Losing My Religion – Part 5, The Bitter End

How she wishes it was different
She prays to God most every night
And though she swears it doesn’t listen
There’s still a hope in her it might
 
She says, “I pray
But they fall on deaf ears,
Am I supposed to take it on myself?
To get out of this place”

Dave Matthews Band,  Grey Street

During that year following Jonathan’s disfellowshipping, Debbie and I did a lot of walking. I’ve long felt that walking with someone is a good way to talk intimately – kind of like when you’re in the car and one of you is driving. You’re both looking straight ahead, with maybe some occasional glances at each other, but no need to hold eye contact during moments where you may be nervous about saying something.

I desperately wanted Debbie to understand what I was feeling during that time. Even though we’d been friends for nearly a decade at that point, our friendship maintained a level of casualness that I found frustrating. We hid a lot of our true feelings behind humor. It was hard to talk about anything really serious, because one of us would burst out in awkward laughter if it became too heavy.

Eventually I worked up the courage to tell Debbie I wanted take a break from the Christadelphians. To have some space to think. Aunt Jenny had told me that sometimes it was helpful to step away from something when your feelings on it weren’t clear. Being away from it could help you see things better, and in a different light.

In August, I wrote up a resignation letter to send to the Arranging Brethren. I didn’t have to do it, but I wanted to make an official statement. I wanted them to know I wasn’t being flaky anymore – that I really meant it. I was out.

Mom proofread my letter for me and encouraged me to mail it, rather than email it, since it would be more official. I mailed it on a Friday and on Saturday night, my phone lit up with calls from Debbie’s father and a few others. I nervously let the calls go to voicemail. I wasn’t sure what I would say. Hadn’t my letter said it all?

I did end up having a series of dinners and discussions at Debbie’s parents’ house in the weeks that followed. As I recall, I didn’t get to say much. I would bring up an issue and her father would go off on a series of tangents. Her mom would sit, smiling sweetly and adding a few thoughts here and there.

Debbie’s parents were much older than mine and they had always reminded me of a 1950’s couple. More like my grandparent’s generation, where the woman did all the housework and child-rearing, while the man spent much of his time away at work or in his study doing important manly things and coming out only to eat supper and relax in the evenings.

While I loved them and jokingly referred to them as my second parents, I found it hard to relate to them sometimes – especially her dad. And while I enjoyed the one-on-one time with them during these dinners and discussions, I began to feel a void growing between us. I was no longer buying what they were peddling.

Debbie and I continued our walking routine, and I spent a lot of time socializing with her family. It seemed like a good compromise to me – I would still hang out with these people who were like family to me, and I would just avoid the boring parts I didn’t like.

This went on for about 6 months. I was thinking that this whole resignation thing wasn’t so bad after all. I was making it work. As time went on though, Debbie and I began to see each other less and less, and I was spending more and more time with Dave.

That spring, I was accepted into the Landscape Architecture program at UConn. I’d finally realized that I was nuts about Dave, and planned to move back in with him and start over. I was feeling pretty good about things.

In early spring of 2005, Debbie and I got together for an evening walk. We hadn’t been spending much time around each other at that point, but I was busy planning my next steps in life, and I figured she was busy too.

We walked and caught up on recent news as usual, and then, just as we were at the farthest point from the house, she turned to me and said, “We need to talk.”

Oh crap.

I could tell by the tone of her voice that it was not going to be good. I crossed my fingers and hoped that she was having marital problems, or was struggling to get pregnant and needed a listening ear. I was good at being a listening ear.

The topic of choice was my lack of interest in going to meeting, that I was no longer breaking bread, coupled with the fact that I was a fornicator. Oh, and by the way, every time I mentioned Dave’s name it made her cringe with disgust.

She told me that our friendship had crumbled because the foundation of it had been that we were both Christadelphian and once I decided I didn’t want to be one anymore, we no longer had anything in common. (Totally disregarding our mutual love of Dave Matthews Band, scrapbooking, laughing hysterically over anything, and clearly, taking long walks together… but I didn’t think of that then.)

I didn’t know what to say in response. I was stunned. I shouldn’t have been, but I was. While I’d noticed she’d become more distant over the months prior, I hadn’t even thought that this was the reason. I’d been giddy with the prospects of my new life – of finishing my degree, of playing house with Dave, of seeing where my life would take me.

The entire walk back to her house consisted of me struggling to think of something valid to say, while she spewed forth the appropriate bible verses to support her case. When we reached her house, we sat together in her living room and tearfully continued the conversation.

Her solution to all the problems she saw with my life was for me to break up with Dave, stop spending time with my family or the Tebbs, stop befriending non-Christadelphians, come back to meeting, and be happy about it.

She understood it wouldn’t be easy, but ultimately, I would have to choose between my relationships with Dave and my family (aka, “the world”) and my relationship with Christ. If I wanted to continue being friends with her and being part of her family, I would have to do this.

I wept bitterly as I drove home. (Luckily it was a short drive.) I felt like I had been dumped. My best friend of nearly 10 years had given me an ultimatum I couldn’t meet.

I knew that her family had put her up to it. I knew she’d been coached on what to say, and my possible reactions. I felt bad for her. She didn’t have much confidence in her own thoughts and was always afraid of doing the wrong thing. She did whatever her father or her brother, or by then, her own husband told her was right.

I don’t know if she really understood that as I stepped out of her house that day, I would not return again.

6 thoughts on “Losing My Religion – Part 5, The Bitter End

  1. Brian says:

    Wow. You had to deal with the peer pressure “big time”. Shame on them. You’re so brave. Developing a loving relationship, being a role model in your community all embody the principles that God would approve of. I’m proud of you and what you’ve accomplished.

    I guess being gay made it “easier”, somewhat. The topic, back in the 80’s. was won they had no clue how to deal with. So, they left me alone.

    You have nothing to be ashamed of and everything to be proud of. I can’t wait to meet Dave one day and get to know him better.

    Like

  2. Guestspeaker says:

    Friendship is not mainly based on the religion one has; A real Christian or real Christadelphian should show agape love to all sorts of people, whatever belief they may have.

    Being from what you call your grandparent’s generation we do find it a pity you could not find your place in our Christadelphian brotherhood. We only can hope you will not have lost the connection with God and hope that one day you shall find a lovely community to share the Word of God with.

    With kind regards from the Belgian Free Christadelphians

    Like

  3. Jon Morgan says:

    I can see why you called it the bitter end. It’s tough when religion trumps relationships, or when withholding friendship becomes a weapon.

    My experience was that some friendships have continued (so far), while others ended. And I wasn’t very good at predicting which ones were which.
    It is harder maintaining friendships without the regular contact encouraged by ecclesial life. And it can also add stress if some sensitive topics are understood to be “off the table” and need to be tip-toed around.

    BTW, thanks for writing this. I’ve enjoyed the entire series.

    Liked by 1 person

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