Gratitude,  Grief

My Experience On The Other Side and Why #MarriageEquality Made Me Cry

 

I am taking some new risks by writing this. No offense intended to anyone who has played a part in my life- just stating the facts as they happened.

This post is about why #standbywendy and #marriageequality made me cry. Check out the links on the hashtags for more about what happened today.

A few weeks ago, I had dinner with a gay friend I’d just met. He is involved in sex education and promoting equal rights through a non profit organization (more on that in another post). He shared a story with me regarding an opportunity he had to share some information with a young gay teen. The teen boy had a lot of questions, and they were answered without judgment. The boy emailed my friend a few days after they talked and said that my friend had probably saved his life with the information he received regarding safe sex. In the (unintentionally) discriminatory culture in which I used to be involved, this would never be the case. The boy would have been shamed.

While I am not homosexual, I think the reason I get so emotional about these issues is because I’ve been discriminated against in similar ways. That might sound crazy. Let me explain.

I was involved in an extremely conservative church and school for over 10 years. I still believe my old religious friends had good intentions, but they had more control over my life than anyone knew. I dated who the church said I could date and went to the school where I knew my current beliefs wouldn’t be challenged. I ended more than one relationship because my church friends disapproved. To be fair, these influences saved me from myself in a few cases. It helped me reach a “bottom” so I could get sober. The problem was how dependent I became on others telling me what to do, and the fear I had of failing to meet expectations or of being rejected. Here are some of the things I did.

I used to teach a bible study to women. I harshly taught that any form of sex before marriage was sin. When one woman in the group argued that oral sex was ok, I basically rallied the group against her for weeks to try to help her see her error.

I went through a period where I stood outside Planned Parenthood and handed out anti-abortion literature to women entering.

I told my gay friends that they should receive counseling to help them repent from their sin and not be gay anymore.

I went to movie theaters and stopped groups of people to hand them literature about Jesus.

I pressured people into saying the “sinner’s prayer” so I could add a tally to my list of reasons I should go to heaven, despite their blank stares.

I said things like “faith alone is needed to save you”, but if you  didn’t clean up your act, then I doubted your salvation and integrity.

And the list goes on…But then…

After my dad passed away, the leader of the Christian band I played in accused me of relapsing in my addiction and said that if I wasn’t sober, I needed to leave the band. Also right after my dad died, I got into a relationship with a really lovely person…who wasn’t a Christian. I received a hateful email from a woman in the church saying I needed to break up with him. She said, and I quote, “You are just dating him because your dad died.” I’m not even kidding. She literally said that.

My grief over my dad finally gave me the motivation I needed to say *F* it, and do what I wanted to do. I left that church. I intentionally distanced myself from the Christians I knew and hid in the back row of a new church. I literally started over with my social life. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. I asked myself the question “What does my relationship with God look like when no one is telling me what to do?” The answer is, “Quite different”.

The God I believe in today is much bigger than I used to think He was. He is not bound in a tiny box of restrictive beliefs. He is sovereign, and He draws each person to Himself uniquely.

I haven’t heard from most of my religious friends, and I’m sure they would feel sad to read this. Let me re-emphasize: I know their intentions were good. But I am really disappointed in the outworking of the the belief system. I have now been on both sides, so I think I know what those friends feel. I still love you all, no matter how this post sounds.

My friends today don’t care about what I do, unless it is harmful (like taking 20x the recommended dose for allergy medicine to change  my feelings). I am in a precious relationship with someone who has different spiritual beliefs than me. I don’t go to church right now, but I feel more spiritually connected than I’ve ever been. I used to dread different beliefs, because I thought my moral obligation was to change them. Now, I love listening to others and gaining wisdom from all different people. Every person’s experiences and beliefs give me more insight and clarity about God and my relationship with Him.

My point is…I know what its like to discriminate people, but I also know what its like to be discriminated against. So, when I see people standing up for themselves and fighting tirelessly for the rights of others, I am reminded of my own struggles and my resulting empowerment.

Congratulations to everyone who benefitted from the news on June 26, 2013. You deserve the best in life. <3

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46 Comments

  • Melissa

    I love everything about this. I’m glad you wrote it.

