I first posted here on 3rd June 2008. At the time I was an elder, appointed the previous October, I was 36 and I was a born-in. At the time I'd become disillusioned with the Society due to the Governing Body's letter explaining why the Book Study in private homes was being abolished. April 2008 saw me start questioning this decision, privately of course, and this eventually led me to this site, to JWFacts and to many YouTube videos, all of which began to errode my faith in the leaders of the organisation.
In July 2008, having discussed my doubts with my wife, I attended the District Convention, deciding to give the society one last chance to convince me it was The Truth. It failed, and on the Monday after the convention I told my parents I wasn't coming back to the meetings, I resigned as an elder and I simply quit.
A couple of shepherding calls later, my decision held. My wife followed suit, having begun her own personal research, and having her own personal reasons to no longer want to be a JW, or to raise our children in the religion. By August 2008 she'd decided to attend an Alpha Course at a local church, and I followed her footsteps, attending a different course at another church.
This led to me deciding that Christianity was the way to go, that Jesus was "the way, the truth and the life". My posts here reflect this decision.
In October 2008 I told my father that we were attending church services, and this led to a phone call from my mother urging my, in her fantastically devoid-of-natural-affection way, to disassociated myself to protect my father from having to testify against me in a judicial hearing. I called the presiding overseer, arranged a meeting at the Kingdom Hall, and arrived with a letter from my wife in which she disassociated herself, while I had a folder full of my research into CT Russell and Rutherford. The meeting was short, calm and emotional. I didn't deny I'd been attending church, and the 2 elders with whom I served on the local body, explained that my actions had disassociated me from the organisation. 2 days later the announcement was made that we were no longer Jehovah's Witnesses, and the shunning and rejection began.
However, once a mind is opened, it tends to remain open, and I struggled with Christianity and some of its societial positions. I kept a journal at the time, and it's filled with angst and my inner wrestlings regarding faith. I'd go on long "prayer walks" early in the morning, and I sunk into a deep depression regarding my life, my faith etc.
All the while I'd replaced the routine and dogma of the Witnesses with the routine and dogma of evangelical Christianity, being involved in the leadership of the local church, even playing guitar in the worship band on Sundays. But my doubts and anxiety grew. I devoted lots of my time during the week and in the evenings to church life, endeavouring to become a faithful Christian, yet my old issues of self-worth wouldn't go away; being raised in a religion that taught you that you were never good enough, and that God is angry and vengeful wouldn't leave me.
By now I had 3 children, my youngest son having been born in March 2009. I was working only part-time in order to devote my life to service to Jesus. I was then diagnosed with having congential heart disease and had angioplasty to open two severly blocked arteries. My depression with my life, with the lost years to the Organisation, with the decisions I'd made throughout my life, deepened as I was faced with my own mortality and how quickly and suddenly our lives on this planet can end.
By 2011 I'd started reading books by evangelical authors like Rob Bell that further threw my new-found faith in Christianity into turmoil, and I found myself at odds with the hardline policies found my church, realising that compromise in my beliefs and the need to "keep my mouth shut" about my doubts would be required, the very things I wasn't prepared to give the religion I'd spend the first 36 years of my life in. I withdrew from my leadership position and began to "fade" from the church. 2011 saw me reconsider a lot of choices in my life. By then I was 39, having spend almost the first 40 years of my life in service to religion, rarely making any choices for me, or based on what I truly believed.
A shift had begun in my thinking. By the time of my 40th birthday in January 2012 my journal reveals a significant change in my thinking. That I was openly embracing my doubts in a creator Abrahamic God. I began to research astrotheology and came to the conclusion that the stories in the Bible, the story of Jesus, are nothing more than an on-going legend of the sun and the stories the ancient people conconcted to explain life, as told by the journey of the stars (and here I'm over simplifying this for the sake of brevity).
By now I'd completely quit attending church and while I'm not shunned by my church-going friends, I've since lost touch with all of them except for one.
