I woke up this morning for the first time in almost eleven months with a compulsive need to write. What happens when a writer stops writing? Well, it appears life keeps happening anyways. While I haven’t written a word in all those long months it has been even longer than that since I have written about church. Originally this was one of the main reasons I started a blog – to share my hurt and shame and pain after our family broke up with church. So, what did I wake up this morning wanting to compulsively write about? Toxic soul patterns and church.
When it doesn’t matter anymore.
Nine years ago, this past fall we gave up church. We walked away from harmful relationships and the heart-crushing actions of others and we began the hard work of choosing differently for our children.
They say the first step in recovery is recognizing you have a problem. Houston we had a pretty darn big problem. Church was crushing the life and heart out of our family and we didn’t even recognize what was happening. The symptoms were all there. We simply were having a difficult time recognizing and eradicating the virus.
Almost a decade later and it is easier to see some of the toxic life cycles of church we were allowing simply because this is what we (my husband and I both) had always known from our own families of origin.
YOU GO TO CHURCH. You dress the part. You sing the songs. You shake the hands. You show up. Because you NEED to be there. You get up on the platform even when you are bone weary and sick with rejection, harm and hurt and you “lead, perform, preach, teach.” Even if you aren’t feeling it or wanting it or needing it. You do “the showing up for God and church” anyways.
Even if you have gaping wounds and are bleeding out on the floor and no one around you cares to recognize or help – you go to church.
Church has always been about that damn martyrdom for the cause. Some are better at being martyrs and victims for Christ than others.
Even if parts of your heart are being shredded alive by people who are supposed to be known by their love – you show up and get in the family pew anyways.
You can make better choices for your own family.
My mom once told me – as I fretted about how to raise a healthy, whole family who loves and cares for one another down the road instead of one being ripped apart in adulthood by jealousy, pride, general asshole behaviors and greed– if there is a certain kind of family you want to have, you make it with the family you’ve been given.
With this at the forefront of my mind at many intersections the last several years – I know how essential it is to break the toxic soul patterns which make up the foundational pieces of our families before they get out of control and can no longer be tamed.
Step one – stop the generational consequences of being raised in the church.
What are some of those generational consequences? Abuse. Shame. Fear. False perfectionism. Detachment from our true selves. Shallow spirituality. Stagnation. And don’t get me started on the patriarchy.
We were not made to be shoved into such tight religious boxes. The mob mentality will not save your soul. Likely the mob will strip you of your humanity and leave you bleeding out. And frankly none of them will even really care.
Toxic Soul Patterns
How did we stop the toxic soul patterns in our own home? We stopped going to church. We stopped showing up because it was expected. We stopped talking about the things which bring more shame, guilt, and fear than life. We stopped bringing materials into our home which pollute young hearts and corrupt young minds. We stopped discussions about salvation/heaven/hell and began conversations about love, compassion, and respect.
We teach them to reach out to a God who is far deeper and wider and female then anyone has ever given her credit for being. We show them how women are shaping and growing this world bigger than the boxes of religion allow. We teach them about what and who came way before there was ever a Hebrew God on record. We look at the moon and count the stars. We pause for the macro things in an overwhelmingly loud world. We lean in close. We reach out far.
We celebrate how we have been given a new chance every single day we wake up to love one another deeply. We are for each other.
We choose to make our yard and home the safest place for other kids and families to come – no agenda of saving souls needed. Only love is required here.
I’m no longer shoving an ancient text down their young throats, but putting deep literature in their hands. They are learning wisdom words from wisdom writers – people far wiser than most of us will ever be.
I am no longer submitting to the authority of a specific religious group and doctrine (cough white men cough) but instead am attempting to embrace the openness and sanctity of a community raising and educating children in our Baltimore city neighborhood.
Someone asked me recently why I had joined a committee at my children’s public school looking to encourage a caring and compassionate school community – my answer:
I am desperately trying to raise children who are NOT assholes.
And frankly I don’t think I could ever do that effectively if we had remained in church.
Kindest Regards and Snippy Remarks,