I got a notification last night  that I had received a comment on an older post of mine. I LOVE getting comments (kind of feels like when you get a letter in the mail, you know?), and this one stirred me pretty particularly. Cherryblossoms wrote to me on the post "God won't protect you… or will he?" from May of 2012. This is what she said:

"Hi cassandra, i see ur blog was written a while ago and i just gotta say it REALLY spoke to me. I have not faced abuse but emotionally i resonate with all your struggle in trusting God. I've had a chronic illness for a while and last year was really...really hard. Suicidal at times. And in retrospect i can certainly see where God provided for me but like....exactly like u said, i didnt feel protected. and then i thought well...was i promised to be protected? and if i'm not how am I supposed to trust someone who doesnt seem to bother to protect me, if He could? I mean i sure wouldnt trust another person who did that to me, stand by and do nothing when maybe they couldve done something. And if it was all to teach me a lesson....well okay...did my suffering have to be that overwhelmingly painful just for me to learn something? like really? and im still not sure about what i learned. i have vague ideas. mostly i just think i learned how to be real pissed off all the time. and like u i sit here and think, im such a bad christian! i feel the same. how do i tell people jesus loves them when i still feel hurt for feeling abandoned? Anyway, i wanna know if , since time has passed since this post...if u've found wisdom or solace or anything u can offer me. hopefully u see this comment lol. anyway, take care u sound like a lovely woman nonetheless < 3"

I, of course, had to reply

"Life with a chronic illness (or more than one) is hard. Period. And I think that some emotions are universal, regardless of abused/not abused, etc. Have you ever seen The Princess Bride? One of my favorite lines from that movie has always been when Wesley, under the guise of the Dread Pirate Roberts, tells Buttercup, "Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something."

I can't say that I've come up with any answers… or wisdom… or solace. In fact, I don't even consider myself to be a Christian any longer. I just couldn't reconcile my experience with the facts presented in the Bible. I may come back to it someday, I can't really say… but at this point, I'm more of a quasi-Bhuddist/skeptic/deist/agnostic. Still figuring it all out. What I HAVE decided is that God wasn't responsible for my pain, I don't think. My abusers made the choice to be world class jerks, and the responsibility of my pain lies with them. Could God have stopped it? Maybe. Did he? Not that I'm aware of. But, basically, I've learned to live my life from the inner strength that I possess within myself, and the strength and hope offered to me by the people I've surrounded myself with. 

Now that I'm an adult, I can choose who I let into my life for the most part. I had no choice as a child or young adult whether to let those painful, toxic people into my life. So I surround myself with people that will feed my soul, and I stand amazed at the fact that they seem to feel the same way about me. I am learning to own my own strength, light, and love, rather than dissembling and deferring with "humility" and giving God all the credit. You say that your last year was really hard, and you were suicidal at times. (If you read some of my more recent posts, you'll see that I've been there at times lately as well.) But… you're still here. You chose to fight, to hang on, to believe in hope (maybe), and it's that strength within you that will carry you. Find hope where you can and where it suits you best. If that's in church and a belief in God, then more power to you. I have found, though, for myself… I have found that I lead a happier, more peaceful, more fulfilled and strong and hopeful life as a non-believer than I ever did as a Christian. I know that's blasphemous to some people, but it's the truth. It's safe to say that I'm a better, more authentic person now than I have ever been before in my life.

I have no idea if that addresses any of the questions floating around in your heart, but it's all I've got to offer. Thank you for the comment-- it really brightened an otherwise crappy evening (feeling VERY poorly, physically), and I hope to see you around. Oh, and thank you for the compliment :) I hope you see this!"

I've held back from outright stating some of this stuff, because honestly I'm afraid to catch flak for my new beliefs (or lack of them, I should say). Since I spent so many years immersed in an intensely Christian culture, an overwhelming majority of my relationships and friendships are with people who are staunch Adventists and who feel that everyone should be an Adventist. If you're not, you're lost. And I really, really don't want to deal with the stigma or evangelistic efforts that would come with such an admission. I mean, if we're being honest here, it's not a state secret. It's pretty plain from my Facebook page that I've changed my stance on a lot of things, without my ever having to say anything. But I want to be seen as me, as a person, as Cassandra… not as my beliefs. Not as my religious affiliation. 

Did I tell you that when I "came out" to E about my lack of Christianity, she seriously considered asking me to resign? Why? Because our organization is faith-based, and we, the leaders, must set the example. I personally think that the organization is stronger for having a diversity of beliefs and religious convictions, as the population that we are trying to reach doesn't all fit into the standard Protestant mold. It's unfair to expect them to, and I think it's unfair to require the staff to all have the same beliefs and life choices. I mean, I totally respect other's beliefs. I have no problems with you if you're Christian, Pagan, Muslim, Greek Orthodox, whatever. It doesn't matter to me. As long as you're a good person (wherever the catalyst for that comes from) and you treat others with fairness and respect, we're good. I could wish that the same attitude were applied to me. I don't want to be discriminated against for my lack of Christianity.

And, honestly… I'm afraid. I'm afraid to lose friends. I'm afraid of being judged, of being attacked, of being the target of some campaign to change how I feel and think and believe. I have my reasons for my choices, and it feels so very invalidating for someone to assume that they know better and that if I only listened to them I would see that I am being a fool and need to come around to their point of view. I also hate the pity that is reserved for "the lost". Please, please, please… just treat me like a human being, yeah? My bestie J is a marvelous example of how the relationship between believers and non-believers should be. She sees me as a person, not an evangelistic target. We discuss religion and God and exchange thoughts, theories, viewpoints, etc., but at the end of the day we both respect each other's choices as valid and reasonable and know that the other has perfectly legitimate thoughts and feelings that went into those choices. My other friend H is a good example of this as well. It is kind of sad, though, that I find myself so appreciative of interactions that bear the mark of basic respect. I wish it were a more common thing, and that I didn't find myself living in fear of the Christian community, or the conservative SDA community, to be more specific.

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