Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

One Lost Sheep

26 Comments

My phone rang late yesterday afternoon.  It was the phone call I’d been both expecting and dreading for some time now.  My sweet Sunday School teacher called me under some pretense.  We made a bit of small talk and then she asked if she could come for a visit.  I declined as I was just in having a little break from cutting grass.  I really was covered from head to toe in grass and dirt.  That wasn’t a lie.  And I really was just about to head out the door to get back on the mower when she called.  That wasn’t a lie either.

She decided she’d cut to the chase.  I knew she would eventually ask the question.  “D’Ma, why don’t you come to Sunday School anymore?”, she asked with a sad voice.  “I’ve been meaning to call and talk to you about that.  No one has done anything to offend me.  It’s a fantastic group of girls and you are an excellent teacher.  It’s got nothing to do with anybody there.  I just feel that since I’m engaged now and will be married soon and this really is Charles’ family’s church it’s time for me to move on.  I know he isn’t going right now, but I can’t imagine that he would feel comfortable going there with me and my new husband.  And I can’t imagine The Tour Guide will feel all that comfortable there either.  It’s the right thing to do”, came my reply.

“But you could still come until The Tour Guide gets here.  Then you could find a church together,” she pressed.  “I’ve visited around a little just trying to get a feel for new surroundings and what might be out there.  I’m not going to tell you I’ve been to church every Sunday, but I really feel that this is the right thing for me to do.  While I don’t feel all that uncomfortable around Charles’ family, I’m pretty sure I make them uncomfortable”, I said firmly.  “But you don’t make Samantha uncomfortable”, she argued.  “I’m not so certain about that.  I’m pretty sure I do.”

“Well, I know you’ve prayed about it.  I really wish you’d reconsider.  It’s just that I miss having you there and I know the other girls do.  They’re so accepting,”  pushing farther.  “Oh, Mrs. Beale, I know that.  I promise it has nothing to do with you or them.  They’ve not given me any reason to feel anything but welcome there.  Look, we all do things in life and there are consequences and we don’t get to choose them.  This is one of those consequences for me.  It’s time for me to move on,”  I said.  “Okay, well, I’m going to pray about this.  Please think about it some more.  I love you,” she said with more sadness in her voice.  “I know you do, Mrs. Beale.  I love you, too.”

Even though I’d known this question was coming I had no idea what I was going to say.  If I told her the complete truth, If I told her that I no longer believe the way she believes I’d be the subject of the Church Prayer Chain.  Within an hour the whole congregation would be in an uproar.  I’ve already been accused of going through a mid-life crisis because of my relationship with The Tour Guide.

I know she loves me.  I know she’s concerned for me.  She’s doing what a good Christian Sunday School teacher does.  One of her sheep has gone astray and she’s trying to rescue it.  I don’t know how to tell her this sheep has transformed into something else.  It would break her heart.  I’m not ready for this.  I’m not strong enough for this.

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26 thoughts on “One Lost Sheep

  1. (((D'Ma))) I thought you handled that well. It appears to me that you honoured your truth while honouring hers. It's not easy. So not easy. And you are right. If she knew she'd want to rescue you because that is the nature of her belief.

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  2. I agree with Zoe. You handled it wonderfully.That doesn't make these kinds of conversations easier, though. *hugs*

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  3. I'm with Zoe: I think that was about the best response you could have given. Anything more, even a "This isn't something I'm really comfortable discussing in detail," opens the door to more questions. And that was actually a pretty tactful approach on her part, too. Concerned, but not accusatory. She sounds really sweet.

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  4. @Zoe,Thanks for the hugs. I hung up the phone with a knot in my throat and tears in my eyes. This is really hard. She would want to rescue me because she loves me and I know that.=================================================@Lydia,Thank you for the hugs, too. These aren't easy conversations to have for certain. I know they're coming. I'm not sure how I'll handle them. I don't want to hurt people or make them worry.===============================================@MM,I was trying to carefully and tactfully not leave myself open to more questions. The more questions and the more responses the more I open myself up to revealing what I believe. Having said that I'm quite certain that she picked up as much on what I didn't say as what I did. She's a pretty smart lady so when I didn't say "after much prayer" I've decided this she knows there's more. Respectfully she didn't press the issue.She's been a Christian mentor of mine and is absolutely a beautiful person.

