Family Issues and Ex-Pastor’s Wife Resentment

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So I am going through a couple things right now. For one, my already strained relationship with my mother seems to be going farther downhill. To get a bit of the backstory on our relationship, you can check out this post. Anyhow, ever since I confronted my mother about the past, I could feel her slowly backing away. She now lives in another state and at first she would call me once or twice a week and would call back within a day if I called her. Now she doesn’t return my calls for a week at a time and it has been three weeks since she last called me, even though she said she would call me in a few days the last time we talked.

I can’t help but feel a little snubbed and like I am slowly being phased out of her life, which doesn’t surprise me now that she has remarried and doesn’t need me so much anymore. This has always pretty much been the pattern when she gets a man in her life. I stop mattering as much. Honestly, there have been times I’ve considered going “no contact” because the little bit of contact we have now only tends to make me sadder, and the more I feel put aside and ignored, the more I hurt.

I’ve also been dealing with some pent up resentment I didn’t even realize I had about the years I spent as a pastor’s wife. For the first 11 years or so of our 15 year marriage, my husband was a pastor. In the past few years we have kind of drifted from the faith and become agnostic, which is a huge change from what our lives used to be. However, I just realized when having a conversation with my husband the other night, how much being a pastor’s wife for so many years deeply bothered me.

For one thing, I constantly felt judged by the congregation and compared to previous or other pastors’ wives that the congregation knew. I was not old-fashioned. I was not meek and submissive. I did not want to teach, play piano, or lead anything. It just isn’t my personality. My social anxiety makes leading anything a horrifying thought for me, but yet, I found myself almost forced to sometimes be in these roles I hated. I was pretty much forced to teach at times, and while I loved the kids, I felt panic at the responsibility. No one helped or trained me, I was just thrown right in. At one point, I had a panic attack and burst into tears about my fear of teaching in front of the head pastor, his wife, and my husband and yet none of them seemed to take it seriously and pretty much just patted me on the shoulder and said I would be all right. But I wasn’t. Even when I found out I had autism and tried to explain to the head pastor why that made social things so hard for me, his response was that everyone has those problems. But no – everyone does not!!!

My husband now realizes how many mistakes he made by pushing me. He is sorry and has genuinely apologized for putting pressure on me and making me feel like I had to do things that made me anxious to the point of sickness. He realizes now that he learned that behavior from his own parents who pressured him constantly about being involved in church and often tended to ignore his feelings if he didn’t want to do something. Like most people, he was acting out the unhealthy patterns of his family as an adult and unfortunately, I got the brunt of it.

* For a great resource on couples therapy, check out this article from BetterHelp!

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Lyrics of My Life, “Keep the Faith” by Michael Jackson

This may be my favorite song of all time, even though it is a little known song by the King of Pop. It is a song that I have always found incredibly inspirational and supportive when I felt like everything was going wrong and the world was conspiring against me. I have listened to this song on repeat during many drives to scary things like job interviews, or when I had to give an author talk in front of an entire elementary school years ago. Without the song, I’m not sure I could have drummed up enough courage and willpower to do things that cause me such enormous anxiety.

I think what I like best about this song is that it has kind of a kick-butt attitude, even though it sounds a lot like an African American gospel song at points. It definitely isn’t a wishy-washy song, with lyrics like:

“Better stand up and act like you want to do right
Don’t play the fool for the rest of your life
Work on it brother and you’ll make it someday
Go for what you want
And don’t forget the faith

Look at yourself
And what you’re doing right now
Stand back a minute
Just to check yourself out
Straighten out your life
And how you’re living each day
Get yourself together
Because you got to keep the faith…”

“I told my brother how to do the thing right
Lift up your head
And show the world you got pride
Go for what you want
Don’t let them get in your way

You can be a winner
If you keep the faith
Straighten out yourself
And get your mind on track
Dust off your butt
And get your self-respect back
You know me long enough
To know that I don’t play
Take it like you want it
But you got to keep the faith…”

…And that is only a small portion of the lyrics (it is a long song lol)

My Current Feelings on Religion

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For a few years, I was really pissed at religion. Not necessarily at religious people, I always understood that religious people are just like any other group of people, some are well-meaning and kind and others are power-hungry jerks. Most others fall somewhere in the middle, just like the rest of humanity. Of course, when you are angry at religion in general (or Christianity specifically in my case), those who believe in that religion tend to take whatever you say personally, as if you are attacking them rather than a belief system. I understand to an extent. When you are devoted to a religion, you struggle with any criticism of it because you find much of your identity within that belief system and you honestly believe that God himself will hold you accountable if you don’t defend him (that whole “whoever publicly acknowledges me before others” thing Jesus said).

So why was I mad at religion, and specifically Christianity? Mostly, a feeling of betrayal. I came to the conclusion through much biblical and historical study that the scriptures are not inerrant (and were somewhat put together by Rome for political purposes) and everything kind of crumbled after that. Without the belief in perfect scriptures, I found it impossible to believe much of anything because who knows which parts might be right and which are wrong? Logical questions also played a huge role in my de-conversion. For instance, why in the world would a being create a system where the only way he could forgive wrongs done against him was to send part of himself to earth in the form of his son and excruciatingly kill himself? Why the whole blood sacrifice thing? Isn’t that a bit barbaric and pagan actually? If God can do anything, why in the heck couldn’t he just forgive without something innocent having to be murdered? The more I thought things through, the more I felt betrayed because I had devoted so much of my life to these beliefs that now made no sense to me.

