The day I left the Seventh Day Adventist church
Adding to the noose around my neck was the pressure of attending youth outreach meetings (aimed just at me!) every Monday. I decided to use these meetings to my advantage. I knew my father would call me, and ask me if I wanted a ride there. That was the spark to my plan I had concocted:
- Have my father call me, and ask me if I wanted a lift.
- I would then say no, no I don’t want a lift.
- He would then ask why I did not want a lift, how was I planning on getting there, it is very far away.
- I would say because I did not want to go to the meeting.
- He would then ask why I did not want to go to the meeting.
- I would then come out with it, and tell him it was because I did not believe in the SDA church anymore.
- After that… I was going to wing the rest of the conversation.
So it came around, and it was a Monday that my father called. I had gathered my friends in my apartment, to act as my support group. They were all nervous and excited; they couldn’t believe that after years of talking about it, that I was actually going to leave. Neither could I. My nerves were ruined, I couldn’t move a muscle and my heart was sitting firmly in my throat.
When the phone first rang, we all jumped. I stared at it. It rang some more. My friend kindly encouraged me to pick it up. It rang again. I whispered no, no I can’t. It rang some more. I said again, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t. I burst into tears, and I started to physically shake. It let it ring out, sobbing. He called back, I avoided it again. He then texted me, and asked me why I wasn’t picking up. After several texts, he rang again.
I do not know what did it. Something in me snapped. I suddenly went cold, like stone, and I clicked answer. My frazzled friends gasped and went instantly silent.
The conversation went pretty much as I had guessed. The end of it is blurry. He told me that he was deeply saddened (but not surprised). He told me all manner of things:
- He was deeply disappointed in me
- I was not raised this way, he mused on the phone about what went wrong with my upbringing, what did they do wrong.
- It was because of my friends
- It was because I wanted to engage in worldly behaviour like sex and breaking of Sabbath, that I wanted to disobey God
- Satan had taken over me, I was in his grip
- I was destined to hell (by Adventist standards)
- He informed the other family members (still living at home) and he told me that they were crying
- That he didn’t know what would happen next and that things in our family would never be the same again
- But, of course, he did still love me.
Truthfully I didn’t pay attention to what he was saying, and at some point my mum came on the phone to talk to me. I had lost my composure the moment I told him I was no longer a Seventh Day Adventist and had been in absolute tears. It quickly became too much and I held the phone away from my ear so that I could only just hear it, sobbing “yes” and “mmhmm” into the phone. My friends were shocked at some of the cruel things being said of me, but by this point I had stopped listening and still don’t know what was said.
Almost immediately after I told my father I was no longer an Adventist, I gave my friends “the nod”. Our plan was multi-phased. The first step was for me to tell them my terrible secret. Then immediately, head to the “fall-out” shelter – i.e. one of my friend’s house. I purposely picked a friend who lived in a house that my parents didn’t know how to get to. So all of my close non-SDA friends gathered there, and we hung out for the evening, as they attempted to distract me from what I had just done.
Initially when I arrived I was a sobbing mess, inconsolable. I just sat on a chair, crying my eyes out. I did this for about half an hour. After that, I just felt an incredibly deep, painful sadness that went through my whole body. I then joined my friends, and we hung out for the evening, doing nothing much but talk, joke and eat pizza. I was a miserable sod for the rest of the evening. If a car parked up outside I would run and hide, and I could not bring myself to get too close to windows.
The reason we had the fallout shelter, was because I was terrified that my parents would come around to my house to try to reconvince me to join the church again. So I had put a plan in place, to couch-surf for 3 nights and avoid contact with my parents altogether. They rung around in search of me, and I avoided their calls for about a week. That night I crashed on the couch of my dear friend. I thought that I would never be able to sleep, but to my surprise I instantly drifted into deep sleep, exhausted from the day.
The next day I left, my bag in hand, and hitched a ride to the house of my next dear friend that I had arranged to crash with. On the way I had to partially walk on road, and I was always looking over my shoulder, paranoid that I was going to run into them. That night I got a bed to sleep on, which I was very grateful for. Finally, on the third day, I hitched my ride to my third and final destination. I slept the night there, staying with my dearest friend of all. I will never, ever, forget the kindness of all of my friends in my greatest time of need. I have never been so vulnerable.