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  5. This post has been removed by the author.

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  6. D’Ma,This blog entry inspired something bouncing around in my brain recently, generating a blog post of my own. However, I want to make it perfectly clear—I endorse your responses to this Sunday School teacher. As I said, I did it myself. I do not want you in any way, shape or form to read my blog entry and think, “DagoodS thinks I should have responded differently, or been more confrontational.” Not at all.I hope I made it clear, but just in case I did not, I wanted to reiterate it here in a comment.These ARE hard conversations. Over time, I have become acclimated to them. They become easier and easier to avoid. I wonder, now, if I should continue to avoid the conversations….[reposted because I added a word. Stupid brain. *grin*]

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  7. Well done. When I told one aunt I'd deconverted, she took it as a personal failing. It was hard to see. So, I'm not telling any other aunts. I've seen the anguish and hours of tears over other cousins who haven't gone to church.During our deconversion we'd already been church shopping, so the old church people think we are still going to the other one. The newer church people think we've just gone back. Neither one wants to open a conversation about potential shortcomings or comparisons, so it has been easy to sidestep.btw- you're engaged! I must have missed that. Congrats!

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  8. @DagoodS,No worries. I look forward to reading your blog post on the subject. I'm interested to know how others handled similar situations. It would be easier if I were a "lukewarm" Christian to begin with not regularly attending. I went from totally involved to invisible almost instantly. It's pretty conspicuous. There are loads of questions. To be completely honest I was very torn as to how to answer her. It felt wrong to be so evasive and calling an ace an ace I lied. Maybe I'll repent. *grin*===============================================@prairienymph,Thanks for the congratulations. I wrote my engagement here.I can completely understand about the aunt thing. People who are "true believers" will be hurt, not only because it seems like a personal failing, but because they really do care. It's a delicate dance to learn the steps to.Mrs. Beale really is like family. Ever since I met she and Mr. Beale he's been introducing me to people as his daughter. They kind of adopted me a long time ago.

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  9. You handled the situation tactfully. Take some time to think about this, and I know you'll find a way of talking with this person.

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  10. "To be completely honest I was very torn as to how to answer her. It felt wrong to be so evasive and calling an ace an ace I lied. Maybe I'll repent. *grin*"Yup, you lied. 1 person (you) has some distress. Had you been totally truthful, 2 people would have greater distress. The total amount of distress was lessened by your choice of action. The greater good was served. Your understanding of this on some level is implicit in your behavior, but perhaps spelling it out in detail will make it clearer. The totality of effect is what is important, not this or that specific (and usually correct) ethic.Also, if you have never pented, how can you re-pent?

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  11. @Ahab,I'm not sure I'll ever have the guts to tell this sweet lady I've deconverted. Though I'm certain the lack of Christianese on my part gave it away at least somewhat.=================================================@Exrelayman,It's weird having my morality be relative. It's been black and white for a pretty long time. Having said that I've always had a really hard time intentionally hurting someone or upsetting them. I'll get over my distress. She might not. That's been a philosophy of mine for a while now. I'd rather be angry or upset than to make someone else that way. I can get over it.Now about this pent and repent thing. I pented but then I repented of the penting. Does that count?

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  12. Hugs to you D'Ma. I've sympathize with this and I can relate to the awkwardness of the conversation. I think you handled it wonderfully. I also understand just what you meant when you said "I'd rather be angry or upset than to make someone else that way. I can get over it."Mrs. Beale seems like a very nice lady, one who care for you and your for her.

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  13. It doesn't look like you need me to tell you that you handled it well, but, hey, I think you handled it incredibly well. I don't think I could have handled it that well if I had planned the conversation.I think in many ways losing your faith is like a divorce. The in-laws you've grown to love are those sweet soles you used to bond with in Sunday School. They are your family. Or at least, they were your family, until you and Jesus got quietly divorced. Now, despite the shared love for one another, there is a strain in the relationship which can only be overcome with pain, humility, and acceptance. Very, very few of those relationships survive.No, you're not ready for this, but nobody ever is. I'll tell you what, though. In getting to know you from your posts, I can tell you that without a doubt you are strong enough for this, whether you realize it or not.Hugs.

