A Parable of Coming Out

During the discussion with my in-laws on the baby pic, my husband mentioned that there were other things that have been going on in our lives besides losing fear of nudity.  This has prompted a very concerned response over keeping secrets and stating that if we are being “closed” that we must know there is something wrong with whatever we are hiding.  We are encouraged to be open.

The irony is that if I had made the picture of me breastfeeding public there would have been great outcry to keep it ‘secret’.

I thought I would write a story to help certain types of Christians understand why we can no longer read the bible literally and why we haven’t actually told them.  Would this be helpful?  Feedback?

The Parable of the Fire Opal

Not so long ago, there was a young girl who grew up in a mining village.  Her parents, grandparents, and great-great-great- grandparents had all mined for opals which were located in the same vein of rock.

“We are the people of the orange fire opal, it is the most important thing about us.” She grew up hearing this and didn’t know anyone who said otherwise.  The opals were said to allow their wearers to wake up in the morning, give them energy and wisdom.  Nothing good could truly be done without the opal.

When she was 4 years old she was given an orange fire opal of her own.  She cherished it.

Now she really belonged.  All of her friends and family wore their opals so people could see.  Some wore them discretely on their hands, some made crowns and placed them in the centre, and others placed them on their feet where no one could see.  Nearly every conversation came back to the opals.  There were long discussions on how best to wear them and how to convince other people to wear them.  Every facet of the gemstones were held up to light, admired, and discussed.  Nothing was more important than that.

Sometimes people disagreed, but the opals always brought them back together.  Fire opals were the centre of their lives.

Of course, there were people who wore different colours of opals.  They were welcomed as fellow opal wearers but the girl knew that the orange opal wearers felt that they had the best colour.  She found it funny that those with blue opals also felt they had the best colour.

‘Oh, well,’  she thought. ‘ The important thing is that we all wear opals.’

Then one day, as she went about her business, someone called out to her.

“What a lovely piece of rose quartz you have!”

She was horrified and quickly corrected the man.

“Well, I used to belong to the people of the white fire opal,” he replied.  “But then I studied geography and learned that what I thought was an opal wasn’t an opal, but is actually a common rock called quartz.  I also learned the rocks do not have magical powers.”

Determined to prove the man wrong, the girl began to read geography books herself.  After many hours and months of reading, she came to the conclusion that her cherished fire opal was merely a piece of rose quartz.

What was once the centre of her world, the gathering point in most of her friendships, was not what she thought it was.

“I can’t pretend that I’m one of the people of the orange fire opals when the opals are all quartz!  Should I tell everyone that they are also holding quartz?”

She asked other quartz holders for advice.

Some said that it was not a big deal and that deep down everyone knew they were wearing quartz.  They advised to let people call them opals if it helped them.

Some said that the minute they told their families that the opals were actually quartz that they were no longer welcome in their family circles.  They had lost best friends.  Some had lost spouses.

Others advised her to forget about it, that the gemstones were not the most important parts of life anyways.  They said that one day her family would notice that she hadn’t been wearing the stone for a while but was still herself.

The girl had noticed that she was still waking up every morning, that she actually had more energy, and that she could still do good things.  But how could she tell her family that she didn’t need the gemstone to live?  They would be insulted.

“I do not know what to do!” She cried.  “If I tell them that what they have based their entire identity and livelihood on is actually a piece of quartz and not an opal, they will be so distressed!

“They will keep trying to give me other pieces of quartz and call them opals.  They will worry about me so much!

“They will spend so much time and money singing to the stone and asking it to change my mind.

“They won’t listen to what I say and will tell themselves that I have been deceived by the geologists and send me more books by the opalists.”

She knew that she could lose lose friendships, and strain the relationships closest to her.  But, she could not pretend that the quartz was an opal with magical powers.  More and more often, she began to forget to put on the piece of quartz.

Her mother noticed one day and was very concerned.  She began to panic and then remembered that her jeweler had told her that once a person has accepted an opal, that it will remain in their possession forever even if they go through a time where they forget to wear it.

The girl listened sadly.  All the rules about how to wear the opal now seemed so silly.  She was saddened by the distress her mother experienced when her mother couldn’t get it to sparkle just as she was told it should.  Her mother thought that it should sparkle just like a diamond and was distressed when it continued to look like a piece of quartz.  The girl’s mother blamed herself.

“I wish she could be free from the weight of the quartz,” thought the girl.  “But that is something she will have to do for herself.  However, she thinks she cannot do anything unless the stone lets her, how could I threaten to remove something so special to her?”

The girl decided to keep it a secret.  She admired those who lived life without even thinking about the gemstones.  It was so hard to break the habit of talking about the rocks with everyone.


Maybe one day, she would be free to go back to the mine and follow the quartz vein to see if it led to gold, but until then she began to focus on other things in her life.

6 thoughts on “A Parable of Coming Out

  1. Ahab says:

    I like this story. This would certainly speak to the heart of someone who has escaped dogmatic religion, but I don’t know if a fundamentalist could fully appreciate the message. It wouldn’t hurt to plant a seed, so I would still encourage you to share it with them.

  2. theo(il)logical says:

    I agree with Ahab. Your story is just preaching to the choir. You could share it, but I really think that it would be more for yourself than them.

    Unfortunately a lot of (evangelical) parents meddle in their childrens’ lives after their children become adults and even when their adult children go on to begin families of their own. Don’t bother justifying or explaining or apologizing for yourself and your decisions. It’s none of their business; you’re adults now. Just don’t engage it and make it clear that you won’t engage it in the future; and while you’re at it, also make it clear that you still, nevertheless, want a relationship with them (that is, if you really do).

    I have friends who, after years of awkward conversations about their own de-conversions, have explicitly told their parents and in-laws that they are thankful for everything they’ve done and the support over the years but will NOT discuss religion with them EVER AGAIN. They’ve also made a concerted effort to live somewhere more difficult for family to visit — not that their parents aren’t welcome. It seems like a reasonable approach: People move to be closer to family, why can’t people move to put some distance between them and family?

  3. Quester says:

    I also wrote a parable about deconverting. http://ajourneyman.wordpress.com/2008/04/24/what-colour-is-the-sky-in-your-world/

    I shared it with some friends, but not with my family. Families can be difficult- with so much shared history and interconnections, it is too easy to hurt each other. I’m very glad to hear things are working so well with your immediate family unit- spouse and kids.

  4. I really like your analogy using the opals and rose quartz. For those who speak only the language of faith — they won’t understand/agree, but maybe it will give them some understanding about where you’re coming from.

  5. Agree with theo. You are preaching to the choir.

  6. theagnosticswife says:

    I enjoyed the parable. Of course, I’ve yet to come out to my family. My mom is noticing that I’m forgetting to wear my opal more and more though. haha

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