At the end of March I stayed at a friend's cabin in the middle of the woods in Virginia. The cabin is in a summer vacation village at a spring. Winter had just ended, though, so I was the only one around.
I brought a crate of books. I've been behind on my reading schedule since February; I started reading Pride and Prejudice then, and didn't finish it until July. I intended to read a book or three that weekend, but instead I made it through about six pages. The rest of the time, I was writing and thinking about writing, and feeling what I want to write about.
Well, I did spend some time running around the woods in my pajamas trying to help some Mennonites figure out the plumbing system for the village. It was like playing Myst, turning valves at random.
I've grown up in Christianity, all of my closest friends are deeply devout, and when I started into agnosticism two years ago, I was afraid of how my thoughts and feelings would affect these relationships. I often cushioned my speech, I wouldn't say, "God isn't real," I would say "God doesn't seem real to me."—I downplayed my feelings by relativizing them. I was always careful to say how much I really wanted to believe.
I was most cautious about my doubts when talking with the people who depend on me, who look up to me. I thought, "My friend is in a tough enough situation. Should I shake his faith by telling him that I don't believe that God exists? That would be cruel!"
Alone at the cabin, it became apparent to me that I had an unnecessarily taut tension between the face I had as a "good Christian who is a little liberal and has doubts sometimes" and my true feelings as an agnostic who loves Jesus.
I'm glad that I have friends who have vacation homes, especially when they let me borrow them. In the house I live at, I perpetually am behind on washing dishes and pulling weeds. I break things faster than I fix them. How could I ever take care of twice as much house?
Immediately after returning from the cabin, I started having tough conversations. I told my mentors and my Sunday school class and my parents about my doubt with as much honesty and stubbornness as I could muster.
One day, I got a call from a friend who was having a crisis. He called to ask for spiritual advice. I'd not told him at all that I have doubt, I'd never told him. I could not continue pretending to be a believing Christian around him. I said, "I have to be honest with you: I don't believe that God exists."
He said, "I have doubts, too."