A further shift started in my mind, and I began to feel more at peace. I started a company in February 2012, and the focus of my life shifted into placing my faith, trust and believe in me, realising that the power to create and build a life for myself began and ending with me, and the power of my mind. Much of the work I do, ironically, is possible in a big way to my JW training.
I came to the conclusion that god exists only in our minds, that prayer is merely a form of meditation, that our minds create the world we live in. I learned that our thoughts create our emotions, and our emotions often lead to our actions, and our actions determine the type of life we lead.
Unfortunately during this time of discovery my wife didn't come along with me for the ride, as she had done while we learned TTATT. Our relationship shifted and changed throughout 2012. I quit taking the medication for my diagnosed heart trouble, and instead began to eat better, using my diet and exercise to manage the heart disease. I lost weight and felt better physically and mentally than I could ever remember. My new company exposed me to new experiences in business, I started to believe in myself and in my own potential and I was excited about the future for the first time in my life. In September 2012 I had the chance to trek for 5 days on the Great Wall of China for a client and this became a life changing experience. However, it only served in furthering the divide between me and my wife.
Sadly by November 2013 our relationship had completely broken down and I made the choice to leave the family home, moving in with a faded JW friend before finding my own flat nearby. I was almost 42, the father of 3 amazing children who are being brought up to experience the world with open minds, free to question anything without judgement. Many people will attribute my decision to a mid-life crisis, but I believe this had actually occured in 2011, during which time I woke up to the fact that I get only one shot at this life, and I should start living it now.
During 2013 my thoughts on god and religion became less and less of an issue to me, the whole subject mattering a great deal less to me that it ever had. I saw no evidence for the necessity to believe in anything, to pin all my opinions or faith on any one idealogy, to wrestle and struggle each day with belief and faith. Rather than this position bringing me the anxiety I thought it would, it instead brought me peace.
There was peace in not knowing.
Now it's almost September 2014, almost 6 years since I met with those 2 elders. My journey has taken me from a shaky faith in the Watchtower to a shaky faith in Jesus to a passive acceptance of life and not knowing.
My marriage of 20 years ended along the way. I have 2 friends, that's it. Both are ex-JWs. I admit that I struggle to make new friendships. Part of me, at the age of 42, is closed off to the effort required in start, build, invest in and maintain new friendships, having lost so many over the past 6 years. But I accept this fact as just the way it is. I have the power to change it, if I so choose.
I met and started a relationship with a woman who sees something in me that I struggled my whole life to see. She sees me as being worthy. As someone worthy of love. This opinion of myself wasn't never planted in me as a child or as a young man in the JW religion, and it's something I struggle to accept about myself at times, due to my upbringing. And with that I'm so glad that my children are being raised by parents who - even though they're going through (amicable) divorce proceedings - assure them as a matter of daily course that they are wonderful and loveable and can achieve anything in life, regardless of whether there's an all-powerful creator god. Very different from my upbringing as a JW.
I practise yoga and meditation, something I highly recommend (particularly if you're looking for a great work-out and you're over 40!).
Life is what it is. Nothing is for certain. There isn't always a grand plan. I've learned that it's important to "let it go", to accept what is and what isn't. I've learned that all we have with any degree of certainity is this actual moment in time.
I struggle with some issues from my past. But I'm learning to accept these and let them go also, not allowing my emotions to create today's actions.
Every day I relish the freedom I've received from religion, from dogma, from assured religious certainty, to having all of my decisions shaped or controlled by someone else's interpretations of a man-made religious book. This means that only I can take responsibility for today's actions, I can't hand my choices off to a higher being. This brings peace and a sense of greater responsibility for my life. Something I think we should all accept (for our lives, not mine...).
Anyway, I'm sharing this story in the hope that some of you who struggle with the fear of losing religion will see that nothing in life is certain, regardless of our beliefs. Don't be afraid of losing god or faith. Believe in yourself. You're capable of much more than you realise.
We get one shot at this life. We should all start living it now.