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  14. Thanks, TAW. I know you've had your fair share of awkwardness lately. 😦 Mrs. Beale is the best. I really should have called her and told her something already. Knowing her like I do she probably was thinking it was something to do with her. It's definitely not personal. I love her to bits and I know she loves me, too. That's what makes this so hard.===================================================@TWF,I've always been very guarded with my words. I'm not sure if it was a survival skill or if that's just the way I am. Lots of people spout off and say things they later regret. I find it's much easier, even if I'm angry, not to do that. It's much better all the way around if you have said nothing to regret. You can apologize all day long, but you can never take those words back. I completely with the analogy of the divorce. It severs even the relationships you didn't want it to. It's kind of inevitable. Thanks for the encouragement and the hugs.

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  15. D'Ma,This is the part I dread the most. Those conversations I can see coming a mile away and give me that sick feeling in my stomach and leave me a nervous wreck. Sounds like you were your gracious, strong self. It's sad thinking of relationships that might be lost in the process. Is this a relationship you're hoping to keep?

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  16. I agree with Zoe (is there and echo in here?) :-DFor balance, I also agree with everyone else.These are hard discussions and I think you did the right thing. There is nothing to be gained from telling it all in that phone call and causing upset that can be avoided.I suspect that she suspects so maybe she is also considering that you were intentionally holding back for her sake.When I think back to when I was a youth worker. I know there were many kids that were lost during their teens, none ever admitted it to me but from my perspective it was obvious who they were. I don't think I'd have been upset if they told, sad yes, but not upset. I'd have loved them to have felt able to tell me, but I understand why they didn't. Its a very big thing to admit to a respected and loved Christian. I suspect its hard to say than it is to hear. That's certainly true for me.If you do decide to tell her, I imagine that face to face is far better than in a phone call. If I was in that situation, I'd make a specific request for it not to get passed around.hmmm I think I've rambled again 🙂

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  17. Sometimes it just isn't worth the effort. I think that is especially true with those who care about us and truly have the best of intentions. My mom recently remarked to me that she hopes I live a long, Christian life. In her mind, I'm just a Christian who is confused and somehow got sidetracked (likely by reading too much). It's a difficult tightrope to walk, balancing hurting those you love while remaining true to yourself.

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  18. D'Ma:Since I have never been a Christian, let alone a "born again", it is very difficult for me to truly understand your angst in dealing with this "sweet, loving" lady who was your Sunday School Teacher.I must observe, however, that if she really, sincerely "loved" you for yourself and your many admirable qualities, your deconversion should in no way impact that "love". She should still respect you and the many admirable qualities she had found in you before you realized that her beliefs were no longer your beliefs. Unfortunately, it appears that in situations like this one, as sometimes happens in divorce, the friends and family who are not directly involved reveal that you were only "valuable" to them in your capacity as an extension of the other individual (in this case perhaps, Jesus).With all due repect for your desire to avoid causing another person unnecessary emotional distress at the expense of your own emotional equalibrium, I will submit that if your former teacher does not have sufficient love for you to deal with her probable diisappointment in your deconversion (?Christian Love?), she doesn't deserve your continued concern for her feelings.Understanding that the opinions of others as to what you believe and what understandings you require to make sense of and to deal with the vagaries of life should not be allowed to impact your own emotional well-being is a large part of coming to peace with the realities of this life and existance therein.Harvey

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  19. Harvey,Thank you for that comment! I know it was directed towards D'Ma…but honestly, I needed to hear it as well.

