Final Post – A matter of conscience

What do you do when it just stops? What do you do when you just can’t muster any energy to have faith anymore… to believe in something that you’ve devoted your life to?

I haven’t written on this blog for some time, and I believe that it’s indicative of just what I was going through for the last couple of years. A lot of people write about this after they’ve figured it out, or really solidified what they are. I thought it could be nice to say goodbye to this blog, and begin a new chapter.

Up front, I’m not an atheist. This isn’t that announcement. Sometimes, because of my incessant guilt and shame obsession, I wish I were.

Sometimes I really doubt a lot. But, I talk to God… at least, I think I do.

I don’t even know that I’m an agnostic. I don’t quite know what it is that you might want to label what I believe. But that’s actually kinda the point, I’ve grown weary with worrying about beliefs, and stuck in a rut of not living. But, I talk to God, all day… at least I think I do.

Sometimes it’s hard to know. But am I saying that to just make people feel better about where I’m at? Maybe. That’s another big part of the point.

I’m writing this because I don’t want to tell the same story over and over. I don’t want to explain myself over and over. In reality, I don’t have to explain myself to anyone, but there are people who have invested many years in my life, and I’m attempting to explain my heart in order to honor them. They matter. They know who they are. (and if they’re taking the time to read this, thank you)

What is happening to me is difficult to explain to those who’ve poured love, help and concern into the last 11 years of my life. I have been hesitant for fear of disappointing them. I adore them. They helped me through some of the toughest years I ever experienced.

For decades, however, as long as I can remember, I’ve believed myself a monster. It wasn’t a constant thing, but more like one of those core memories that shape the constant things. If it were in Inside Out, I’d have a Monster-Demon-Possessed-Island. I didn’t think about it all the time, but you know, it’s back there.

Mom and dad would have their church friends rebuke the “demons” in me. They always wanted to fix me. And I found great comfort in the structure of the children’s home that I lived in as an 11-15 year old.

Looking back, it seems that after that I sort of went from authority structure to authority structure, finding people to please and make happy. I learned to survive that way. Adapt and become what they really want you to be… that was my motto. But I didn’t know that.

I am no victim. If I am, I do not know who by. It’s just me, it’s mine. It’s the path I’ve been walking.

All the time that I’ve been walking my path I kept looking off into the distance, hoping that one day I wouldn’t be a monster anymore. I was hoping that one day I wouldn’t be the piece of crud that I believed myself to be.

People pleasing, blending in to someone else’s agenda, became the prime way that I fought my own self-hatred. If I was making them happy and becoming a good me, then I could feel good.

Again, no one made me do this… I thought I had to in order to survive. It’s mine.

If I’m honest with myself, I know that over the last two years I’d been becoming increasingly skeptical of the stories in the Bible. I was having a very difficult time enjoying fellowship with my church. I simply could hardly relate to it anymore.

In June, we did a concert at that same Children’s home I lived in so long ago, and that day something just clicked inside my head. I was driving down the road, listening to our Dragons EP, (which, by the way, is all about this… though I didn’t know it when I wrote it) and I just started bawling.

I’ve been believing a whole lot of lies about myself. I’m a grown man and I don’t have to be afraid of being who I am.

That may sound stupid to some, but not to me. To me, it was the most liberating thing I’d ever experienced. EVER.

That weekend I knew that we would move out on our own.

If there’s anything my friends of faith and godlessness alike have taught me, it’s that you have to obey your conscience. If you can’t do it, then you just can’t do it.

I realized that my conscience was so messed up. I had to move out on my own. I had to figure it out and start over. I knew that I was pretending to be something that I wasn’t. I knew that this wasn’t a matter of disagreement, but of heart, and my heart simply wasn’t in it anymore. No one had hurt us and no one made us do it. I simply wasn’t there anymore.

But when I moved out, something happened that I simply didn’t expect.

Every passion for my “faith” or “religion” stopped. Every urge, every desire, every obligatory bit of drive was just done. I wanted to hide in a hermit hole and be alone… but no, I wanted to play with my kids. I wanted to just be done.

It was gone… just, not there. Suddenly I found myself panicking going, “What the heck do I even believe about anything?!?” I was terrified that I’d made a huge mistake.

This subsided when I saw the conversations growing between my daughters and I. When I saw myself making decisions based on what was good for our family and not what my guilt or shame was dictating.

So a month or so ago, I gave myself permission to be officially done, at least for now. I gave myself permission to say, “I am not a Christian.”

