I’ve got several post in the pike here, so excuse my blasts as I figure out what to write and how.
Shortly after Stephen left the wings place, I sent a message to Drew (friend, fellow atheist expastor, and the head of communications for the Clergy Project).
Hey man, I need to talk. You got a minute?
He lives in a different time zone and I know it’s probably late where he lives, but he does work at a steakhouse. So maybe he’s getting off work soon?
I call my friend Anthony (I’ll write more about him very soon). I know he’s on vacation and doesn’t need to go to work in the morning.
Me: So, I just had a friend “break-up” with me. Do you think you can come to the wing place?
Anthony: What?! What the hell? What do you mean “break-up” with you? Like, just because you’re not a christian anymore he needs to divorce you as a friend?!
Anthony: Are you serious?! You’re serious! Ok, do you want just me to come or should both Stephanie and I come?
Me: Umm…Stephanie doesn’t have to come…but, actually…it’s probably a good idea if she can. Cause, I’m kinda going to need a ride home, and it would be great if one of you could bring my car back to my house.
Anthony: No problem, we’re leaving shortly.
Drew calls back.
Drew: Hey what’s going on? Are you ok?
Me: No man, I just had someone break up with me as a friend.
Drew: Oh shit, I’m sorry man.
Me: Yeah, and now I’m at a bar, probably drinking too much and waiting for someone to come pick me up.
Drew: Well that’s a good thing.
Me: I just need to talk to someone who understands and kill sometime before my ride comes.
I explain the whole conversation with Stephen to Drew. Honestly, at this point the alcohol (Guinness and Jameson, of course) was starting to really cloud my mind. I honestly don’t even remember what Drew and I talked about. But it was just awesome to have a friend, who lives in Chicago, who completely understands what I’m going through because he went through it too. So we talk until Anthony and Stephanie arrive at the bar.
Anthony: So explain what the fuck happened.
BTW, Anthony and Stephanie were church members and are still very religious Christians. But they’ve delt with enough church bullshit that they aren’t idealistic. Stephanie was only one of two people to actually check in on my wife after we left the church. She sent text messages every other day to my wife while we were in AZ.
Stephanie: Do these people not know who Jesus is? Have they ever even read the Bible?
Me: Apparently they never listened to my sermons either.
Anthony: No kidding.
Stephanie: What happened to the concept of loving people to Christ. Jesus hated religious people and their rules. He hung out with the unbelievers, sinners, and prostitutes. How are you worse than that?
Anthony: All I can figure is that your “friends” are so insecure that all they can do is focus on themselves.
Me: But seriously, I’m ok with all of this. If they hate me, fine. But why my wife? Why can’t they forgive her? Why can’t they love her, and help her? I swear, Stephanie, you are one of the VERY few people from Church who has even tried to be there for her.
Stephanie: Well because I actually believe Jesus when he says to love your neighbor.
Me: Shit, he even says “love your enemy”. If they can’t love my wife, then how the fuck are they supposed to love their enemy?
Me: But you know what? At the end of the day, I don’t blame these people. What I want to know, is where the hell is God? I understand people are sinners. But the buck has to stop somewhere, and it should stop with the man upstairs. Why is he failing to do his job?
We have a brief, friendly, but serious debate about whether the actions of Christians can reflect on the character of their God. I bust out one of my favorite Nietzsche quotes:
Me: It’s like what Nietzsche says:
“I’d be more willing to believe in a Redeemer, if his people appeared more redeemed.”
I was under the impression that the Bible taught that the Holy Spirit was supposed to change people to be more like Christ. But clearly the vast majority of Christians haven’t experienced that change. What they hell is the Holy Spirit waiting for? What is his job description?
Stephanie: But you can’t blame God for the actions of his people. They have a choice, and they’re choosing to be dirtbags. God gives people choices.
Me: So can one of you drive stick shift?
Anthony drives my tiny car, which is hilarious because he is one big Mexican dude. We get home and they come inside. We’ve actually hung out with this couple a few times since I’ve left the church. We’ve had good fun together.
My wife joins us and we all talk for a long time. It was a good conversation. Then Stephanie brought out the big guns:
Stephanie: You guys cannot allow the actions of shitty people to ruin your emotional health. My oncologist told me once that I have only so man emotions in a single day. Am I going to waste them on people who don’t matter, or am I going to save them for my husband? Don’t waste your feelings on people who only care about themselves! They aren’t worth it!
Anthony says he feels called to pray for us. So he does, in my living room. It’s weird that it wasn’t weird. I wasn’t offended or put off at all. I’ve come to find out that I’m ok with people praying for me, so long as prayer is an act of friendship instead of a substitution for it.
We all hug. They say goodnight. I love these guys.
I go to bed. I wake up 2 am, just tortured over losing my friends. I’m tortured over my wife losing friends because of me. I got back to sleep around 7am. Anthony has set up an interview for me at his work for the next morning. I hope I’m not too hung over. (Spoiler Alert: I NAILED THAT INTERVIEW)
Just before I got back to sleep, I see that someone has commented on my Stephen inspired Facebook post. Would you believe it’s my ex-girlfriend? And not just any ex, the one woman who was THE reason I first came to church to begin with?! She writes:
This sounds familiar, several years back quite a few of my best friends just stopped talking to me and calling or wanting to hanging out and I really am not even sure why. I don’t know if it was that my belief in Christianity was staring to dwindle or that I was hanging out with people who were not Christians that I was trying to help. But I do know that it crushed me to think that people who I considered family would just leave. I struggled for awhile until I realized that they were in the wrong not me. If they really truly are Christians they are to love everyone no matter what and that you are suppose to hold the ones who are struggling with their beliefs tighter. I really did take it one day at a time and finally it didn’t hurt so much to lose almost all my friends. On a plus side I meet my beloved Husband shortly after this happened and the friends that did stay became even closer and I still too this day have a strong relationship with them. The other friends did eventually come back into my life but it was never the same. I am sure this doesn’t sound comforting right now, but I promise it will get better and your heart won’t hurt so much and the anger will not be so fueled. Hug your family and concentrate on them and the pain will subside. Sorry this is something you are going through.
I wake up the next morning. 10 am. I’ve got an interview at 12:30. I’m slightly hung over. I’m very tired. I get in the shower.
I start laughing. It starts with a smile and then moves to a chuckle. A thought has occurred to me:
Wait a minute! I’m not a christian! I don’t have to forgive these people. I don’t have to show them any grace. I don’t have to feel guilty for not reconciling with them. I don’t have to care if they like me or not anymore. I am free to hate them if I so choose. Without guilt, I can tell them all to FUCK OFF.
This thought amuses the shit out of me. Like I am stupid smiling.
I get out of the shower and I look at the phrase my wife has written on our mirror a few days back:
People that matter:
- My husband
- My children
- My family
- My friends who are actually stepping up!
Everyone else can suck it!
She’s never been that gracious, and has always “struggled” with forgiveness.
Her mirror writings make me chuckle louder. I edit it to say “1. My husband/My wife”. This is not for her anymore. It’s for us.
I run down stairs, grab my wife and proceed to make out with her.
Wife: What’s gotten into you?
Me: You know that saying on the wall…
I explain my revelation, my epiphany, my freedom. I don’t have to care for these people anymore. I don’t have to care about these people anymore. I don’t care what they think of me, or what they might think of me. They can “suck it!”
I am free.
Damn it feels good to be a gangster.
Hope you like the movie reference!