Every single step on the path was a step forward or backward. I would discover a place or belief within myself, a way of seeing and navigating the world which was not healthy or true (giant leap backwards) and then need to take what felt like tiny movements forward deconstructing. I learned how to take up what was lovely, pure, and true. But for the longest time…
I felt duped.
I felt like the “wise grownups” around me had lied to me or hid the truth from me. They didn’t do it intentionally, but I wondered why had they left out the parts about how hard faith really was to walk out. Maybe they themselves did not know or at least didn’t know HOW to tell us.
- I wish they were real about HOW the Bible should and should not be used in a person’s daily life.
- About how much God really is unknown and a mystery to us.
- About HOW amazing life is when Sundays were not all wrapped up in a church performance.
I felt like they hid the truth about sex and love, living with honor and how loving others well was messy and uncomfortable. My parents generation wanted our unwavering obedience and participation in religion and family, but they never offered us the reasons why that obedience and participation was an essential part of living life well.
The Sunday morning church performance was all I had ever known.
This is what you do. You put on your best outfit to look the part, brush your hair “just right,” sit in the pew no matter how boring the message/performance and smile so everyone is happy with you. Then go home read your Bible daily, make sure to evangelize all your friends, show up for the church’s activities during the week, serve the poor, memorize the verses, make sure you ask Jesus into your heart every single time they say the prayer (just in case it didn’t stick the first 5 times), look after the hurting, don’t have sex, don’t do drugs, or get into anything immoral – Be a Good Christian Girl then the cycle started with Sunday ALL OVER AGAIN.
“Do not forsake the gathering…” they still declare in that space between us.
As if the Bible is still the final authority in my life.
It is not anymore. I love those words, but I also despise them.
I despise HOW they have been twisted, interpreted, and used like propaganda by God’s people and church leaders against the whole world of God’s children to tame them, silence them, bind them, and shame them.
These are two great books to help deconstruct some of that yuck (Affiliate Links):
- “The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It” by Peter Enns
- “When God Was a Woman” by Merlin Stone
They have taken it as literal, word for word truth (they built an ark for heaven’s sakes) because if the Bible says it is so it must be true. Then they entangle themselves and others in those words so we live suffocating, narrow lives.
I had a reoccurring dream during my faith shifting. I was tangled in a giant web, wrapped so tight I was suffocating, but I could fight it. One by one those white cords which held me began to unravel and come undone. The more I fought the looser the cords got until I was free.
Living in the Overflow
Jesus said, “I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].” (John 10:10 AMP)
God, I love that. He didn’t come to bind us to a book or a denominational church gathering. He came to free us. And I want to live in that OVERFLOW. I want to raise my children in the overflow.
If God is love – then Jesus is the fleshly representation of that love. Jesus is what LOVE looks like.
“Jesus is what love looks like made flesh. And it’s hard and it’s not the default and it has nothing to do with unicorns and rainbows.” – Brené Brown (see video below)
And that love is hard. Love is messy. Sometimes the most loving thing we can do is show up. And then other times the most loving thing we can do is not show up because we need to learn how to love and care for ourselves first.
I Found Self-Love
I was loving from a well – which was run dry. Because I had never witnessed HOW to love myself well. None of the men and women I had known growing up took care to protect and nourish themselves. They poured into others until they burned out and run dry. But they never stopped to fill up and live from the overflow. They chose cheap alternatives: TV, church busyness, perfection, gossip whoring, church prayer chains, work, cleaning, food, alcohol, sex, or porn.
But they were not demonstrating HOW to love and care for themselves as an essential part of living from the overflow. I was watching them gorge and hoard all the wrong things.
There is an abundant life which has nothing to do with money or career success or church attendance.
And I didn’t know how to find it inside or outside the church.
Women and self-care is not a topic discussed from church pulpits or moms/women’s groups. Sacrifice. Giving up self. Self-denial. These were the things taught and paraded as ideals for women. Giving up everything for church and God HAS ALL THE MAKINGS OF A GREAT, CHRISTIAN GIRL MOMENT.
This is what church taught us to believe God the Almighty wanted from us:
- Give up the career or pursuit of higher education– for the raising and nurturing of children.
- Tame the sexual desires and needs – for early marriage and a brood of babies.
- Sacrifice your time – in service to the ministries of the church.
- Give up your last dime – to provide for the workings of the church.
- Sit in silent submission to men supporting his ministries and his career– this is Biblical and God’s plan for women (after all, EVE).
- Don’t you dare move that mask from your face – we don’t want to see your truth unless it makes us feel better about ourselves.
If you want to learn how to love yourself and fill up the well do not expect to learn this in the church. Self-love is seen as selfish and wasteful.
I desperately needed to learn HOW to fill up the well and love abundantly without losing myself in the process.
First – I had to let go of toxic belief patterns.
Hillary Clinton and the Liberal Agenda was another one.
Next UP – the role of women in church.
I needed to face all the lies I believed about a woman’s value in the world and in the church and in the home. Before I could start however I was going to need to deal with the critical, sexist church man. I was going to have to face his sexism and rebuke. I was going to have to tell him he had no right to me or my body or my life .I couldn’t even begin to navigate the truth about women until I learned how to smash the patriarchy.
Up tomorrow: The Critical Sexist Church Man
This is part 10 in a series on Shifting Faith. You can find the rest of the series listed below:
- 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”
We have a Facebook Group for those experiencing their own faith shift, church breakup, unfundie awakening, political crisis, feminist journey… Here at Conversations From the Front Porch
Experiencing your own faith shift? Consider this book from Kathy Escobar (affiliate link) Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe Is Coming Apart
This video is so significant and beautiful from Brené Brown: