Of all the things by which one defines themselves, their worldview is surely among the primary. For seven years, “Christian” was the defining worldview for me. Only a few short weeks ago I said never mind, I don’t believe and have learned a multitude of lessons about what this process looks like and how it feels.
How it feels:
1. It’s freeing – Long after I really didn’t believe I continued to live by the moral code and statutes of my expired beliefs. I didn’t want to do something that I would regret later on. I was cautious and I think that’s a good thing. When I finally announced what had been true for a while, I was ready to let go and behave how I wanted to. There was no reason not to.
2. It hurts – You don’t break away from beliefs held for seven years without some sort of emotional response. Guilt doesn’t just go away. There are lingering tidbits that make you seriously wonder if you’ve made a mistake. There’s a small amount of paranoia about if you’ve ruined you life. There are your friends who no longer know how to look at you and approach you.
3. It’s scary – Mostly scary in an exhilarating sort of way. There are new possibilities and ideas. Things that were totally off limits once are now there for the taking. You probably don’t know the rules or the guidelines, though, so you might feel a little lost. What seems like a no brainer to most is complex and intimidating to you.
What it looks like:
1. You’ll do things “out of character” – Most of which you’ll enjoy immensely. You’ll experiment with all of those scary things, break some boundaries, go too far a few times, and finally find YOUR lines.
2. You’ll cry – I’m not a crier. I just don’t do it. Ever. Yet, I’ve cried at least three times a week for the past few weeks. Whether it’s because I did something that pushed the aforementioned boundaries and wondered what kind of a person that made me, a friends response to something I did but don’t feel badly about, or finding something while cleaning that reminded me of an older time, crying just seems to be part of this whole thing.
3. You’ll regroup – So you lost one worldview, what do you believe now? Chances are you might not know yet. That’s okay. Take your time and figure out what makes sense to you.
4. You’ll have a pretty kickass time – From trying new *cough* absinthe *cough* and “bad” *cough* sex *cough* things, to simply living without worrying about the eternal consequences, it’s really a load off my shoulders. Disclaimer: I’m not saying that faith is burdensome; I’m saying that my experience of that faith was burdensome because I held myself to a higher and unachievable standard.
5. You’ll move on with daily life – I don’t yet know how long it will take until I no longer think of faith or lack of faith in my daily life but doing what I do and keeping moving has been important to keep me out of my head.
The tools you’ll need:
1. A new friend – No, there’s nothing wrong with your old friends but the relationships will change… especially if you met them at Christian college. They’ll try to be understanding and not react to what’s going on in your life but in the back of your mind you’ll know that they disapprove. That hurts. You’ll need someone who doesn’t see the person you’ve been for seven years and who you can text when you’re about to do something stupid. Sometimes they’ll tell you to go for it, other times they’ll caution you against it. This friend should be someone who has roughly the same boundaries as you or the same boundaries you’d like to have.
2. Tissues – High quality ones. Don’t let your poor little nose suffer even if the rest of you is suffering. As explained above, crying is inevitable and it’s totally okay.
3. Condoms – Do I really have to explain this? Just be prepared.
4. “Waiting for the End” by Linkin Park – No, seriously, this is the perfect song for when you’re emotional and need something to yell along to in the car on the way home from one of those unavoidable hard discussions. Not that I’ve done that.
5. “Muscle Museum” by Muse – Again, this song is perfect for that moment when you’ve talked to a friend and you know that they want you to change your mind. The line “I have played in every toilet But you still want to spoil it To prove I’ve made a big mistake” is more poignant than I can even describe. It’s rage-y quality is also really good for screaming along to in the car… and while running to work out the angst.
6. Sisters – Okay, this one isn’t technically necessary or something everyone will have but I was really lucky to have three sisters who are all over the spectrum of belief and values. They definitely helped me through a lot and reserved judgments.