After the initial shock of being kicked out of Debbie’s life, I spent a few weeks feeling deeply wounded. After a while, the hurt turned to a bitter anger. How dare she take away her friendship, and by default, my connection with her entire family!
She had three young nieces who I’d known since they were babies. I’d attended birthday parties and countless Sunday dinners, after which we’d sit on the floor and play, or snuggle on the couch while watching Disney movies. I had a pile of construction paper cards they’d made for me with markers and glitter.
It broke my heart to think that I wouldn’t get to see them anymore. They would grow up thinking I was a bad person for deliberately turning my back on the Truth. I knew this, because I’d once had their perspective – I’d seen adults leave the Truth and never be heard from again. I always thought they had just wandered off into darkness and I couldn’t imagine why they’d do such a thing.
A few months later was the wedding of a Christadelphian couple we both knew. I had been looking forward to the wedding simply because I’d get to reunite with friends from afar. Plus, the bride and I had a long history (even longer than my history with Debbie) and we had been very close friends. After Debbie’s ultimatum, however, I began dreading the event because I knew I’d have to interact with her at least a little.
At the wedding, Debbie greeted me as if nothing had happened. I politely commented on her dress and then quickly excused myself. Fortunately there were so many people there that I hadn’t seen in a long time, I had plenty of others to talk to and I was able to avoid interacting with her the rest of the night. That would be the last time I saw her… for a few years, anyway.
That fall, I went off to UConn to start a new chapter in my life. I formed a nice circle of friends there, although I discovered that my emotional wounds kept me from fully connecting with them. I had this fear that if I revealed my true self, they would find something to not like about me. I never told any of them about my weird religious past, and I never talked about my hands, or my scars. I pretended none of that stuff existed.
In my final year of school, Debbie tracked me down on Facebook. By then it had been 3 years since I’d had any kind of contact with her. Oh, I’d spent plenty of time thinking about her, and I’d written multiple rage-filled letters, but I never mailed any of them.
She was very cheery in her message and lamented about how long it had been since we’d talked and how she was so happy to have found me on Facebook. I held back from pointing out that I still had the same cell phone number and email address that I’d had three years before, so it was entirely possible for her to reach me if she’d really wanted to. Instead, I gave myself a day to contemplate how to respond before replying to her.
I had a sneaking suspicion that she was contacting me because she wanted to tell me something. Something awesome about herself. Lo and behold, in her next message she excitedly proclaimed that she was pregnant. She was hoping I would come to her baby shower, because she would love to see me again.
Now you’re probably hoping for me to have responded with a resounding “Go &@#$ yourself!” but that is not what I did. No. My tender heart still ached for her friendship, so I agreed to reunite at her baby shower. Luckily for me, I was still friends with the aforementioned bride, so I met up with her to carpool to the shower. I was glad to have someone with me when I walked through that door into a room of women I hadn’t seen in over 3 years.
It was actually a pretty good day. Debbie was happy to see me, and the other women all greeted me warmly. The only awkward moment came towards the end, when my long ago ex-boyfriend’s mother pinned me against a wall, and proclaimed “Jesus will be back soon!” She looked at me fiercely, her eyes mere inches from mine. I had to control myself to keep from laughing nervously in her face. I couldn’t think of any response, other than “Okay!”
Afterward, I relayed the story to Debbie and a few other women, expecting laughs, but they just looked at me seriously and one said, “Well, she’s got a point!” I’d forgotten what a tough crowd they could be.
A few months later, after Debbie had her baby, I actually did darken her doorstep once again so I could meet the little one. In fact, we made some effort to rekindle our friendship then. I joined them for dinner a few times, and we walked that old familiar route, this time with a baby carriage, but, as she had so ominously predicted years before, without that Christadelphian connection, we had nothing in common.
We remained Facebook friends and got together occasionally for lunch, but it finally became obvious to me that I didn’t even want to be friends with her anymore. There were so many off-limits topics during our lunch conversations – mainly, because I couldn’t trust her.
I knew anything I told her would be reported back to her family, who would lament about how far I’d fallen (in their opinion). What with my nontraditional living arrangements, a transgender sibling, a gay brother, divorcing parents and major depression all being hot topics at the time. I couldn’t even talk to her without blatantly lying, and I am a terrible liar. What kind of a friendship is that?
I didn’t give her the courtesy of taking a long walk and listing my gripes with her. I just stopped reaching out. I removed her from my Facebook friends, along with everyone in her family, and most of the Christadelphians I had long ago been friends with but who I no longer felt comfortable sharing with. It was hard to do this, but I hoped it would help me finally close the door on the painful, long-drawn-out process.
Years later – I think it was 2015, but I can’t even remember now – Dave and I went to the local mall the weekend before Christmas. We ran into several people we knew, mostly co-workers past and present. I said a silent thank you to the universe that we hadn’t run into any Christadelphians, and marvelled about this once it was time to leave.
