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May 23, 2011 / Jenny Ann Fraser

Breaking Up With God: A Love Story

It takes incredible courage and strength to think beyond what you have been taught. To question everything that you think you know is true, and come up with answers that turn your worldview upside down, changing how you live, and who you are.

New ideas about the world and our place in it can be incredibly threatening. I suspect that if we look deeply enough at ourselves, no matter how open-minded we are, or think we are, we would find that there are ideas and beliefs that we hold so tightly that we would struggle to avoid anything which would challenge what we hold dear. Especially when that challenge is guaranteed to turn our lives upside down.

For some, like Sarah Sentilles, author of Breaking Up With God: A Love Story, life doesn’t offer the opportunity to run and hide within our life-long belief systems, even when that would be the easier route to take.

I didn’t expect that I would find so much within Breaking Up With God: A Love Story that would Resonate with me, but I did.

Sarah’s relaxed writing style, almost journal-like, made me feel as though I was having a coffee date with a new acquaintance. Someone I didn’t think that I would share a lot in common with, due to the very different lives we have led. Instead, I was surprised by how much we do have in common, and I began to feel that this is someone whom I would love to know better.

I would imagine that some who are faithful to the religion that they practice, especially Christians, would find Sarah’s touching story to be a sad one with a sad ending.

She broke up with God after all, after spending childhood in the Catholic Church and finding a home and a community within the Episcopalian Church leading her to the study of theology with the intent of becoming a Priest. But, she walked away at the last moment after coming to the difficult conclusion that this wasn’t the right path for her.

So many of us, would have continued, regardless of the path that we’re on out of fear of who we would be if we changed, what others would think, or how we would disappoint those who have supported us. We don’t live in a world that applauds us for quitting, even when that might be the best step to take.

However, not following your heart, is I believe in the end the saddest story of all.

Breaking Up With God is a story of spiritual growth. Finding a place in the world and being at peace.

It is a journey that doesn’t have an end point for any of us, but there are stops along the way that provide a satisfying end to the book, which never means the end of the story.

Even though I am not a Christian, I have for some time now been enjoying the sermons of Reverend Ed Bacon of the All Saints Church in Pasadena, California on Itunes and from the church website.

The All Saints Church message of love for everyone, and it’s inclusiveness combined with the incredible wisdom of its leaders has moved me enough to send shivers down my spine. Knowing that there are large congregations within organized religion that are truly dedicated to peace and love for all regardless of race, sexual orientation or politics, that is committed to creating a better world for all, fills me with hope for the possibility of greater growth for all of us. I will admit, that at first I was a bit jealous of Sarah Sentilles having had the opportunity to attend the church that I so admire.

My own experiences of Julia Cameron’s, The Artists Way further deepened the connection that I felt to this story.

Morning pages, 3 daily pages of free-form long-hand writing have been a part of my life off and on since 1993, and have recently become a part of it again. Learning to become aware of and listen to my own censor, (long ago named Dexter) has done much to expand my creativity, and was the original catalyst for my own spiritual journey.

Sarah’s experience with Julia Cameron and how understanding her Censor lead her to learn to listen better to her own heart touched me, on a very personal level.

Though moving beyond my own chosen organized religion led me to grow towards God, I clearly understand that we all have our own path to follow.

Sarah’s Sentille’s path lead her away from the God of her childhood, but towards greater compassion and love for the Earth and everything on it. This is I believe, exactly what we are here for. It is what the world needs most and this story shows that there cannot be one right religion, any spiritual path that is better than another. We each have our own, and it is where we end up that matters.

I did feel a tinge of disappointment, that struggling with her faith led Sarah Sentilles to give up her relationship with God, but at the same time, I’m not sure that she really did that at all.

“After I say I’m not Christian, some people ask, But you still believer in God, right? The truthful answer is I don’t know. Sometimes I imagine the God I broke up with laughing at me, a mean laugh, belittling. You’ll see, I hear him say. You’ll see. Other times I imagine him waiting patiently for me to figure out he’s the one, arms folded on his chest, head cocked to one side, giving me space to find my own way, wanting the best for me, no matter what that might mean for us.”

“…giving me space to find my own way, wanting the best for me, no matter what that might mean for us…”

I am beginning to realize that each book that I am invited to review for TLC book tours is an important stepping stone in my own journey for which I am very grateful.

