But I think what I was the most angry about was my husband's honesty, his dedication to being his true self. How he wouldn't give away the core of his self to meet my or any other's expectations. This took guts.
And I was mad because I hadn't had those same guts. I was mad at how many times previously in our marriage I'd shut down my own self in order to keep the peace (how often do we women do this? how often are we expected to do this?). I'd had questions, reservations, profound misgivings about my faith, but I'd crushed them down in the name of we.
So when my husband did not do the same, I was hurt, and angry, and confused. Wasn't Christian marriage supposed to be about self sublimation? Hadn't I performed superbly? And apparently I wasn't worth the effort.
But since then . . . my feelings on the matter have changed dramatically. Because now, thanks to my husband's courage to stand up and say, "Here is what I believe to be true," I have ample elbow room to dig into those reservations that I'd previously silenced, sacrificed on the altar of "should." Questions that are too uncomfortable for many Christians. Doubts that are labeled as "sin" and "pride" and "falling away." Misgivings that sound a whole lot like, "I feel that my faith has lashed my arms to my sides and my ankles together, and I cannot move or breathe and the ropes are cutting too deep into my flesh and I am weak from loss of blood." Like, "My soul is crushed and dying under the weight of this Bible I am meant to embrace." Like, "I cannot ignore these crucial problems I'm discovering I have with the bottom line of Christianity." Like, "I cannot keep pretending to myself that this is working."
Now, I can cut loose the knotted ropes and breathe full and deep. Now, I have time and space to entertain my doubts without the sense of an external source's hurrying me along that I felt before, eager for me to be done with all this, and quick. Now, I don't have to spout right answers anymore in the name of marital unity, or nod along in glassy-eyed agreement with someone else's religious opinions.
Now, because of my husband's atheism, I am free. I am free to sift through the shifting sands of my self and my spirit and my spirituality and find what's working, and not, and let the "not" slide away. I am free to figure out who I was born to be, to see what shoes fit on my own two feet instead of always squashing my toes into the too-small one-size-fits-all boots I'd been handed for so many years. I am free to listen to the wind and my heart and the silence and discover what language Spirit uses to speak to me, because I don't think we were all made for one absolute way. I am free to not-know, to experiment, to fall and stay fallen.
Maybe I am falling away. Maybe I have. But I also know that now, fallen or not, I am free for the first time in more than three decades. My spirit is lighter than it ever has been. And there's no religious logic that can dissuade me of that glorious fact.