A Letter To My Father
Hey, Daddy, it’s your little girl. The one who rejected the religion she was raised with. The one who became Catholic.
Do you think I’m going to hell? I know you think I’m a lost cause somehow. And that frustrates me. You always adored me, but now that I’m not your perfect Evangelical doll anymore, I feel that you’re disappointed in me.
I know you love me immensely, more than you could possibly express. I love you, too, very deeply. It’s just weird, you know, having had your highest approval for most of my life and now feeling that you’re in some way ashamed of me.
It’s not that I’m rejecting your God. Why can’t you understand that? I love the Evangelical God, and you showed me part of His character. Because of you, I know that God is strong, that He protects me, that He cares for me and provides for me. But most of all, you taught me that God is perfect, and that He expects me to be perfect.
“Be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”
I always felt like I had to be absolutely flawless. Not just morally, but in every way. If I did anything too silly, or clumsy, or just plain stupid, you made me feel like a fool. I quickly learned not to make careless mistakes. You taught me well: my apartment is almost always organized, I don’t go out with my hair looking like a mess, I don’t set cold drinks on wooden tables without coasters. I learned that imperfection is unacceptable. And I always believed that if I wasn’t perfect, I wouldn’t be truly loved.
But Dad, God isn’t like that! You know how I know? I met my boyfriend.
My boyfriend has taught me all about God. And yes, the same one you worship, even though my boyfriend is Catholic. He taught me that God is kind, and patient, and gentle. He showed me the meaning of unconditional love and undying faithfulness. I’ve done stupid things in front of him. I’ve messed up horribly. But he hasn’t rejected me. He just keeps loving me, more and more each day.
“I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Dad, this is the image of God I needed to see: the unconditional love. Not judgment. Not disappointment. Not harshness. Not guilt.
My cousin was raised Evangelical, too. She’s now Episcopalian, and she, too, feels free from the guilt she was raised with. She says the guilt invaded every part of her life.
I’m wondering if it’s not a common feeling among Evangelical kids. There seems to be a long list of things that don’t strike me as morally wrong, but that we’re not supposed to do. Here’s my personal list of scandals.
- Gone to a bar.
- Danced at a club with my crazy drunken friends.
- Gotten tipsy and made out with my boyfriend.
- Made out with my boyfriend while sober.
- Invited my boyfriend to sleep over. Many times.
- Cussed like a sailor.
- Scheduled an appointment to get a tattoo.
- Dated two smokers.
- Bought a tobacco pipe. Haven’t smoked it yet, but I will soon.
- Had a crush on another woman.
- Left the church tradition I was raised in.
- Affirmed my belief that members of other religions, and no religion, can go to Heaven.
- Affirmed my belief in purgatory.
- Befriended a witch. (Who I do believe is going to Heaven.)
I know some of these things are the reason why you think I’m a lost cause. But Dad, what did I do wrong?
Sometimes I think my only sin was endangering your reputation. You seem to be concerned with what the church community will think. You think that I’m a reflection of you, and that you’ve failed as a father and as a man because I turned out so “wild.”
Daddy, you haven’t failed! You raised me with a strong sense of right and wrong, and for that I am eternally grateful. Daddy, why are you ashamed of me? Why do you care so much about what people think that you’ve equated it with what God thinks?
What have I done wrong? What do I have to feel guilty about?
I don’t believe the same things you do. Please accept that, and accept me. I love you.