  • Anonymous

    God gives us free will, free to choose free to do what we please, he does give us consequences either ones to give us life eternal or ones that lead to death.. but my real issue with that post was saying ‘ Jesus had two fathers too’ Do I need to say more to that?
    p.s. I love you Alison I’ve known you since you were born I just can’t keep silent on that one.

  • alisonsnotebook.com

    The “Jesus had two fathers” picture was entirely silly, but I understand that it offended you and I hear that it surprised you that I posted it. I am guessing that for me to take a statement so lightly seems disrespectful. Offense was not my intention <3

  • Anonymous

    This was an amazing an honest post. God does give us free will to think freely, to love freely, to change our minds, to change our hearts, and to live our own lives. Wonderful post from truly a wonderful and talented writer. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    You, my beautiful friend, are amazing. You just keep growing and growing spiritually along YOUR path. The Alison I met in 2009 would never, ever have posted (and possibly believed) what you wrote today. God Is Good. All The Time. … no matter how you define him. (or her, or it, or they or …)

  • Jessi Marie

    I love you and you’re awesome and I hope one day to actually stand in front of you, again, so we can share stories and catch up.

  • Emma

    I love this. I am in a very similar position -leaving a faith I found restrictive and disconnected in favor of something unknown and new. From a friend on the journey, best of luck 🙂

  • alisonsnotebook.com

    In regards to what? The fact that God is not bound in a tiny box of beliefs is not unbiblical. Neither is it unbiblical that God draws each person to Himself uniquely.

  • Daryl Lynn

    thank you so much for sharing. really sharing.

  • Anonymous

    Oh Alison. I love you, and I love that you wrote this. I love that you had the courage to write that out, I love that you had the courage to take the step needed to remove yourself from the church you were associated with. I made that same change a few years before you did, and it is one of the best things I have ever done for myself. I wish I had your courage to stand up more fully for the things I believe are true, instead of keeping those things to myself. Someday perhaps, I will have that myself.

  • Anonymous

    I remember being a little girl in church…and asking “who made God?”…..I was trying to wrap my head around heaven being in the clouds and hell being under the dirt….I was trying to understand how the “rocky road” would lead me to God, but if I took the smooth easy path I would wind up in hell. Afterall…..I took things literally when I was a child…but….I always had questions no one could answer. I kept asking and I kept discovering in my own way in my own time……just as you are. Enjoy the journey….it’s awesome.

  • Heather

    I appreciate your warmth, kindness, compassion for all people, and the self awareness you are exhibiting here. So many admirable qualities, and such a wonderful message delivered in a soft, accepting (of both sides) manner. I feel very lucky to have gotten this glimpse. Thank you for posting 🙂

  • Morgan

    Really liked this post, felt reflection from myself growing up Catholic. Glad you were able to share!

  • Bob Hoeckele

    Kudos Alison. I believe that Christians should constantly strive to fix themselves and to help other people. Not the other way around.

  • Anonymous

    So, you’re saying that God reveals himself through scripture and outside of scripture in ways that contradict scripture? One person can have a scriptural God and another a God revealing himself through emotions? Same God?

  • Mom

    My name didn’t show up…wait…I have to type it! 🙂 <3

  • Anonymous

    It kind of sounds like that. Can you give examples on ways God reveals himself uniquely to different people?

  • Mom

    Wow…have I told you lately that I love you (I feel a song coming on!)? I am so very proud of you and everything you wrote. All of your posts are from your heart…that’s what I love!

  • alisonsnotebook.com

    Burning bush, flood, destruction, creation, blindness (Paul), healing, resurrection. In each case God used something different to draw someone to Himself.

  • Anonymous

    I kind of meant today. Other than scripture, how does God uniquely reveal himself to people today? And how can we be sure it’s God?

  • alisonsnotebook.com

    I’d love for you to comment on what you believe and to include your reason, logic and proof; but I don’t debate <3 If you're not satisfied with the answer to your question, feel free to leave the answer you wanted to hear.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t really debate either. That’s why I was mainly just asking questions. I guess I was just trying to understand a bit more where you’re coming from and what the side you’re currently on looks like.

  • Melody

    Alison – I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post and admire your courage and the amazing journey you are on! I am grateful for your friendship and feel inspired by your blog. I have always wanted to write openly and express my thoughts, but have held back due to fear of offending others and being judged. I feel a step closer to walking through that fear and blogging and look forward to reading your future posts! Love and light!

