I saw the short fiction piece “Jesus and I Broke Up” on Killing the Buddha which describes itself like this: Killing the Buddha is a religion magazine for people made anxious by churches, people embarrassed to be caught in the “spirituality” section of a bookstore, people both hostile and drawn to talk of God.
Anyway, the following little ditty was posted on Killing the Buddha. I’m not sure if it is funny to people who haven’t 1) been Christians or 2) who are sort-of Christian-ish thinking sometimes or 3) have been a part of those church groups where everyone is IN LOVE with Jesus, but since I fall into all three categories, I thought it was hilarious and painful at the same time. Of course, unlike the author, I think I’m pretty comfortable with where I have landed in Unitarian Universalism (maybe he hasn’t heard of us and should visit) but still, I relate so much to that sort of funny/weird relationship with Jesus and Christianity that isn’t one of complete exile, yet looks nothing like it once did. As the author writes, “It’s not the same. Once you’ve called a man Lord of your life it’s hard to demote him to simply an influence.” Enjoy.
Jesus and I Broke Up
What happens when you realize you’re just not that into him?
by Owen Egerton
Jesus and I broke up. We’d been in a close relationship for about a decade, but it had to end.
“Why’d you split?” friends ask. “You two seemed so happy.”
“He wasn’t who I thought he was,” is my answer.
I should have seen it coming. It started with these little disagreements. Something he’d say would set me off. “And what did you mean by that?” I suppose it’s natural to argue, but he had to be right about everything. It was all black and white for him. In hindsight I can see that these squabbles were the symptoms of a larger problem. I didn’t trust him anymore. Didn’t trust what he said, didn’t trust what he wanted, didn’t trust who he was. Weeks passed with hardly a word between us. Eventually the day came when we both knew. This wasn’t just a rough patch or a dry spell. It was over.
As with any break up, mutual friends choose sides. Usually one half of the couple gets to stay in the group of friends and other has to leave. In this case, I don’t have much of a chance. Friends nod and pat my back, but I can tell they believe the break up is my fault alone. Jesus is innocent.
I’m often angry. I’d given him the best years of my life. Turned down college parties for Bible studies, passed on spring break flings just to make him happy. Memorized his words. Voted for his candidates.
Other times I miss him so much my chest hurts. It had been love, after all. Not puppy love, but passionate life-changing love. Late night prayers, sharing every thought, every feeling. Trusting him with my life. For over ten years nothing, nothing at all, was more important to me. Now that it’s ended, the void feels nearly as encompassing as the presence once had.
After years of praying “in Jesus’ name” I now find myself not knowing how to pray. What do I call God? How do I connect? I had come to define myself by this relationship. Now that I’m alone, who am I?
Sometimes I look Jesus up, just for old times’ sake. I can’t lapse back into the old ways, even if I wanted too, but we can hang out. I can learn from his teachings. “But none of that Savior stuff, okay?” I warn him. It’s not the same. Once you’ve called a man Lord of your life it’s hard to demote him to simply an influence.
I’m frighteningly single. At least once a week I hit the religion section of the local bookstore, pick up the first title that catches my eye and take it home. Rumi one night. Buddha the next. I know it sounds cheap, but each time I hope it’s love. It never is. I promise I’ll cherish the book and read it again and again. But I don’t. Instead I leave it on my desk and go back to the bookstore, or, on really bad days, I lock my office door and surf new age web sites.
Don’t get me wrong. I want the benefits of a committed relationship: the security, the depth, the chance to build my life with someone. But I’ve been hurt before. These days when I suspect someone is going to ask that I accept him into my heart, I get the hell out.
It’s hard to be alone. I’ve let go too much to hold what I had, and I hold on too much to grab anything new. It’ll get easier, I’m sure. Time will heal all wounds. Who knows, in ten years maybe I will have forgotten all about him. But some nights are so long, so dark, that I find myself peeling open my old New Testament and flipping to some of my favorite passages.
“Hey Jesus,” I whisper. “How have you been?”
Owen Egerton is a novelist living in Austin, Texas. His fiction has appeared in journals including Puerto del Sol, Tiferet, and Absinthe.