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  20. @DoOrDoNot,That's a pretty good description of the feeling. She won't be the last person to ask me the question. Frankly I'm surprised I haven't already been asked. Yes, I am hoping to preserve this relationship. I'm hoping to preserve several, which doesn't seem likely if I come clean. Maybe that's not true. But they will be forever changed. ===============================================@limey,I understand what you're saying. Some people are more open minded than others. Fundamentalists don't tend to be very open minded. I think that Mrs. Beale would say in hind sight that she wishes I had been honest with her, but only insofar as she thinks she could do something to change my mind.================================================@DougB,That's how I see this playing out with some people I'm close to. They'll just think I'm hurt or angry with God but that I'll ultimately come back to Christianity because deep down I really know the truth. *sigh*===============================================@Harvey,I really did need to hear that because ultimately it does boil down to "do you love me? or do you love who you want me to be?" Logically I know that, but when emotions get involved logic seems to fly out the window. I don't relish the thought of all my "brothers and sisters in Christ" trying to convince me I've been deceived.

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  21. For me, it would depend in how much the person meant to me, and whether I wanted to continue the friendship.If so, then I would feel that I had no choice than to be honest, work through all that, and let the chips fall where they may.I could not be friends with someone, and not be vulnerable, and honest in letting them know my true mind.Sometimes it's easier, I suppose, to let the relationship go.Rebecca.

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  22. This has been rattling around in my brain since your post. I'll give you a possible approach which may make it easier to deal with these break-ups.Often in life, we get into very meaningful relationships without ever fully divulging those feelings. At least I do. Then it seems that only upon death or other drastic circumstance do we feel prompted to pay our full respects to those people. For those who you had what you thought was a really meaningful relationship, why not get together with them over coffee, or a sweet tea, and just let it out. Tell them how much you appreciated them being in your life. Tell them that the distancing you've done is due to a collapse of faith, but not a collapse of love for them. Invite them to continue to be welcome in your life.That way, everything is out in the open, your feelings and beliefs (or lack thereof) are fully known instead of just speculated, and they can tell you are still you, and not demon-possessed or having a mental breakdown. With this kind of openness, the relationship at least has a chance to survive because the unspoken-tension no longer exists. Like what Harvey said, if they are true friends, and/or if they are not too blinded by their faith, they have a good chance to remain friends.Just a thought… 🙂

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  23. Conversations with christians that leave you vulnerable to admitting your doubts or unbelief are ridiculously difficult. I think you did a great job in your communication with your friend, and honestly, I'm not sure it is wise to open up any further. When we left our church 2 years ago, we has alot of those complex conversations, and at the time I wasn't even questioning — I just needed to be at a non-Calvinist church. We tried to keep up old friendships but It became very clear we were unwanted if not part of that church. Heart-breaking, but time heals those wounds. I have few conservative Christian friends nowadays in the area…the ones I do have are long-distance friendships that can weather my doubts. I've tried to explain my stance of Christianity with my parents, and while they love me unconditionally, they are convinced this is just a phase and keep reminding me to pray…etc.

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  24. @Rebecca,There are a few people who mean an awful lot to me and this lady is one of them. I'm not quite sure how I'm going to handle this yet. I'm still figuring my way through all of this. If I didn't care about the relationship I'd have just blurted it all out and not thought twice about how she felt.==============================================@TWF,Thanks for your thoughts. That's really how I see this playing out if I ever get the courage to open up about this to those closest to me. Though I think it will probably be more one on one conversations instead of a group thing. ==============================================@LAC,*Sigh* I'm starting to think there's no good way to really handle this. Does everybody know everything about the people they're friends with? Does my contemplating not telling them mean I don't respect them? Does it mean we're not really friends? I don't think so. Some things really are better kept to oneself sometimes. If I thought people knowing wouldn't impact me in other ways I'd probably spill. At a time when I'm trying to get my business going I don't think it would be very advantageous to divulge this information. It just doesn't seem very prudent.

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  25. Such a good question D'Ma re: "Does everybody know everything about the people they're friends with?"Answer: No.You know, just thinking here, but in my past church experiences, people acted like we had to know everything about a person. Leaky boundaries, you know? This practice made for great gossip . . . all under the banner of being better able to pray for the person, in Christ's name, of course. :-(If you eventually share with her from your heart, and ask for confidentiality from her, would she honour your request?

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  26. I'm not sure, Zoe. That's kind of my problem with the situation. Even if she completely kept my confidentiality I'd probably always wonder who else knew. I don't think she'd betray my confidence maliciously but, you know, that whole prayer chain thing. That's not gossip when it's told out of concern for the person for the purpose of prayer.

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