Am I the only one that thinks this way?
Am I the only one that feels like this?
I must be crazy.
I don't know if I should speak up.
Am I all alone?
One of the scariest things for us as human beings is being alone. I am not talking about spending some alone time or being by ourselves to refresh our batteries. Most of us don't fear that, and even more of us desperately need it. I'm talking about that terrifying sense that I am all by myself in this. I am alone in life. Alone on my journey. The only one who thinks this way. The only one who feels this way. Surrounded by people everyday, but alone - emotionally and spiritually.
When I started to realize that I had to leave fundamentalism, I felt very alone. My whole life revolved around the church that I pastored, the denomination I had grown up in, the network that contained all of my friends and family. At first, I suffered in silence. I was alone with my doubts and questions in an internal dialoge that ended up spiraling me into depression. Once I began to talk about what I was thinking and how I was feeling with a few trusted friends, I knew that the journey I was on would take me far from where I had always been. I left my church. I left my denomination. I left my network.
And I felt very alone.
Many years later, I wish I could say that I don't feel alone anymore. But that wouldn't be true. There are still days, weeks, months even, that I still wonder when I'm going to find a tribe of people like me. More and more, however, I get flashes that they are out there. Today was one of those days. I had two conversations that reminded me about how important and encouraging it is to find others who are like ourselves.
One conversation was with a person trying to make his own way in the Christian music industry in Nashville. He talked to me about how he's been rejected but he's still pursuing love. We talked about his daughter whose struggling to keep her faith in Jesus while she comes to terms with the hateful way her gay, lesbian, and transgender friends are treated by Christians.
The other conversation was with a pastor without a flock. We talked about being authentic. I shared with him about one of the loneliest times in my life - when I woke up on my 30th birthday with the sense that I was wasting my life pastoring the church I was. He nodded his head with understanding.
When we feel all alone, the most powerful thing we can do is share our stories. Finding community isn't about finding people who see things exactly like I do. It's not about finding carbon copies of me. Finding community is about finding people who will hear our stories with understanding and share their own with vulnerability. When we share our stories with one another, we make a connection that pierces our loneliness.
I wrote Fundamorphosis: How I Left Fundamentalism But Didn't Lose My Faith in part for this very reason. I am not the only pastor who has felt like preaching the sermon I wanted to preach would get me fired. I am not the only person in a fundamentalist church who went along with beliefs and traditions I didn't personally buy into so that I didn't lose the opportunity to keep serving people I loved. I am not the only Christian who has struggled with questions and doubts, left unspoken for fear that everything I'd always known would come crumbling down around me.
I want others - pastors, Christian school teachers, church folks, former fundamentalists, and those who love them - to know that they are not alone. You are not alone. I know how it feels. I've been there. Somedays, I'm still there. But I'm also discovering a way out, a way to new life and hope beyond what I dreamed possible.
You may feel alone. But don't be scared. We're actually in this together. Let's share our stories and bring each other hope.
How have you navigated the scary feeling of being all alone?