All these feelings haunted me and the more I concentrated on it, the angrier I felt and the more I felt duped all those years. I started listening to atheist voices (even though I was never an atheist, I consider myself an agnostic now). Some of these atheists I listened to were nuanced and considerate of at least some religious sensibilities, but some definitely were not. Through all this though, it is kind of funny, I still felt bad for some reason when Jesus was maligned. To this day I still nearly wince when awful things are said about Jesus. I guess old loyalties die hard. I still occasionally listened to my old Christian rock records too, just because I like them. I still prayed, sometimes desperately, just hoping if there was ANYTHING out there it would let me know. Unfortunately, no great revelation was made.

So that brings us to today…and how do I feel now? Rather unemotional actually. Yes, there are still parts of religion I dislike, especially when taken to a literal extreme. Yes, I still listen to Jars of Clay (my favorite Christian group) and still don’t really like Jesus being abused. I’ve come to the conclusion I just like the guy, whether he ever really existed or whether his story was greatly exaggerated, I still like the guy. I find that there are still lessons I learned in the church that apply and I’m glad I was a Christian for all those years. Without it, I doubt I would be as sensitive and caring about social issues and I simply wouldn’t be the same person. I cherish the relationships I made during those years and all the people I loved. I’m not angry anymore. I’m still firmly agnostic, but am always open if some greater force wants to contact me. You’ve got my number God, hit me up sometime.

Video: My Experiences with Emotional Pain or Abuse from a Church or Religion

Hi everyone! I wanted to share this video I made recently for my Spiritual Agnostic YouTube vlog channel, in the hopes that perhaps others who have experienced similar things or even much worse, might find some comfort and strength in knowing they aren’t alone and that it is possible to heal and move on from things like this. In no way did I make this video to be mean or vengeful, but just to express my own process of growth and learning through these experiences.

An open letter to churches and church people about chronic illness and pain

Lonely Leaf

To churches and church folks everywhere:

Unfortunately, I have heard too many stories from fellow chronic pain/chronic illness sufferers about mistreatment at the hands of the church or church people. Some of these people even end up losing their faith or abandoning church altogether because they are hurt so badly by the apathy or mistreatment they feel from their spiritual family. I myself have experienced some similar things in the past and I would like to make a few requests for all churchgoers to consider, especially those in leadership positions:

  • Please don’t ignore or mistreat those in your church with chronic illness or chronic pain conditions. Don’t think that just because they can’t always make it to church or participate in activities that they don’t want to. Don’t accuse them of just being lazy, selfish or antisocial.
  • Please do reach out to them by making a quick call, a short visit, connecting on social media or dropping a card in the mail once in awhile. If you have never had a long-term chronic illness or injury, you may not know how lonely, depressing and rough it can be.
  • Don’t think or comment that since they don’t look sick on the outside, they must not be sick or hurting. Many illnesses and injuries are invisible and even if a person doesn’t look like they are in pain, it doesn’t mean they aren’t. Many of us get so used to the pain that we don’t normally talk about it or even show it on our face anymore, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t felt.
  • Remember that mental illnesses like depression and anxiety can be just as devastating and debilitating as a physical illness. Also remember that depression and anxiety often accompany a chronic physical illness or injury, which can compound the problem and make it even harder for a person to function normally.
  • Don’t play doctor and tell us what you think is “really” wrong with us or tell us what we need to do to “fix” ourselves. Your intentions may be good, but most likely we have already visited various health professionals and tried anything and everything to try to fix the problem and find relief. If you constantly tell us what we “should” be doing, it can make us feel like it is our fault we are sick or in pain because we aren’t doing enough to try to solve the problem, which is normally entirely untrue. And NEVER insinuate that our illness/injury is caused by a lack of faith or that God is “punishing” us for one reason or another. First of all, that isn’t your judgement to make. Would you want to hear that when you are suffering? Treat others the way you would want to be treated if you were in their shoes.
  • Lastly, try to find a way to “include” us even when we can’t be there. Share photos on FB or by email with us of events we had to miss. If we can’t make it to a special dinner, bring us by a doggy bag of the yummy food we missed. Let us know we are missed, but don’t try to make us feel guilty for what we can’t help.

To Keep or Not to Keep…That is the Question

Tonight at church we found a couple kittens who had been abandoned in the parking lot.  They were inside a cardboard box, but other than that, hadn’t been left with any necessities.  We don’t know how long they had been there, but they could have been there since Sunday.  The little guys were starving, but more than that, one of them was obviously ill.  We took them home, gave them a bath, fed them and then tucked them in for the night.

Originally the plan was to drop them off at a shelter tomorrow, but now it’s getting harder to do that.  I told myself I WOULD NOT GET ATTACHED, but then we gave them names and took care of them and snuggled up to them…I worry that it won’t be that easy to part with them now.  We need to make a decision soon, after all, one of them really needs medical care, but should we pay for a vet visit or just take it to the shelter and let the vets there heal it?

Now that I think about it, we probably shouldn’t have given them names, because it will only make it MUCH harder to consider giving them up…but on the other hand, we already have three cats…do we really want five?

Here are some photos of these kittens after their bath.  The first two photos are of Ichabod.  He (or she) looks pretty healthy and is a very loving butterball.  The last two photos are of the sick kitty.  He (or she) is severely underweight, and I figure it probably has worms.  This one is tentatively named Mao…but make sure you say it right…like a cat would.