I grew up in a brethren church in the 70’s and whilst I knew that God loved me unconditionally, I also felt that God was someone who needed to be kept on-side and pleasing him was paramount. When my parents divorced, and my dad subsequently left the church, I realised for the first time in my life that despite their promises, people who once loved you would reject you if you didn’t meet their expectations. I made the assumption that it was the same for God. I became a Christian at age 11, however throughout my teenage years I frequently and anxiously prayed ‘the prayer’ to become a Christian, over and over, for fear that God would reject me. I was terrified of hell and the church did nothing to make me believe I should think differently. Despite my best attempts to be a rebellious teenager I failed miserably, mostly because I feared being anything other than the good Christian girl, and I didn’t want to risk being rejected by God.
I married at 20 and returned to the brethren church which my then husband attended, after spending a few years attending a livelier evangelical church, and my rebellious spirit returned. As a feisty feminist, I began to ask questions about faith, mostly their insistence that women could play no part in the services. The eldership told me firmly to stop asking questions. I did not. I realised by the end of my 20s that, despite being a stay-at-home mum at the time, God was calling me into leadership and so I began to push some more. I was rejected, politely, and told that God did not call women into church leadership and to think about helping with the youth work in church, as that was probably what God intended. It wasn’t, and I knew that.
I began work as a youth worker outside of the church, got myself a diploma and worked in the local community and local school. I was called to the edges, to people I knew my church would not welcome and I began to push more, ask more questions, and was again rejected and told to stop. I began to explore more options and went to Christian youth events, Soul Survivor and the like; this was where I felt more at home. I also met a Christian friend who had the same passion for working with youth outside of the church and we decided to set up a charity together. My church did not support this, and frequently questioned my choices. I kept going, spurred on by a few friends who supported me, although I frequently felt like I did not fit.
My marriage ended in my late 30’s and I became a single parent and, after falling out with my church because of their lack of support to my two teenage boys, I finally left. I began attending an Anglican church of Wales, and found it to be a safe place, I even began to explore the possibility of ordination. It was during this time that I experienced several years of what can only be described as spiritual and emotional abuse from my friend and work colleague which traumatised me to the point of breakdown. The friendship ended, and I was subsequently rejected from the ordination process. I left the Anglican church to attend an AOG church which I left after two years because of the spiritually abusive nature of the leadership.
I went nowhere for 3 years, I remarried and was happy not attending church, until my new husband felt God telling him to go to church. I reluctantly went with him, and we began attending a charismatic evangelical church where a friend of mine was the pastor and knew my history. He was supportive and sympathetic and allowed me to question and for the first time in a long time I felt real freedom in church. He offered me a job with the church, and despite all my questions and doubts I took it.
During this time, I began listening to the Nomad Podcast. I realised that my questions were not unusual, and I was not alone. I began to unpick a lot of the stuff I had learned to be true to that point. I knew the church was wrong on the issue of women, but I had no idea of all the other ways the church had controlled my behaviour through poor theology. I no longer fear hell, as for me it does not exist, I now think of myself as a universalist, I also no longer fear disappointing an angry God who has only shown me love through the work and life of Jesus.
I have now left that church to move to a new area and currently I am not attending a church regularly. I now work as a pioneer for the Anglican church setting up fresh expressions of church within the local community. I believe these are more relevant to the local context than the traditional church is, and I want to make sure that people I meet know that they are loved and accepted by a divine creator God who will never reject them, and who will always love them, whoever they are.
The jury is out as to whether I will find myself belonging to a traditional church full time again. I miss the friendships that belonging to a church brings, but I do not miss the misogyny, the dodgy theology or the unrealistic expectations that so often comes along with it. I still have lots of questions and I don’t fully understand how to describe my own deconstruction. There are so many differing aspects of theology that I haven’t fully grasped. I am however thankful that Nomad is helping me gain more knowledge and understanding in how to get to know the Divine, and myself, better.
– Lisa Andradez