you."
I told her to keep talking, because I was pretty DAMN sure we are in the same place.
That shocked her. She then went on to say that she's not sure how she feels about God, or if God even exists, but she knows for pretty certain that religion seems to seriously mess people up.
We talked about the guilt, the fear, the strange culture, the controlling ways people treat each other, we even talked about the good things the church had brought into our lives. It served a purpose for both of us - in many ways, for a time, it helped keep us each alive. And then we both moved past it. She said she didn't feel the need to use fear to teach her children to be good. She wants to be around people who are good, just for good's sake, not because they want blessinga in the afterlife, or because they are afraid of God's wrath, or because they are afraid of what others will think of them if they don't follow all of the commandments.
She said she wouldn't go recruiting people for this new way of life, because it's HARD. It's hard to have to make decisions about what you think and feel, because suddenly, there's no one telling you how you SHOULD think and feel. It's hard to make decisions on your life based on what is true for you rather than following a strict plan. The plan might not be right, and might make you miserable, but at least you know what to do... And then she said she wouldn't go back and do it any other way than what she is doing now.
I couldn't help but smile. EXACTLY how I felt.
Ironically, we had both withdrawn from each other as we were going through the same process. Afraid of what the other would think.
I came home feeling so happy. And so lucky. I've been through hell, but leaving the church has not been nearly as gut-wrenching as it is for some. Many of my friends went through the whole process totally alone. I had them.(I started listing out names, but I know I'll forget someone, and the list was a lot longer than I even knew) who left the church long time before I met them. I was in the process of leaving, and I had their friendship. I found a support group for those who were questioning their faith, and I found several friends there. My family has been loving and supportive and non-judgmental. All they've ever said to me is that they want me to be happy. I also have old friends - my old roommates from BYU and Sara. My "never-mo" friend Amanda who listened as I tried to sort out what I actually felt. And more than one bishop who cared about me enough to tell me to get away from the church.
How did I get so lucky? I have many close and wonderful friends - not just acquaintance - REAL friends. It amazes and astounds me to feel the love of so many amazing people.