A round peg in a square hole …… where do I belong and what is my purpose for being?
I grew up feeling like a round peg in a square hole. For me, this was probably the primary reason I rejected Christadelphia. I hated being different at school – I just wanted to be like the other kids. I didn’t feel as if I belonged in Christadelphia because we weren’t one of the ‘in’ families. From a very young age I can recall thinking that things just didn’t add up.
My school friends were no different to my Sunday School friends. My dad didn’t seem to be well liked. Growing up I thought it was because he was a troublemaker, but as I matured I realised that even though he was a ‘legalist,’ he stuck up for the underdog and the oppressed and I and respect him for that now. I saw him bought to his knees many a time emotionally, which I blamed the church and AB for. At 7 I was a sponge that saw adults behaving badly toward each other yet preaching the opposite. People seemed to believe that the quote ‘judge not that ye be not judged’ had some sort of ‘except if’ fine print or out clause. As time passed, this was one of the few things in the Bible I believed was black and white.
Later, when I rebelled, I was blamed and made to feel responsible many a time for my actions impacting on my parents’ emotions and their standing in the church. It felt as if this was more important to them than hearing my reasoning or what I felt and had to say. The whole narcissistic nature of the family unit, created by the system, is another topic on its own. Suffice to say, I certainly felt like the people ‘in the world’ were more accepting of me and far less judgemental than Christadelphians and my own family.
As an independent adolescent I finally got to exercise free will and I chose the world, but the cost was high on many many levels. The guilt and heartbreak I felt for breaking my parents’ heart was enormous and lasted for years, and so was the feeling that there was something wrong with me and my thinking. Why was it that so many others had a faith and love of God and I didn’t? Why couldn’t I be a sheep and make my parents happy instead of a cow? (I was actually called that once or twice)!
When we are part of Christadelphia, we are told that we are nothing in this life – we are just a speck and that the world and all those in it are evil. We leave feeling even less than the nothing we already believed we were. Rather than a square peg in a round hole I became a round peg in a square hole, still not comfortable in my own skin but happier than enduring the alternative.
The feeling that I should be reckless and just live life because I am going to die anyhow still exists within my psyche to a certain extent and certainly influenced many decisions and non-optimal behaviours. Only now have I started to feel a sense of belonging and find a sense of purpose. Only now am I starting to realise my value, although this I still struggle with. Changing deep-seated thinking and behaviour doesn’t happen overnight. The consequences and impact for many of us are so unfair considering our only crime was exercising our God-given free will.
A good friend of mine posed a question: what do I want out of being involved in ex-Christadelphian forums? To share my experience and to be heard. I finally have, and feel, the unconditional love, acceptance, respect and admiration of my family which has been amazing. Having their support and belief in me finally inspired me to return to university at 35 because it gave me that belief in myself that I lacked. From there my sense of belonging and purpose and reason for being has emerged.
It is not easy for parents to acknowledge they were wrong towards their child. It has been hard for my parents to confront and acknowledge their part in my ‘non salvation,’ but I thank them for finally taking the time to hear me out through many tears and listen to how it felt for me. To hear them say, we see you, we get it, we understand, we love you. My parents chose to blame themselves and to defend Christadelphia. I don’t blame them. I blame the system. My parents did what they thought was best at the time with the knowledge they had. They just wanted to fit in and belong, just as I and we all do and to avoid judgement by their peers. To hear my mum say: ‘we are sorry we were legalists and that we were wrong and you were right when you said at 17 years old that religion should not be all rules and regulations and judgement and doom and gloom – it should be a joyful celebration of life and living and humanity and compassion and empathy’ was more than I could ever have hoped for.
My new found purpose in life is advocacy, and advocacy works best with a collective voice. The system still exists. It has changed somewhat but it has a long way to go and I feel that the voices of ex-Christadelphians need to be heard so that individuals who make up the system have an awareness of the pain and injustice it has inflicted in the past and its ability to continue to do so. Our stories are different but the commonalities are clear for all to see. Collectively we may be able to bring enough awareness to inspire change and help others. Are Christadelphians bad and evil individuals? Absolutely not! Is the system flawed and evil? Yes it is! Can they change it? Yes they can and they should. If organisations can reinvent themselves and change their culture, then so can Christadelphia. If they are smart they will not be defensive. They will not write us off as bitter and angry. They will open their hearts and minds and learn from what we share and find their unconditional love and compassion for all humanity, despite who they are or what they believe. The best I feel we can ultimately hope for is that those that exercise their God-given free will not to be a Christadelphian, as I did, can do so unscarred, with dignity and the continued unconditional love and support of family and friends. Lets get to work.