You pushed her out.
When she was small, you filled her head with stories of a big God who fought for small Davids against giant Goliaths, who parted seas for weary people chased by strong men, who protected the righteous from the hungry lions and a fiery furnace, and who sent His Son as a baby for a poor teen mom to mother.
You gave her prizes for memorizing Bible verses:
- For God so loved the world He gave his only son that whoever believed in him should not perish but have everlasting life.
- A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
- Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.
That was the God she knew and understood. The one who cared for the underdog and the marginalized. The God who protected her and provided all her needs. The God that loved her and was FOR her. The God who died for her simply because he couldn’t live without relationship with her.
And then, she got older.
She insisted on breaking arbitrary “rules” like the time she threw an orange at a friend across the church foyer and you turned it into a cataclysmic event and moral failing. In the ensuing drama, it was never mentioned that she was only there because she volunteered to watch the small children for the moms who were in a meeting. The focus was simply on her blatant “disrespect” for the 80s decor and furniture.
Or her inability to meet the letter of the dress code because of her tall stature, with her long legs and six-foot frame. Even dresses that were technically within the limits looked to be out of bounds, leading to loud whispers and rampant gossip.
She was tall and appeared confident and was expected to act and react with the wisdom of a forty-year-old, even though she was only just a girl. She was treated with disdain.
She learned from you that God’s rules are subjective, his love conditional. He desires relationship with her, but only if she behaves a certain way, and she will never be sure of what way that is.
And then, she reached adulthood.
And you showed her by your social media pages that refugees are scary and will harm our children. Immigrants will take our jobs. The “others” bring inequality on themselves.
She learned from you that God will not protect her. He will not provide for her. If other people were not created in His image, surely she wasn’t either.
After she got to know the “others” first by serving the homeless, and later moving across the world to serve those scary refugees, she finally concluded that your god doesn’t even exist. It was a logical leap. You were, after all, wrong about so many things.
The unconditional love you told her about was just a fairy tale, a myth, as you proved by your fear, your judgment, and your actions.
She walked away entirely.
I have a confession. I admire her for that. It takes great courage to reject the life and the lies in which you were once entrenched, to leave behind what you know, and walk alone.
Of course the whispers and the judgment only intensified with her decision, but she honestly doesn’t seem to care as she forges her own road.
It’s taken me so many more years to see what she found upon entering adulthood. I bought the lies so much longer. Although, our conclusions are different, we are so much alike. Our deconstruction allowed us both to break free from the capricious rules, from tough love, from the politics so entwined with the church.
For her, it led to atheism.
For me, it led back to unconditional love, to scandalous grace, to freedom. I found Jesus, again. And, while I’m still a little sketchy on what that means for my life, I’m clear on what it means for those around me…unconditional love, scandalous grace, and freedom.
Including my atheist daughter who continues to give of herself and serve those she finds in need.
Because there is grace for that.