But I’m not done, and I know it.

I’ve tried learning about atheism, zen, whatever… I’ve talked to people who’ve left the faith. I’ve tried to bolster it. I’ve got nothing.

I get up each day and talk to “God.” I ask, “What are we doing today?”

And in some ways, I’m happier than I’ve been in a very long time.

My guilt and shame addictions are non-existent for the most part. That’s a big deal. A life-crippling, emotionally paralyzing big deal.

The self-hatred has no place in my home. I won’t allow it anymore.

I’m teaching my kids that it’s okay to question anything you don’t see evidence for. I’m teaching us to be kind and merciful to each other as well as our neighbors. I’m teaching them that they don’t have to be afraid to be themselves when they walk through the streets… that, in fact, the world needs more colorful little girls who are unabashedly themselves.

The world also needs more dads who have their dad bods and aren’t afraid to play with princesses.

I don’t know where I’ll land. Honestly, I’m not worried about it. My faith was so desperately tied up, twisted into and weaved into my people pleasing that I couldn’t, in any way, distinguish the two.

I can’t sort these out while still in the middle. Imagine trying to untangle a ball of twisted up twine from the center out. It won’t work. Instead you have to be on the outside of it all to sift through it.

So, we’re simply restarting many aspects of life. We’re going to move across the state and begin anew. We’re going to dance in the moment, right here and now. We’re going to keep asking questions because, well, anyone who knows us knows that this is what we do.

We’re going to play and live today.

Now, to some, this may sound like many things. Even the act of writing this was excruciating. For the most part lately, I just feel calm and peaceful, but when the voices of what I *think* others will think get going in my head, it brings on a stress that’s like no other… and then I get dishonest.

I can’t debate this, it’s simply my experience and where I’m at.

I can’t sit around and be talked into anything by some random blogger or facebook user that reads this. It’s simply not where I’m at.

I’m going to take some time to live. Some may think that this is a loss, that we’ve lost faith, or that we’re giving up.

I will argue this. I feel more alive than I can remember feeling in quite some time. I’m not hanging anything up. I felt a song calling me away, and I just had to follow it and see where it led. Now I can’t look back. Our hearts simply aren’t there anymore.

It’s hard to not fear disappointing, or even angering those who’ve invested in us. It’s hard to even work up the language to describe the experience or the thoughts.

But… declaring to my friends that my conscience wouldn’t allow me to work against them and pretend to be one of them was one of the hardest and best decisions that I’ve ever made. But I’m glad I did it, and I’m so crazy excited to see what’s next.

My wife and I, (and even our kids for the most part) believe that in our case, we simply need to start new to figure out what we even want, and who we even are.

How often do you have a chance to ask yourself, “Is this my life?” and if it’s not, how often do you get a chance to start all over.

I think it’s worth asking ourselves this question each and every day, and live life today, here and now, playing along with the music.

We’re going to take this time to celebrate our family and dig in to see who we are and what beauty is there. And hopefully, we’ll get chances celebrate everyone in our path.

Oh, to live… it’s the greatest adventure.

 

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9 thoughts on “Final Post – A matter of conscience

  1. Dawn

    As I see it, or rather read it, you have not lost faith, but are finding new purpose. They are not incompatible. You are too honest to live a life without purpose dear John. So there you have it–my dear John letter to you.

    Reply
  2. Katherine Dines

    John (and Chibis)… I believe and you believe. People of many Christian faiths will tell you it matters who you believe in, and that it has to be Jesus–

    I will just say that I love that you talk to God. So do I (at least I think I do and I try to). Keep on keeping the faith and keep talking to God. Believe that your heart knows. Only your heart knows.

    Reply
  3. Patricia Shih

    So honest, so brave. Bravo to you and your brave family. Know that many people are behind you and under you, supporting you. So glad to have met you and your beautiful family. Know peace.

    Reply
  4. Tim

    It’s a confusing world with many paths. Glad you are on the one you are on. Here’s to the freedom to reflect, debate, and grow. Journey on.

    Reply
  5. Harmony

    I love you guys! I appreciate your honesty and vulnerability. I wish we could have talked more when you were in Chicago. God never changes, although the way we look him does. Keep loving and living!!!

    Reply
  6. Jennifer joy

    Living and parenting by your conscience is SO important… But so often truly, heart-rendingly, terrifyingly difficult. Sometimes it’s like pushing mud up a hill, but that’s not impossible. I love you.

    Reply

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