After Church

After Church

This article is the continuation of “Judgments” (in French).


I remember…

January 2012. 9 months after I left everything. I am meeting with the church’s pastor, my ex-husband, the assistant pastor and a couple who knows us well. 9 months after the separation, all these beautiful people meet me, to request the exposure of my situation, and invite me to amend myself and pray that God will bless my heart. I speak to my search for meaning, my desire to connect with my heart and my refusal to return to a marriage for the wrong reasons. I get told that the heart is bad and the search for the self is vain. I stand still, with kindness, but firmly. I express my deep desire to connect with God, but my inability to amend myself, which would imply returning with my husband. The pastor’s discourse about the heart feels very incoherent, but I can’t get a hold of why. I feel mixed up, unsure of everything, not knowing what is true or false, what is good or bad. They pray for me and I leave the meeting, alone. As I walk in the snow, towards my bus stop, the group talks about my case. I can’t believe I got here, me, the one who has always been the good girl. I can’t believe I am experiencing this in 2012; a call for an amendment following a separation, or I could be asked to never come back to church. I am upset, sad and mad at once. In the past year, I’ve been called many names: the unfaithful woman, prostitute, girl charmed by Satan. Many verses were sent to me by email to bring me back to the righteous path and to tell me that I was on the wrong path. Someone even came to see me to tell me that they could no longer sit with me in class. That’s enough. They will not excommunicate me, it won’t need to go there. I will excommunicate myself; church for me is over.


What a realization, what a decision! I still loved God, but I no longer knew how to follow Him. Somewhere, I had the intuition that by connecting to my heart and by fully finding my old self, I would connect even more intimately with the divine. The box in which I had placed my understanding of God was too small, and its walls were crumbling down. Deep within me, I felt God was probably a million times greater and indescribable, than anything I could imagine. But at that time, I was so immersed in culpability and my vision of the world determining my life for the past ten years, that I was at a standstill.


I was praying, but I was condemning myself in my mind. My love for Jesus continued but I no longer felt worthy speaking of it. During that time, when I felt broken and humbled, many friends, believers and non-believers, opened up to me. They shared their “worst sins”, because they felt I wouldn’t judge them. Truthfully, I felt at such a low, that I lost all my self-esteem and I understood that judging, without knowing what brought someone to do something, is unhealthy. 


My mind was focused on: “My life SUCKS, it really hurts, but somehow I KNOW that I am going through this for a reason.” This conviction was so strong! Somehow, I knew I was born to love others for all they are.


Walk with. Be with. By going through the fire myself, I saw myself freed from pride, false perfection and I was revealed. I had suffered to live with more compassion and complete Love for the Other.


In October 2012, I began a master’s degree in psychosociology at UQAR. This schooling experience goes beyond the intellect: navigating awareness (small meditations), workshops inviting me to write and dive deeply into my suffering, discussions, exchanges and readings, the way I see the physical and spiritual world is transformed.


I go back to teaching, but instead of working in schools, I become a private teacher. With my students, I develop a profound relationship built on trust. I teach them French and English, and with time, I notice those people come to me for more than that…


I remember…

Pierre parks in front of my place and I hop in his truck. As usual, he called me at the last minute to see if I was available to give him an English lesson and I said yes. Once more, he just got out of the hospital, where he was visiting his 19 year-old son in psychiatry. Today, he wants to do the class while driving around. As I sit next to him, I try to start the conversation in English. With enthusiasm, I ask him how he is doing and he answers with a laugh. My next question – how is your son doing? – makes him switch to French. A stream of words come out. Pierre shares his son’s state, treatments, the hope arising, treatments, then failure. Then he speaks to me about God, his faith, what makes sense for him. I listen to him, asking questions. I am not the type to speak with authority and share advice; I try to ask questions that will take him further in his reflections. At some point, he turns around and asks me about my own spiritual beliefs related to something particular. Somehow I freeze, I feel fear. I don’t know. I don’t know anymore. No, don’t ask me what I think, my role is to accompany the reflection. However, with Pierre, I try. I answer in the best possible way, juggling ideas and weighing the impact my words and beliefs could have. I try to evaluate what he will think of me. I judge my response and it feels unclear. It feels like I failed. On the way back, we talk about God, life, death. As I am stepping out of the car, he takes $25 out of his pocket and hands it to me; the cost of a lesson with me. I refused it, telling him we did not speak English in the full hour. He says: “Take it Melanie, that’s why I called you. It feels good to chat about those things with you. It’s your job!” Touched, I take the money.


I could write much more on my life and my path, with different perspectives. But I will end today by saying, the form of my spirituality is more complex than before. This blog is a way for me to put it into words and invite people to read them, because I know very well that I am not alone on this quest for meaning.

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