I was raised in a close-knit, patriarchal religion that I never fully believed in. Even as a teen, I had questions, doubts and concerns. When I asked those questions or expressed those concerns to my religious leaders or my own peers, I was shut down and told to have faith. I understood the concept of faith, but I also wanted to feel deep in my heart that my faith in this religion was well-placed and I could never feel that. So eventually, I leaned back and let my worries go.
I married in this religion, bore three wonderful children who are the light of my life and I lived for years, hovering on the outside of the community. My marriage was plagued by domestic violence and finally, I reached out to my religious leaders and begged for help, only to be told that I must have done something to deserve the abuse. I was told, "You need to honor your good husband and support him, no matter what." When I asked, "Shouldn't my husband honor me, too?" I was told to "act in such a way as to deserve his honor."
Those words led me on my way out of that church, out of my marriage, and into a most painful divorce. I lost all my friends, many of my family members and even for a time, one of my children. But I cannot tell you how wonderful just making that decision was. I knew I needed to leave that church and leave my marriage and stop living in a world of lies: lies about my bruises, my beliefs and my questions. I journeyed into an entirely new place in my life where I could read what I wanted, question anything and live with the deep, abiding faith that I was making the right choice. I was living for me.
That was the first time I really leaned in and though it was a most difficult time in my life, more so than I could have ever imagined, it was the best choice I ever made. My children, now grown, see a strong mother, capable of making my own choices and following my own path. I can love them more fully because I am not hiding from them. I am remarried to a man who respects me as I am and loves me fully.
And when I can I share my story and help others through the tough times in their lives.