  • Rebecca Hoeckele

    Beautifully expressed, Alison! You’re a brave woman, and I’m proud to know you.

  • Joe Parle

    Alison…Thanks for your honest discussion of this matter. Perhaps I am the only one who sees the irony of your comparison. On the one hand, your rightfully rejoice over the saving of a life from a person who was making dangerous choices (although logically we should both be able to agree that the safest form of sex is abstinence – contraception will not protect against all forms of STDs).

    If the saving of a life is the motivation for your tears, why would you not be concerned about the innocent lives that are lost in Texas due to abortion? You asked for comments “on what you believe and to include your reason, logic and proof.” It seems illogical to me that if a woman delivered a 20 week infant prematurely and the next day decided to kill it because she no longer wanted it that would be murder but if she did the same action in her womb that is a choice. Any parent who has seen an ultrasound of a 20 week fetus (for proof look at this: http://www.birth.com.au/Pregnancy-week-by-week/Weeks-19-20) knows that is a life. You say, “So, when I see people standing up for themselves and fighting tirelessly for the rights of others, I am reminded of my own struggles and my resulting empowerment.” Pro-life people are tirelessly standing up for the rights of the infant. I probably do not need to remind you that 79% of Planned Parenthood abortion centers are near African American or Hispanic neighborhoods (for proof of that, see http://www.protectingblacklife.org/pp_targets/). If your concern is discrimination, the fact that so many of these sites are near minorities should be a major cause of concern.

    Alison, your CBS family loves you greatly. I appreciate the opportunity you provided to interact on this topic and apologize for the late response.

  • Lisa

    Thanks for this! You know someone very close to me who I won’t “out” had a baby out of wedlock. She was fully embraced by her church and I saw her pastor christen that baby and say this is our baby, we are all raising her. I was so proud of her and in admiration of her church. I also know that this is not the norm. I think had I gotten pregnant at her age I would have been kicked out of church (or shunned at least) and fired from my ministry job for being a bad example. I would have been told to own up and take responsibility for my sin. I thought of various scenarios when this person was going through this and I thought..I would probably have had an abortion. Because I would have been left without friends and without a job or insurance to actually care for a baby. The funny thing is that now that I am not in a “real biblical church” or in ministry I feel I actually “sin” less. I participate in less risky activity because I feel free to admit my mistakes and say it happens to everyone and have a good support group to be myself around so I actually don’t participate in self destructive behavior. I am not out bonking people or getting wasted not because I am trying to prove my salvation to other people but because it is not healthy, it is not good for me. I don’t think any woman wants to have an abortion. I think it must be a hard thing to go to. I hope to never have to make that choice. And the example that the above mentioned person and her church set for me comforts me that I may never have to. I am not going to be so haughty as to say it would “never” happen to me. Believe me nobody ever thought that would happen to this person herself included. But in the end it is my body and nobody should make that decision for me or any other women- particularly men.

  • alisonsnotebook.com

    I am so glad your sister had that experience. And I empathize with feeling like I would choose abortion over the potential shame of being “discovered”, though I am grateful I didn’t have to make a choice like that.

    I used to have a recurring dream where I became pregnant and felt intense grief and shame. I couldn’t imagine telling anyone what happened, and I toyed with the idea of getting an abortion but never did.

    But in the most recent dream where I got pregnant, I wasn’t afraid. I knew I was going to lose my friends, but I also knew I was going to have a baby. And I was happy.

    And you’re right…as someone else commented on my Facebook, “Nobody has an abortion for funsies. Nobody.”

  • Joe Parle

    Alison and Lisa…As I mentioned in my post, I don’t think most pro-life people believe that people are just having abortions for fun. I personally acknowledge that raising kids is a very difficult situation, especially without a support network. Especially many young teenagers find themselves in a very difficult situation. Most pro-life people (especially speaking as a male) are not trying to tell women what to do with their bodies or control women. I don’t believe that is at the heart of the concern. However, since most pro-life people believe that life begins at conception, our greatest concern is for the body of the baby inside. We see the taking of that life as equivalent to a woman taking the life of her born child because she no longer wants to raise it. I once heard a statistic that for every infant available for adoption, there are 3 families who want to adopt that infant. There are options available.

Comments or questions?