Poetry,  Religious Trauma

Dear Ex-Best (Evangelical) Friend

{ Deconstruction is an incredibly costly journey, and for most who take it, not an optional one. Everyone loses something, and some lose everything.

Perhaps rising from the ashes of your dying beliefs is a more redemptive resurrection than anything I’ve seen in church. But regardless of whatever salvation you find down the deconstruction road – empowerment, owning yourself, freedom – there is still pain and grief in the loss. Destroyed relationships, stolen identity, abandonment, and betrayal are profoundly shaping, often in ways that are lifelong.

Through my deconstruction journey I have lost important family relationships, precious friendships, a sense of safety, stability, status, health, and even my job at the time. For each of these losses I have tried to give space to grieve. Below is my poetic ballad for losing the closest friend I’ve ever had, merely because my way of connecting with God became a little too different. It serves as an open letter for anyone who has ever been in a similar situation. I hope that my way of processing can help someone else feel seen and possibly give a voice to that pain. }


Dear ex-best (Evangelical) friend,

I truly loved you. I still do, but now I’m angry too.

I loved you for you; you loved your idea of me.

I loved what I saw in you, you loved what you saw of yourself in me.

You loved your beliefs, your religion, your God, your convictions – But never me.

You loved the parts of me that looked like you, which at the time was most of me. But you never loved the essence of me created by God, the authentic me that’s capable of changing; the deep-down me who asks questions and seeks truth even when it’s unpopular; even when it costs me everything including you, my closest friend.

This true me has always been there, maybe you just didn’t truly see me.

You loved within the overlap of your theological Venn Diagram but our circles slowly drifted further apart – not much of me fits in there anymore.

Apparently I ventured just beyond covert lines, one step too far: enemy territory. Permanent status change.

You didn’t know what to do with me. I was no longer predictable, now a squeaky part on a well-oiled machine. I was disposable. Replaceable.

I used to be your safe person, now I’m the dangerous one.

You used to trust me with everything, now you’re afraid of my influence.

We went from holding hands, to you holding me at arm’s length.

We dreamed of each other’s weddings, I never imagined I’d cry at yours.

We were soul sisters, until you decided my soul needed saving.

We told each other everything; I never expected having to hide the most important parts of me until there was little worth discussing anymore.

We were bonded heart and soul, like Jonathan and David. But why can’t we be Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe? By whose rules can two dissimilar people not be close?

I used to think the best things in life aren’t things…they are best friends! And they come with blonde hair and lots of giggles and hugs and they hold your hand late at night while having deep conversations and staring at the lights sparkling on the water. Now I just think it’s lucky I escaped your church with my life. Also that I wasted a perfectly good poem on you.

What a tragic love story.

You are the one, you know, who patched up my wounds so that I could finally call someone “best friend” again, only to then bring me to the point of being unsure I can even call myself “Christian”.

Two godly girls sharing adventures and pain, heartache and healing for eight years and then I wasn’t good enough for you anymore.

I thought too far outside the box and left the wrong boxes unchecked. I followed convictions over doctrines. Experiences I didn’t ask for led to conclusions you disapproved of.

You’re like all the others. You convinced me you were different and gained my trust. But I’ve seen this movie before and I know the plot. Either balance the narrow tightrope of forced compliance – constantly striving, always on edge – or accept myself and take my own path – relegated to a backslidden threat that should be fixed or avoided.

What a beautiful thing we had, thrown away. What a waste – a connection many search for their entire lives, destroyed.

We were so bonded we didn’t even think twice about taking the shared bedroom when a bunch of us college girls all moved in; full of wide eyed naivety and excitement for having our very first place. We never tired of each other; we’d giggle and talk, cry and pray.

Years later we would find out that when one of us came home after bedtime, the other would sometimes pretend to be asleep so we wouldn’t accidentally start talking until 3:00 in the morning on a school night. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that one day I wouldn’t hear from you for months. Never did I expect that our deep soul sharing would fade into fake niceties and shallow etiquette, lectures and lessons.

Please hear me, please love me. I’m still your beloved friend. I’m begging you. I’m right here! You’re looking right past me, you can’t see me – blinded by the labels.

You’ll never know me, you’ve already decided who I am.

I’m dead to you, buried by Christian projections and protocol.

That’s the problem with dividing the world into neat little categories – real life is messier than that. When you cut humanity in half between us and them, between holy and worldly, sometimes your best friend ends up on the wrong side. You find yourself vilifying the person who loves you most to vindicate your actions.

Maybe it should hurt less because I know that Evangelicals are taught by the church that we are morally superior to “the world”. Maybe I should understand, because I know we learn to stamp anyone with that tag who doesn’t agree with us. Once they are marked as such, suddenly now there is a power dynamic created where the Evangelical has authority to teach and correct with supposed blessing from God, and the non-Evangelical needs to learn humbly from the Evangelical. The relational energy flows only one direction – it’s nearly impossible to be respected or truly heard as a non-Evangelical in that dynamic; it’s hopeless being peers or having a reciprocal relationship at that point. I know all of this, and so maybe it shouldn’t come as such a surprise, but somehow it is, coming from you.

I’m worn out by these tilted scales – every one of my words filtered through your idea of me being less close to God and therefore less right. There’s nothing I can do to gain equal footing – I’m invisible and silent to you. Nothing helps – not speaking more articulately or forming stronger arguments, not yelling louder or weeping more – nothing. It’s an exhausting and losing battle.

It’s horrifying to discover that your supposed unconditional love for me all these years was actually in fact very conditional, based on an identical belief system. You might have fondness for me or interest in my well-being, but you don’t have love for me if you don’t accept me. Ask Jesus himself. Love is unconditional acceptance. Not always agreement, but acceptance, and you haven’t given me that.

When I try to talk to you about it, friend to friend, you instantly put your walls up and start diagnosing me with any combination of Evangelical ailments: hardheartedness, pride, a wayward spirit, bitterness… anything that relieves you of the responsibility of seeing me as a valid human being, or examining yourself. Evangelical arrogance in its prime: there has to be a reason for my pain outside of yourself that you can clearly see and I can’t. It has to be my fault. The non-Evangelical can never be right – about anything!

I didn’t ask to change, I had to. I had no choice once my eyes were opened. I never wanted the religious trauma that shaped me. The church door closed behind me, there was no going back.

I never wanted to lose you. My spiritual journey is not an attack on you. It was never about you at all. Rather, I’m on a very costly pilgrimage to follow the truth wherever it takes me – ironically, something the church taught me how to do. I will never ask you to follow me, only to love and respect me.

But until then, goodbye my lovely, precious, heart-of-my-heart, ex-best (Evangelical) friend.

– your shattered but strong ex-best (Ex-vangelical) friend

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