“None of us come to this earth to gain our worth; we brought it with us.” – Sheri L. Dew
I never thought a day would come when I, Katlego Llale would turn my back on God and Christianity. Being Christian has defined every aspect of my life. I only understood the world through it and nothing else informed my framework of understanding life and the world. I have almost always been known as: “that girl who loves God”, “that girl who is always talking about God and the Bible”, “that girl who hardly ever misses church”. Then one day, I no longer wanted to be defined by all of that…
For the longest time in my life, I struggled with my identity as an individual. My Christian religion was one of the biggest determinants of who and what I perceived myself as. But most of my life was lived trying to be something or someone, rather than freely allowing myself to be whoever I was meant to be in the present moment. A great deal of my life had been spent mourning who I was, rather than embracing all that I was. You know how some black people go through life hating their dark complexion? And some even end up going through some tedious skin-lightening processes? Well, my life under the Christian religion felt just like that, like a long relationship with self-hate and undergoing painful “soul-bleaching” processes to reach the celebrated pure status of apparent holiness and righteousness.
But I could no longer do it. The madness had to stop. I had to eventually let the dark parts of me reveal themselves, without feeling shame or condemnation. Life had to break me apart in order for me to realize the psychological damage I was putting myself through. I had to finally face the truth, that the very same religion that promised me freedom was throwing me into a deep abyss of bondage. I had to shut out the voices that set standards for me of how a ‘true and good Christian’ should look like. I could no longer continue trying to negotiate my worth and trying to be the picture perfect Christian to validate and affirm my belonging within the “exclusive” Christian circle. I found myself crying out to God, genuine as I ever could be, “I am tired God. I need a break from you, Church and everything associated with religion. If you are real, you’ll reveal yourself uniquely to me. I know you are much bigger than religion. But right now, I am tired and hurting, and I know church won’t fix me.”
I knew after that prayer that things would never be the same for me. I stopped going to church, I put my Bibles, Gospel music and sermons away. And it has been a year ever since…
What a heart-wrenching but yet, still beautifully breathtakingly journey it has been. Never have I felt so light in my life. My greatest emancipation in this journey has been living without expectations. To finally be able to breathe, without questioning if I am breathing right. I realized that often times under the yoke of religion we internalize teachings interpreted from the flawed understanding of men and we falsely believe that the taught expectations are from God. We place expectations and demands on ourselves that God actually does not put on to us. We wrongly believe that the way we understand God and experience God needs to be the same way as others do. We put an infinite God into boxes; and how paradoxical is that?
Breaking out of this maze has filled my life with so much simplicity. My days have been consisting of enjoying my own company, shedding tears, writing poetry, having glasses of red wine, walking barefooted, staying in bed the whole day cuddled up with good books… And laughing endlessly with God because who could have thought that in such simplicity, a magnificent God would reveal Himself to me and give me a fresh and refreshing understanding of who He is, for me.
“you do not need others to
agree with your heartbeat. to live.
you do not need others
to be your own.” –nayyirah waheed
I look forward to all of this unravelling because I know this is not where it ends, it is a beautiful beginning which holds the promise of great adventure and growth. But I hold firm to the truth that: God will allow me to be the woman I am meant to be, when I am meant to be her and I no longer have to fight for my value because it has always been there and it will always be there. I will no longer engage in religious activity in attempts to try and gain some sort of worth and validation as an individual. I will no longer beg for stamps of approval for my existence from my Christian circles. God has always loved me and accepted me before I even knew what being a Christian means and He will continue loving me even when I decide to break out of the perimeters of the religious cage; because I am assured that even there, God still awaits to embrace me in my entirety and fullness. Even though my religion has been broken, it is in those ruins that I am constantly finding my wholeness in my new-found, wholesome relationship with God.