Last night I met with a group of friends. It was such a lovely experience, yet it left me kind of melancholy. I was surrounded by people I have nothing but warmth and affection for; people with whom I’d been very close to before my rejection of evangelical Christianity almost a decade ago. I have no regrets over the choices I made back then. In fact I’m proud that I was able to act on conviction despite the massive emotional cost. I’ve written before that it meant walking away from a lifestyle, a safe haven, a group of friends whom I adored. I was a toxic brand, actively speaking out against beliefs dear to them. It was never my intent to cause people pain. I just had to act with personal integrity and be honest with myself and the wider world. I no longer believed any of it. Ten years on there are no wounds, but I do sometimes feel the undertow of sadness that our lives went different ways. I suppose that will always be there. I’m also acutely aware of how my decisions influenced Joy’s life and that of my children, all of whom still hold to religious views. My absence from that environment was a grieving process for her, and many things we once would have shared we no longer can. I do not inhabit that world. The real miracle of it is that as a couple we have rebuilt our relationship into something else, an ongoing process that has required honesty, often brutal honesty from both of us. But then who said relationships were easy? In fact nobody ever did, as I recall. However close you are to a person you’re still coming from a different point on the map, so I suppose the skill of it is to communicate in a way that enables you to chart a path together. I think we’ve negotiated a few rocks along the way, and we have learned things about each other, about ourselves, that have surprised us both.