Let’s start at the very beginning:
I can remember closing the door behind them (the church ladies), leaning my forehead against the cool metal, and heaving a deep sigh. Sorrow flooded in and over. For weeks I would spend mornings curled up in a ball on the bathroom floor trying to gain the strength to shower and face my life. Pregnant with our fourth child, my belly swollen skin-tight, my oldest daughter would find me there barely able to move. She would run her little hand across my cheek and call to me as I fell headlong into a pit of despair. Years later I would identify this reaction as post traumatic stress (PTSD)- my spirit and body’s reaction to spiritual abuse and emotional manipulation. At the time all I felt was depressed, broken, alone, defeated and afraid.
Gasping For Breath
I wasn’t sure how or when it would end. I kept moving forward anyways. As a result and to find healing I wrote words on the page, leaned into finding the sacred in my ordinary life, explored the neighborhood with a camera in my hands, devoured books from wisdom writers, prayed for healed eyes to see, and took to the path where the Divine and nature beckoned. It was very, very quiet. Silent. I didn’t think I would make it. I did not know how I would every be OK… how could this lead to good things?
Beyond the fractured places I found healing, hope, a voice, and a life without apology. I can say this now as I speak from the other side of despair. I no longer live in the pit, but when I was in the thick of it I did not know if there would be a “happy ending” to the pain.
There is no hurt like church hurt – it is in a category all its own. Shifting faith is a confusing, overwhelming process. Consequently releasing belief patterns and thought processes which were an essential ingredient during one phase of life can be an excruciating process to walk through.
Post Evangelical Faith
When you grow up in Evangelical church circles it (church) is at the very core of your life. Sunday morning. Sunday night. Choir practice. Worship team practice. Youth group. Sunday School. Church Service. Teaching a class. Church people everywhere – at every turn of your life. It was all I had ever known – church.
As a result of asking too many questions I found my world buckling and fractured. It was warped and twisted. I found my heart eviscerated through spiritual neglect, manipulation, and abuse. It was devastating. I had to learn how to breathe again.
Over time I discovered how to listen in ways I had never learned. I uncovered how to hear the rhythms of my life and the significance found in resting silently. In the process I learned how to accept myself as I am because there is not one thing wrong with me. I am not dysfunctional or needing to be fixed nor am I morally deficient simply because the churched ladies do not like how I am living and what I am saying from the outside.
I am not afraid anymore. Once I relinquished the circling places and let go of what everyone insisted faith needed to be… I found life, wholeness, and love. I realized the importance of my voice. I understood how deep, how wide, how expansive the love of the Divine for me as I am.
Eight Whole Years
It took me a long time to get to this place. Eight years to be exact. It has been many years of homeless, front porch Sundays. I have walked out eight years of Sabbath sunrises and God-hunting, sacred gratitude chasing. Eight glorious years of living life beyond the local church gathering.
In conclusion I think I can tell you what it all means now. I can tell you now why walking the hard, lonely silence was an essential step in my authentic becoming.
Finally during the next month I want to share my story with you. I want to lay out before us the evidence of a shifting faith while offering a view into this one life, one soul. Perhaps in this telling you will feel less alone with your doubts, your questions, your heart, your trauma, or your pain? Anger may be your first reaction (you won’t be the first) because it is normal to react intensely when our constructs are poked. Maybe in the process you will finally understand something about post-evangelicals? Perhaps you will see the once churched, the rejects, the leaving a little more clearly?
If one person feels less crazy – then it will have been worth the telling.
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Book Recommendations (AFFILIATE LINKS FOLLOW – help keep this blog alive and feed my children ♥)
Finally this is a series on Shifting Faith – Confronting My Church Wounds.
You can find some of the series listed here:
- Coming Undone
- Pit of Despair
- Healing Takes Time
- The Act of Seeing
- Mean Church Girls
- You are NOT Good Enough
- A Year of Silence
- Evangelicals and the “Gay Agenda”
- I Felt Duped
- Critical, Sexist Church Men
- Anniversary of Tears
- Conservative Christian Women Support Trump
- Generational Consequences of Violence Against Women
- Four Ways Faith Shifts Affect Children
- I am behind on a few of these.
- Can An Unhealthy Church Raise Healthy Children? – Sexual Abuse in the Church
- The Words We Allow
- Three Essentials Healthy Families Offer Children
- Failure is an Option
- There are a few posts missing… because LIFE. Check back or sign up below so you don’t miss them.
- First They Came for Ann Voskamp