Peggy Lewis' United Pentecostal Church Experience

The follow has been taken from "The Journey Out of the United Pentecostal Church" by Daniel J. Lewis, copyright 1994. See below for further details. Peggy Lewis is the author's wife.

PEGGY LEWIS, Troy, Michigan

This subject is very hard for me to put down on paper. I've thought about it often, but to put my finger on my reactions and how this transition affected my life is not easy. It's really a mishmash of emotions. If I had to reduce my response to one word, it would be fear....fear of the unknown, fear of my future with God, fear that I had wasted my life up to this point, fear of what my parents would say (we always want to please them), and fear that if I did change and it was wrong, then I would be leading my children down the wrong path. We had always known that what we believed up to this point was right, and we always knew that everyone else was wrong. I told people, endless people, that they were wrong and that what I had was right. I was proud--proud of my religion, proud that God loved me enough to save me and my family above my neighbors, and proud of my long hair. Ain't that a scream?

This "coming out" was an extremely humbling experience for me. I cried a lot. I cried because everything I had known up to this point might not mean anything, cried because of this confusion in my mind about God and the Trinity (Boy, was that a dirty word!), cried because my husband had not communicated his feelings and thoughts to me. He was taking me and the boys down a road that I didn't know. I could have shot him, but I can't very well shoot the father of my boys, now can I?

I cannot say that I never had questions about my religion while in the UPC. I did. I always questioned the unfairness of sending women to hell because of short hair or makeup, especially women who loved God, went to church faithfully, supported the ministry and lived a wholesome life. This sort of thing always bothered me, even as a little girl. Another thing that bothered me was the thought that only a few of those who claimed to be Christians would be saved--that generations and generations of people would go to hell because they didn't speak in tongues. I tried not to think too much on these things, because it seemed so unfair of God, but at least I was saved, and that's what counted most! So, I made sure that others knew that they were wrong. To now face the fact that it was we, and not they, who were wrong is very hard for us ex-UPC people to take. It hurts our pride, and we were a very proud people. In coming out I had to face the fact that I had hurt a lot of people with my arrogance, that I had been their judge and put myself up as someone special. Don't think I didn't start early with this judgmentalism, either. I once told an aunt that she was going to hell for wearing red fingernail polish on her toes, and at the time I was at the ripe old age of five!

With all these thoughts going through my head, after two years of ups and downs and a lot of crying, I had come to the conclusion that I was a sinner just like everyone else in the world and that I had to humble myself before God and ask for his forgiveness. I couldn't just speak in tongues on Sunday night and everything else would be alright. I couldn't just put a Band-aid on my life and let the infection continue. That was really how I had lived my life up to this point. My sin or whatever other hang-ups I had were really never resolved. They didn't have to be. I had the assurance that my spiritual life was in order.

So, was there fear? Yes, lots of fear! There was fear that what I had been living was a lie, that I had been deceitful to myself and to God and to countless Christians around me. After the fear and the crying were done, then I had to contend with the pain of rejection from my family and friends. No one who has not been through it can understand the pain of rejection by a parent. Apparently unconditional love didn't hold water anymore. Now that I had left the UPC, I was going to hell. "How could you turn away from the truth? How could you disgrace your parents this way? How could you do this to your children?" Pain? Yes, lots of pain. For me this was the most painful side effect from coming out. It made you question whether leaving was really worth it. It would have been much easier to stay right where we were.

So, coming out is not easy. It's the hardest thing you will ever do. But if you do decide to come out and realize that the fear, anger and rejection are only temporary, you will make a marvelous discovery about yourself and about God. You will realize that God is the same, that He has healed you, and that you are not alone out there. There is a whole new world of Christians who love Him just as you do. You won't feel the need to judge them, and you can accept them as God does.

I have grown stronger because of all this. When I look at myself today, I see a much more spiritually stable person. I am secure in my faith, I do not judge others about aspects of theirs lives. (What's right for them might not be right for me, within a biblical context, of course). I find that my life is a testimony in itself. I have witnessed of Christ more since being out than I ever did as a UPCer. And for the first time I am having fun. Christians can have fun, and the fact that they can says more to the outsider than one might suspect. I now have a workable relationship with my family. I have apologized to countless people for my judgmentalism and have asked for their forgiveness. I am now healthy and strong. It was worth it!


"The Journey Out of the United Pentecostal Church" by Daniel J. Lewis may be accessed for free in PDF format here. Much thanks to Dan Lewis for permission to distribute his book.


Posted June 20, 2014

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