Confronting My Church Wounds 2. Coming Undone

confronting church wounds 2 coming undone jkmcguire

After the church break up now what? Here is what it feels like to come undone.

Do you know the hymn “It is Well?” I grew up in church singing. As an adult I would lead worship from church platforms and conference/retreat center stages. I have heard that hymn sung from every possible vantage point in a church sanctuary. As the familiar chorus comes in full from around the room you can feel the bass and the altos building – entering in an echo to the sopranos leading. I loved singing with anticipation the alto line. You could feel the truth of something deep and magnificent in the marrow of your bones – perhaps all really is well?

I can remember during the months following our 4th baby’s birth finally feeling like my head was coming up above the water. It had been six months since my fracturing from church. Yes, I had spent the majority of my pregnancy in a state of spiritual, physical, and emotional exhaustion. I was spent. The PTSD was easing. The obsessing over things I could not change or control was beginning to dissipate. Surprisingly I was not as tired. With his birth came my rebirth. I began to have hints of energy for life again.

Easy Like a Sunday Morning

As a family we took to our newfound homeless Sunday mornings with hope. We were learning how to really rest. I would strap the baby across my chest and instead of rehearsing for a worship service (as I had done with a newborn in the past) we would head out into the forest. Green laden trees became like forest cathedral ceilings – reaching high into the heavens and redeeming the broken places in our hearts down below. We got mud on our soles and in the process scrubbed clean the accumulated dirt on our souls from years of church participation.

green trees watermarked

The creek winding deep into the shadows called to us. Turtles sunning themselves on large rocks and tiny fish flinching away from tiny fingers – all around us and inside us creation was shouting anthems we had never found inside church walls.

It was something beautiful and ancient and deep.

If you sit silent long enough you can hear the anthem nature groans. It sounds like the line of harmony echoing in the hymn “It is Well.” You can feel it in the pit of your stomach. As we walked the soft ground of the forest path our spirits yearned to find the right words to these new anthems we had been given. There were lyrics in places I had never known existed.

Coming Undone Hurts Like Hell

Fabric pieces holding me together ripped, tearing me apart at the seams, and right down the middle into the very core of my being. The life I had always known, the one which included church music and services on Sunday mornings, youth group and music rehearsals during the week were gone. I was done. Everything I had always known, the foundation upon which I had built all of my believing, seeing, and understanding fell away from me.

The people I had trusted and put my faith in – those I believed to be “wise grownups,” spiritual warriors, and trusted mentors in the faith? They failed. They stumbled and disappointed. They didn’t show up. There were no questions. I was dealt with and swept aside. And I followed those waters right over a cliff into darkness and despair.

I had found myself crumbling and falling quickly headlong into a giant pit of despair. As I sat in the bottom of that pit knee deep in mud and yuck the tears started falling. They wouldn’t stop falling for months.

But here for one moment was this new baby. Perhaps life would be OK again. It was new birth, the untamed wildness of nature, and the loving womb of family where I found the darkness pushing away.

Nature was the healing balm which began calling to me, but I was going to need to navigate the realities of the pit of despair.

I had to find my way out of the darkness.

The pit was real, deep, and overwhelming. Finally as a consequence I couldn’t avoid it. You cannot be healed by avoiding the darkness. Most of the time you have to trudge right into the middle of it to find life again.

Nature and family were a way to take a deep breath in the gasping. Maybe all really was well, but right now it wasn’t. Maybe it could be; maybe it would be, but right now I had to find a way to deal with the gaping holes left when everything fell away undone. I had to deal with the big joke I had fallen in love with – church. I was going to have to deal with the whore she had become. And I was going to have to deal with the whore I had become giving up everything for her…

Still Here.


This is part 2 in a month long series on shifting faith – you can find part one Introduction Here.

If you are looking for a safe place to land following your own church hurt, faith shift, feminist journey, or adventures as a wondering wanderer then consider joining our brand new Facebook group for conversations on The Front Porch here.

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