For years, I tried to find a way to make sense of why my son had been given so many debilitating diseases. It was difficult for me to reconcile why such a small child could be forced to go through so much adversity, pain, and suffering.
I remember one day sobbing in my bedroom, and I just wanted to know this was going to be ok. I wanted to know there was a reason for our suffering.
In the midst of my hysteria, I remember screaming out that if there was a God, I needed them to show me why we were dealing with all of this pain.
Quietly, I sat there waiting for something, anything to show me my child’s chronic illnesses was part of some master plan that would propel us all to greatness.
And then nothing happened.
Instead, I sat there crying until I fell asleep.
This didn’t stop me from seeking a purpose or trying to find a support network.
Over the course of several months, I began reading about different faiths, communities and was in desperate need of support.
After years away from the church, I chose to attend a local church that met at a local middle school.
Immediately, I felt smitten and intoxicated with the happiness that seeped out of every single person at the service. I felt better, connected, and less alone.
Drunk on God’s Love, I jumped full force into a community that I thought would provide my family stability, accept my child, and give me a sense of higher purpose.
I volunteered, tithed, and recruited friends and family to check out the services.
Each week, I felt invigorated by the messages, reminders of being a more selfless person, and the push to volunteer and give back to the less fortunate.
I thought I was doing good for everyone.
However, I was also ignoring my own firmly held beliefs that included:
Accepting all people for who they are regardless of their choices, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, or religion.
A woman being equal and valued members of society and relationships
Supporting the marriages of same-sex couples
Believing in a woman’s right to chose what to do with her own body
Supporting other people’s rights not to believe what I did. And not forcing or persuading others to think as I do.
I valued science, trusted the theory of evolution, trusted doctors, and believed in public schools.
I valued platonic friendships with both men and women.
Over the course of three years, I watched the person I had prided myself on becoming – look like a distant shadow.
I embraced a more submissive role in my marriage.
Even though I had always had male friends, I accepted men and women should not be friends.
I began to question the validity and need for science. My feelings about doctors changed, and that was not a good thing considering my son had many.
Over time I was more angry with public education and found myself wanting to keep my son away from the madness of the real world.
My anxiety grew as I was told over and over that I was a broken person, born of sin, and could only be whole by accepting God.
The problem was that I didn’t believe many of the Biblical stories.
I questioned, searched, and scoured for more scientific and physical evidence of the existence of Jesus. All I was told was there were none, and I needed to have “faith.”
In Bible studies, I would sit and read the questions, think to myself, and listen intently to each person as they shared their experiences.
Frequently, we were asked to analyze other people’s behavior, which always made me feel uncomfortable because I never like to judge anyone’s choices.
We were called to help others not because it was the right thing to do, but because it would please God.
In helping others, we could show God’s love, which would, in turn, bring more people to God. I wanted to help others for the sake of helping them, not to please God.
None of this felt right to me.
My son’s experience within the church made the situation far more complex.My son, who has several disabilities, struggled greatly in Sunday school. He needed one on one help, but never had anyone available to help him.
As my son got older, he couldn’t keep pace with his peers in class and became disruptive.
He wanted to play with the younger kids, but he was too big, and he scared the toddlers.
I begged for a ministry to help my son that would be for children with disabilities. My pleas were never taken seriously, and numerous people suggested I start the ministry myself.
There was no way I could take on the responsibility of a ministry. We were already volunteering, and I was leading and involved with several women’s groups.
My son’s care took up the bulk of my time outside of the church, and I couldn’t add any more to my plate.
Even though I requested help, I never received the support we needed for my child. He was never entirely safe attending services, and because he didn’t have the right one on one care, he was a disruption to the other children in his class.
Even though no one told us to leave, we knew we had to go.
Despite the church saying they cared about our son, there was no place for him in the community.
Then one day we left the church.
We stopped volunteering, stopped tithing, and we stopped participating in group activities within the church.
Initially, the change felt like I was breaking up with God, the community, and everything I had invested in for over three years.
I watched friendships disintegrate because I distanced myself from the community. However, this was necessary for me to reconnect with myself and become a better person and mother.
My biggest concern was pulling my son away from the community. He loved playing with the kids at church. My anxiety was through the roof thinking that I had stolen him from his friends.
However, I watched him flourish away from the community. We no longer had to revolve all of our time around the church.
We were able to focus our energy on him. He became happier, healthier, and less filled with anxiety by going out into the world.
Additionally, I found that I was able to reconnect with my long-held beliefs, values, and morals. The nagging anxiety I felt on a daily basis while walking in faith disappeared.
I was able to love everyone for who they were, and I no longer had to listen to people discriminate, judge or dismiss individuals that didn’t follow the letter of God’s law.
My life became simple.
There was no more hypocrisy around me.
I no longer had to fight with myself about the Bible’s outdated teachings on the roles of women in society and the family.
I no longer had to hear people condemn homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, divorce, or other religions.
No more doubting science and doctors.
I started believing in myself and my ability to make choices without fear or guilt guiding the way.
I was able to use common sense in my choices without fearing it was Satan planting those thoughts in my head.
My mind was free from worry, free from fighting, and free from guilt.
We may have lost friendships, a community, and our faith, but we found peace, happiness, and acceptance in ourselves.
The church failed my son.
The church failed me as a woman.
I’m glad we were failed because now we are free.
*Katie Joy is a blogger and freelance writer. Her work is featured on Upworthy, Huffington Post, Yahoo Parents, Mamamia, Daily Beast, Cafe Stir, Newsweek, Jezebel, and The Daily Mail. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.
She co-hosts the YouTube show, “The Smoking Nun,” with Kyle Curtis. The show airs weekly and tackles pseudoscience, current events, and crime stories.
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