Today's guest post comes from Sarah Sentilles, author of the new memoir Breaking Up With God: A Love Story. Sentilles was on the way to becoming a priest when she ultimately faced the truth: she no longer believed. Her moving story examines the question of how you leave the most powerful being in the universe—and, if you do, where do you go? Breaking Up with God is an inspiring reflection no matter where you stand on the matter of faith.
Kelly Corrigan, author of the New York Times bestseller The Middle Place calls Breaking Up with God: "Honest, like down-to-the-core honest, beyond what most people are capable of, especially in public on the topic of faith."
Read on to hear about Sarah's experiences in her own words--I think this is a book that could generate quite a lot of discussion in book groups.
Almost everyone who wrote an early review of Breaking Up with God: A Love Story called my book “honest”—even “outrageously honest”—and at first being called honest made me laugh. I couldn’t lie even if I wanted to because I’m the worst liar in the world. If I say anything vaguely untrue, my face gets red, my eyes cross slightly, and my voice gets squeaky, even if I’m just trying to keep a surprise party a surprise.
Then being called honest made me nervous. Is that always a compliment? Did I reveal too much in the book? Should I not have told the story about the first time I had sex?
But eventually being called honest felt just right. Breaking Up with God is about the courage it takes to tell the truth—and about how sometimes the person we deceive most is ourselves.
For a long time I couldn’t tell anyone that it was over between me and God. It’s a hard thing to admit when you happen to be in the ordination process to become an Episcopal priest. It was easier for me to blame other things—the sexism I experienced as a minister-in-training, the conservative theology at the church where I worked, the weird robe they insisted I wear over my clothes—than to face the fact that the real reason I wasn’t going to church anymore was that my faith had changed: I could no longer believe in the God I had spent most of my life believing in.
I called the book Breaking Up with God because the metaphor of a breakup fits my experience. I didn’t lose my faith. I left it. And isn’t part of what makes breaking up so hard the fact that the other person continues to exist? That you can bump into him or her at a coffee shop or the gym? That you can see them holding hands with their new girlfriend or boyfriend?
I walked away from a belief system that no longer belonged to me. And leaving my faith meant changing everything. My vocation. My friends. My understanding of myself and my role in the world. It was terrifying.
But it was also liberating. It’s healing to discover deep down what you believe, what you want, what you know is true and right. And it is liberating to tell the truth about that. There is a lightness that comes from shedding the expectations of others and finding your own desires. It feels good to let go of the old stories we’ve told ourselves about what is possible or what isn’t. It’s empowering to drop the script, to refuse to speak the lines we imagine everyone wants to hear. There’s a freedom that comes with finding your own voice.