Do you believe in the bogeyman? I did. At least, up until a few months ago.
Let me qualify that. The bogeyman that I am referring to is not the childhood horror of the night. Although I did believe in him for a short time as a kid. Of course eventually logic caught up to my imagination and I began to have serious questions about this alleged monster terrorizing my nights from under the bed. I wanted to know why I never actually heard him. And better yet, I wanted to know why I never saw him come and go. He certainly wasn’t there during the day. I said that my logic had caught up to my imagination, though, not overcome it. I was still scared to death to look under the bed.
Eventually though, I decided to face my fear, so with a little bit self motivation I finally got the courage to look. My eyes were squeezed shut so tight that the jaws of life would have had a hard time prying them apart. I waited. My heart was pounding in my chest. Much to my delight, however, after a few moments of dangling my head as bait, nothing had happened. Not so much as a growl. Confident now that my logic was right and my imagination was wrong I slowly, slowly opened one eye. Then the other.
There was nothing there.
What does this have to do with my blog? Great question.
For months after my wife and I had left the movement, I couldn’t bring myself to share it with the people who we had left behind. I would tell myself that there was no reason to hurt them, or that there was no point in bringing it up. I didn’t want to become a statistic or a sermon illustration. I didn’t want to let them down. I couldn’t see it right away, but I was still living my life for the IFB even after I had left. But what I could see was the storm of conflict inside of me.
What was wrong with me? Every time that I hid the alcohol in my house because a fundie was coming over I was ashamed of what I was doing. And my wife was ashamed of what I was doing. The look of disappointment on her face made me feel like a traitor, every single time. She knew we were living a lie. And so did I.
Don’t get me wrong. Around anybody except people that we knew from the movement, I was myself. I was honest. I was transparent. There was nothing to hide. But as soon as I was back around the people that I grew up with or went to church with, I reverted back to the cover story avoiding all topics that could lead to a discussion about the changes in my life. Sometimes I wish I had a camera to see myself squirming in those rare situations when I was with someone from the old life and the new life at the same time.
The truth? I was scared. I will even go so far as to say that I was a coward. In my grown-up adult mind the bogeyman was very much alive and kicking. This time he was in my head. He was the dark ugly consequence of losing the approval of the IFB movement. He was what kept me clutching at straws, playing games, wearing masks, letting down my self, my wife and my God. I saw him in the shadow of every fundie. I imagined him in every corner when I was out in public, because I just never knew when one of them would walk around the corner. I needed their approval.
And I needed those things because I was conditioned to need them. Just like Pavlov’s dog. Oh sure, my personal relationship with God was top priority. I was supposed to read my Bible and cultivate a personal relationship with God. But bear in mind, that relationship had better meet their standards and fit into their box. And if it didn’t, it was wrong. Period. End of discussion. And I bought it. Hook, line and sinker. I lived my life by their standards. I loved my God just like they said I was allowed to, but not any other way. I interpreted the Bible just like they said I could. I swallowed their faulty logic and accepted their vain tradition. Asking questions was not allowed. And when it was allowed, the answers that they gave were the right answers because they said they were. Stepping outside of their box was not only dangerous, it was a sin against God and the bogeyman was sure to get me if I strayed. And it had happened that way for so long that it had become a subconscious part of myself.
Until a few months ago. I was ready to face the bogeyman head on. I no longer needed their approval to follow the course that God had laid out for me. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t comfortable, but I knew that I could not keep living a lie. So I got rid of the masks. My eyes were closed tightly at first. But after waiting a while for the bogeyman’s wrath, I opened one eye slowly and then the other.
But there was nothing there.
In the end, I can sleep at night next to my beautiful wife without being ashamed. And I can pray to my loving and merciful God without being ashamed. And one day when I have children and I tell them this story, they can know that their Dad is not afraid to do what he believes is right regardless of who is looking.