Navigating Conditional Christian Love
When is it time for a black sheep to cut family ties?
My parents are engrained in the church. My dad is a McArthur guru and is the founder of a missionary nonprofit. They were also with the International Missions Board (IMB) before they broke ties there. I recently came out for the second time in my life. I have relapsed back into fundamentalism to keep peace and to have a relationship with them. It is very conditional. If I’m not following Christianity the way they see fit, then I am treated differently. It’s taken me years to come to terms with this and I’m currently in therapy. I have a 2-year-old and they love her dearly. My question is when do I know to break ties if they don’t accept me or my partner? If it weren’t for my daughter I would have already done this. It is suffocating and still feels like I’m hiding a lot just to keep the peace.
In 2008, I sat in my first therapist's office a few months after my escape. She’d asked about my childhood and family of origin. I was about to experience the art of a gentle challenge.
I remember that day with gray-scale clarity: the prim silhouette of the woman across the room from me, the horizontal miniblinds behind her closed against a sun that persisted in breaking through. My fingernails picking at the paisley upholstery. One foot pressing into the top of the other.
I was deeply ashamed to say something out loud that seemed to sum up my entire childhood and young adulthood:
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