Why I stopped going to church

So often in life I have found myself in bondage to something I “should” do. A big one for me has been church. I was raised with the idea that I not only should but must go to church, and not just now and then but to every meeting of my church, and not just any church, but the particular one my parents believed has the “truth.”

Although I left the church I was raised in years ago, I could not get away from the command that I must be a part of some church. Yet my heart screamed an emphatic NO! The mantra “I do not belong here!” reverberated from my heart while my will and reason demanded that I faithfully attend.

illustration by Brian Linn

This internal battle grew to the point that going to church became sheer torture. When I went, the ache in my heart grew to unbearable, almost physical pain. I became panicked, ran outside the building, huddled down in my car, and sobbed. The pain often did not subside until after a good night’s sleep. I convinced myself that these were simply demonic attacks, and I was just lonely. When it became clear that I could not stand going to a certain church even one more time, I would move to a new town and try all over somewhere else. Yet no matter how hard I tried to connect with the people at church, and even after I became very happily married, the feeling that I cannot belong at church would not leave.

In December 2008, I discovered a book that would change the course of my life: The Shack. The funny thing is, I learned about this book at church. While The Shack spoke to me in many ways, what really helped me get free of church was the podcast I found by the co-authors of the book–Wayne Jacobsen and Brad Cummings. I needed to hear that I was not crazy to think that going to church was just not working for me. Listening to their podcast, I realized I am not alone. Lots of people have stopped going to church, and I can too. Wayne and Brad supplied the permission I still needed at that point to leave the church.

I don’t need their permission anymore; in fact I rarely listen to those guys now. When I do hear a podcast it is usually my husband’s new fav: Into the Wildbut sometimes I go weeks or even months without listening to any religious voices at all. I stopped reading the Bible. I stopped praying. I can feel my soul clearing.

Sometimes it scares me that I am wandering so far from my religious roots, but at the same time, I am filled with exhilaration. I no longer am chained to a certain way of thought that demands I put on a certain mask and pretend to be a person who fits in that archaic mold.

One turning point came more than two years before I found The Shack. In my last few days in California, I took a personal retreat at the beach. I didn’t hear much or progress far spiritually; I was actually very distracted. But I did hear one thing: “I would rather have you be yourself than worship me.” Sorry God. I just cannot pretend to be someone else in order to please you any more. The good news is, you never wanted that in the first place.

5 Comments to “Why I stopped going to church”

  1. Oh my… are you me?! And my mother’s name is Eva, of Jeva on her birth certificate. It is very reassuring to read that I am not the only one who strayed from the flock!

    • Hi Irene, there are lots of people who have left church, but still desire a relationship with God. That is one reason why I started this blog. I have been moving and so have not posted lately, but I hope to get back to it today or tomorrow. My husband and I listen to a podcast called Free Believers with Darin Hufford, and through that we have learned about the huge movement to leave organized religion because it really is not working for many people.

  2. I love this picture. It reminds me of all the times when we were in home-church at the time that I would get sick and didn’t know where to go. I would run to the bathroom and call my best friend sitting on the toilet most the time LOL and wondering what the hell I was doing there. It is funny now when we talk about it but then not so funny. Always felt like I was standing in judgement of people. After all how could all these people be wrong and I right? Now I understand it was not like that at all, just that I am :”me” and was not ment to be in that place. Thank God!

    • Hi Marcie, it is good to have you here. It sounds like we have quite a few things in common. Have you been to Darin Hufford’s site (http://freebelievers.com/)? I just joined the forum there, but I have been listening to the podcast for a couple years now, and I find it entertaining and very helpful.

      • Just joined a few weeks ago. My name on the sight if braveheart. I also have a few letters under blogs if you care to read them. I think you will be interested as it really mirrors some of the things you have written. I have so enjoyed your blog. Thank you,

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