I am also grateful to Sarah Sentilles for this thoroughly enjoyable and touching memoir which I highly recommend to anyone who considers themselves to be a “seeker”.

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17 Comments

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  1. DM / May 23 2011 9:11 pm

    I can related to several things in this post.

    You said: “it takes incredible courage and strength to think beyond what you have been taught. To question everything that you think you know is true, and come up with answers that turn your worldview upside down, changing how you live, and who you are.

    New ideas about the world and our place in it can be incredibly threatening.”

    I will say it has gotten easier to step out into uncharted waters the more times I’ve done it…
    Worrying what other people will say or think does not have the grip on me it once had.
    On a completely semi-related note, So when did you want that ark delivered? 🙂 I need to get it done because I just got an order for a harvest table DM

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / May 24 2011 3:42 pm

      Hi Doug,
      It is true that it does get easier to step outside your comfort zone the more you do it. For some, it is just too scary to ever try.
      As for the Ark. So far, we seem to have some time before the polar ice caps melt completely, but being 50 years ahead of schedule we probably shouldn’t laze around too much 🙂

  2. greg / May 24 2011 10:01 am

    great post, jenny! this had me thinking about the research i’ve been doing on religion these past few years,… which was more so waking up to the greater reality of it all,… experiencing spirituality (outside of religious dogma). whether you give credence to this or not, it may explain some things for those who have been plagued by questions over the years, and have found themselves breaking up with god as well. http://youtube.com/watch?v=_aRfjyoeJ9I …and this one rocks the boat a wee bit too, but made perfect sense to me (not being a “religious” person) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWu_u8m_1EM i’m also somewhat of a nerd when it comes to the ancient astronaut theory; i believe that somewhere down the road that the (biblical) stories of an all loving god (uppercase ‘g’ god [the almighty, great spirit, consciousness, the universe, the force,…]) got entangled with stories of the judgmental & vengeful gods (lowercase ‘g’ gods [mortal extra terrestrials, genesis: sons of god {daughters of men},…]) that opened cans of whoop-ass once they realized their genetic manipulation science project did not go according to plan (hence the fire and brimstone, flooding, etc.). http://bibleufo.com thanks for sharing, and giving me the opportunity to do the same (ahem, my two cents worth of preaching). peace, love, and happiness. ~go

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / May 24 2011 3:44 pm

      Hi Greg!
      Thanks for stopping by!
      This book was a great one for theology. I think you might enjoy it if you are interested in knowing more theology as an academic pursuit as I do.
      I’m looking forward to checking out your links!

  3. Patricia / May 24 2011 8:41 pm

    Thank you for this lovely and loving book review. I will add this book to my ginormous reading list already. I am glad that it assisted you in your journey.
    I am enjoying reading THE COMMA a blog by another wonderful church in Seattle, that is open and affirming and has a whole troop of interesting clergy on staff, who share wonderful faithful stories. They also have a listening library of sermons.

    I felt called by God to become an Ordained United Church of Christ minister and went to the highest ranked school so as a woman I could proceed. I loved my campus ministry job ($500 a month income) and teaching. ( my majors are Adult Education and Counseling for my Masters) After struggling for 38 years to find work in my field the road blocks are still just too depressing.

    After my 7th experience with cancer ( I was born with it) I really had to evaluate why things were not working…and I discovered the HE-man God or even the She- man was not working for me. I stopped the Bible study and started thinking with the physics folks and thinking in term of energy and energy flow. Balance began to return and I did not need to study and question so hard…so I am verging on giving up my ordination and letting all that go myself.

    I do not know why so many folks of the Catholic Church try to adopt other religions – we have a former catholic trying to be a Buddhist teacher right now – It rather grates on me….It is in the modeling and living out one’s values where the Spirit enters in…

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / May 25 2011 7:55 am

      Hi Patricia,
      Thank you for your kind words.
      It sounds as though you’ve had a real struggle there. You are definitely a survivor!
      I think that for myself, it is the process of questioning that intrigues me. I love to learn so I can’t imagine that I would ever stop seeking even though I am very comfortable with my spirituality. Learning more only deepens it.
      Thank you for the mention of the church blog. I will definitely check it out!