As we were walking out the door to the parking lot, I saw a couple with two kids on their way in. Without giving it a second thought, I held the door for them. “Thank you!”, the woman said laughingly, as their group ambled through. Our eyes met and we instantly recognized each other. It was Debbie.
Of course we stopped and said hello. Her daughters both eyed me shyly. The older one wouldn’t have remembered that I’d held her as a baby. Jason was holding the younger one and said to her, “This used to be Mommy’s friend.” After we exchanged niceties, we stood for an awkward moment before, “Well, we’ll let you get on with your shopping”, and then farewell.
As Dave and I walked toward the car, I was thrilled to note that I hadn’t felt any pangs of emotion at seeing them. It was almost like we’d just had a pleasant conversation with complete strangers. Just as Jason had said – I used to be mommy’s friend. And now I wasn’t. And that was okay.
12 thoughts on “The Aftermath of Friendship Lost”
Sadly, in the final analysis, you didn’t lose anything worth having. That is a reflection on the people you “lost,” not on YOU. I lost everyone in my family. I miss them, but won’t ever go back. The delusions, the limits on our humanity and our behavior, the cult-like atmosphere of Christadelphian groups, the sexism, the homophobia, the staleness of their company — these are not things to be missed. Live in the light of day, in the light of reason. That is the real world. Be a part of it.
I don’t miss anything about that life nowadays. Are you an ex Christo too?
Yes. I was born into it. I was part of a splinter group that broke away and became more and more radicalized as time passed. In our “group” there was profoundly damaging physical, psychological and sexual abuse. Yet everything was about appearances. Appearances to get others to come into the group. Appearances so that the neighbors were kept at a safe distance. We were so thoroughly damaged, that former members (in order to survive) either left the group completely, breaking all ties with those remaining in it, or some left but continued (!) to be influenced by the group. Some still take orders from it, many years later. I personally did everything but obtain a restraining order to leave that part of my life behind.
Funny thing, these other former members are horribly damaged by what they’ve been through, yet can’t perceive that reality at all. I keep a safe distance from all of them, individuals in or out of the group. It has been very hard rebuilding our lives, but we’ve done it. Most of the time, I don’t think about the old group. Sometimes on occasion, they cross my mind and I feel a twinge of regret about things. But you can’t fix what can’t be fixed, and it’s best at a certain point to keep on marching.
And that’s what we did.
I spent the rest of my life living in a kind of shell shock, pondering the extent to which human beings are capable of reinventing reality.
I made the best choice: I jettisoned those toxic people from my life. The only way I’d go back now would be in a pine coffin.
Great blog. Massively insightful and well written.
They do not have “The Truth.” What arrogance. They have nothing but some delusional nothingness. And on the rare occasions when I encounter CDs and they greet me, I wave and keep on moving. I’ve done the bit where they sit with you “reconnecting,” all the while taking photos of you, so they can forward them along with commentary to other people — without your consent. I’ve experienced the routine of “we were just passing through and thought we’d drop in for a surprise visit.” They can’t find converts, so you’re their next best bet to drag back into their group. Don’t fall for it. As for going through the motions for the sake of politeness ……Why? Were they polite to you when they jettisoned you from Christadelphianism? Ultimately, people care about you or they don’t. Most of these bums care nothing about you at all. Give them the cold shoulder and keep on trekking.
Thank you! I’m glad you appreciate my blog.
Fortunately for me, I don’t usually run into CD’s. I’ve since moved away from the town where a lot of them lived, so my chances of seeing any of them are very low. And at this point I’ve been out for about 18 years, I have no interest in talking to them about it anyway. They’ve probably given up on me by now.
Someone on some blog said that once a CD, always a CD, in some regards. I guess that is true. Sometimes it is hard to escape our past.
Lock and bar the door anyway. Nothing to miss there, except a life penned in by restrictions and permeated with religious nuttiness. I found it to be a largely joyless sect. If they were filled with joie de vie, I never saw it. And isn’t that one of the primary reasons why we live: to know joy and love?
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An excellent, excellent, articulate and eloquently written blog. I was moved to tears, remembering my own pain.
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Thank you, Donna!
I was in the Springfield Vermont ecclesia from 1980 to about 1996 – I was 16 when I stopped going regularly, due to the brothers’ shocking inaction about sexual/domestic abuse. But the experience still haunts me, especially because my sisters still attend. I might have met you at Bible school or maybe even in Springfield. Anyway it’s really wonderful to read about your experience, because I haven’t ever talked to anyone else who was like me and left.
Wow, we’re the same age then! I never actually went to the Springfield meeting. We met with a few families from there who were sort of on the outskirts, I guess.
I was fortunate not to know about any sexual abuse going on, it never affected me or anyone close to me. But after leaving I’ve heard so many stories from women who experienced it!
Thanks for commenting!