    • Sarah Sentilles / Jun 1 2011 1:34 pm

      Thank you for sharing your experience, Patricia. You sound so strong! And–not to plug my other book, but here it is–you might find similar stories to yours in the book I wrote before Breaking Up with God. It’s called A Church of Her Own. I interviewed 30 ministers about their experiences with sexism in churches. You might like it! I wish you all good things and send healing energy your way.

      • Patricia / Jun 2 2011 4:08 pm

        Sarah Sentilles,
        Thank you for your kind words and how delightful to hear of your other book possibility. I think I always felt that the sexism of the church was directed at me, because so many other women were succeeding and developing and making a big difference in the conference community – and it had to be something about me that made me unacceptable not smart enough.

        I think it has created a kind of subtle form of PTSD within me – and then to have my State no longer accept my counseling credentials and lumping me in with the Pastoral Counselors from the Conservative/Fundamentalist churches and sweeping the rolls clean of us all after so many years of working and taking cont. ed. courses…as though I was part of a plague was just the icing on the cake.

        It has been quite a journey indeed. So I pulled into my cave to heal….emerged with first one blog and now my listening blog is underway…I just hope I can make enough of a living to keep myself alive and well. I am sure my weight problem is my protective armor only now it is hurting me also…

        …move that energy and shape shift…

        Again thank you for you lovely words…and I now look forward to reading both of your books

        • Sarah Sentilles / Jun 2 2011 4:18 pm

          Dear Patricia,

          Almost every woman I interviewed for A Church of Her Own thought what was happening to her was an isolated incident and her fault–meanwhile, sexism is institutional, being experienced by women in churches all over the place. I hope reading about other women’s experiences will help you on your journey of healing. Thanks again for your words and work in the world. –Sarah

  4. Lisa Munley / May 28 2011 11:36 am

    Lovely review. I’m so thankful you were on this tour. Really enjoyed your take on this!

  5. Sarah Sentilles / Jun 1 2011 1:32 pm

    Thank you for your beautiful review–and to everyone who has posted comments! I am so grateful for your time and attention, and for the thoughtfulness of your response to my book. What a gift. How wonderful that we share morning pages and a love of all things All Saints! I do think my book is about being brave enough to let go of old stories when they no longer work for us, and about the courage that kind of letting go takes. Sometimes it is easier to cling to what is familiar, even when it causes harm, even when it makes us feel small, just because it is known. But there is, I think, great freedom that comes with walking new paths. Doing so carries enormous costs sometimes, but I agree with you that ultimately the costs of not following your heart are greater. Many many thanks!

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Jun 1 2011 8:12 pm

      And thank you to you too Sarah! I am honoured that you stopped by. It was a pleasure to read your book and even more to be able to review it. I truly do hope that it is a huge success!

  6. Ollin / Jun 3 2011 2:37 pm

    I love this. Why? Because I realize that no matter whether you are an atheist or a spiritual person you are still in a relationship with god.

    You cannot “break up” with god without there being a god. You still have a relationship with god, even if you guys aren’t seeing each other at the moment.

    I had been an atheist for years until I realized very recently that this did not mean I didn’t believe in god or god did not exist, I just chose to ignore him. The RELATIONSHIP changed, but god, nor my connection to him changed.

    I respect Sarah’s position, I know that this is going to sound arrogant, but I believe she will inevitabley find herself in peace with god again.

    What she may be experiencing is a “dark night of the soul” as described by the late psychologist Gerald G May in his book The Dark Night of The Soul.

    You MUST read this Jenny. I just finished reading it and it has completely transformed my way of viewing god and spirituality. I kept on thinking that I couldn’t recommend it to anyone because no one would understand it and would find it too esoteric for them.

    But now I realize you are probably one of the only people who would appreciate the book and understand it.

    I believe Sarah is going through a dark night of the soul, and her detachment from the “relationship” is a crucial part of her union with God, who is so much more than attachments or relationships.

    Thanks for the review!

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Jun 16 2011 8:34 pm

      Hello Ollin!
      I can’t believe that it took this long to respond to your comment! For that I apologize!
      This is a great comment and also a great compliment! I am now dying to read the book and have put it at the top of my list. I promise I will let you know what I think.
      Thanks again Ollin!

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  1. Sarah Sentilles, author of Breaking Up with God: A Love Story, on tour May/June 2011 | TLC Book Tours

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