When I walked out those church doors for the last time fear clung to me. Heavy across my chest I felt the pressure of it – of letting life on scripted-terms go. I didn’t understand at the time, but the package of religion I had inherited included a heavy dose of fear-mongering faith.
The first step beyond those doors is frightening.
“Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.” – Pema Chodron
““Self-deception is the enemy of wholeness because it prevents us from seeing ourselves as we really are. It covers up our lack of growth in the Spirit of the truthful One and keeps us from coming to terms with our real personalities.” -Brennan Manning (The Importance of Being Foolish)
“There is no limit to the defenses we contrive against the inbreak of truth into our lives.” (Brennan Manning)
Fear keeps us from going against the grain. It keeps the truth from making headway in our lives. It keeps us bound up in closed systems where alternative ideas and beliefs are feared and kept outside the approved box. We fear failure and loss. We love comfortable places and people even when they hurt us and harm us. Often it takes us a long time to even recognize the harmful patterns which exist in these systems.
Attempts at moving forward come at great personal cost: emotional, spiritual, physical and even financial (talk to a pastor who has experienced a faith shift in a closed system). We fear we won’t be able to bear the consequences of our choices. So we refuse to move forward and beyond. Or we procrastinate make a decision for a very long time. Even if the consequences are completely worth it. Even if these are the steps necessary to be healthy, whole, and OK.
It can be incredibly difficult to set the fear-filled, closed places and people aside and step outside.
We fear what might happen if we move beyond the clearly defined boundary lines of church – faith – the Christian religion.
So I lived beneath the banner of fear for a very long time. I was comfortable at being uncomfortable there. It was home.
A Fear-mongering Faith
I remember them praying someone out. He made the leadership uncomfortable or he did not submit in an appropriate manner so those tight circles of praying women got together. They began the process of praying him out the doors. And eventually he left. So I knew with both fear and trembling the consequences of stepping outside the approved closed circle. Asking too many right questions threatened them. I was a danger, a liability, and anyone associated with me would also be at risk.
Over time this proved to be true as more and more reasons were found to force out those people who may have had a hint of the truth found in those small circles. A full truth I never told others because it wasn’t mine to tell, but their fear at what I might say and to whom kept them shifting, sifting, and pushing good people away. It was calculated and wrong. It sought to ruin families.
The Subconscious is weird that way.
I believed on some level I needed to fear their prayers. I knew once I shut the door behind them they would gather in prayer rooms and living rooms to pray me out too. And it worked. I left.
I lived an inherited fear.
Those life themes we gather to ourselves over the course of a lifetime had taken up residence in my spirit as truth. The church mantras of judgment and condemnation left a fear stain over my spirit. Fear became a comfortable-uncomfortable companion on the journey. FEAR was the ugly little monster I simply ignored, but he never left. He followed me everywhere.
I lived in fear for a long time post church breakup.
I lived in fear for a very long time post church breakup.
Fear of God’s anger and disapproval.
Afraid of being outside Divine will.
It was debilitating because none of it was true.
- Fear that I had come out from beneath some kind of sacred, special spiritual covering?
- This special covering covered my life – from the wrath of God, physical harm, failure, grief, illness, or pain?
If their prayers shifted and I lost the approval of the small circles then FEAR shouted loudly I must also be out of God’s favor.
I was doomed.
It took a long time for my heart and life to be rewired towards wholeness. I failed to recognize the toxicity of belief and manipulation found beneath their insistence they held spiritual authority over my life. These were damaging mindsets to come out from beneath. And they had been so comfortable.
I didn’t even know where to start so I just began by walking the path.
The path taught me I did not need their special spiritual covering to be OK with the Divine.
I am already covered.
There is power in my own life. I have authority. A special agent of God to tell me this is so isn’t a necessity to living a resurrection life.
I can find the abundant overflow of life without a Faith Guide.
There are no imaginary umbrellas beneath which I needed to stand and live in order to be OK before God and the universe. She loves me as I am and as I come. I don’t need a parade of witnesses making sure I get there (where is “there” anyways).
- Have you said the special prayers?
- Are you reading the special book?
- Do you take enough special time every day?
- Do you share this special message with those who do not know?
- How often do you gather together to stay on this special track in our special building with all these special people – because you cannot forsake the gathering.
- You NEED to be there.
And if you don’t go you should be afraid of what might happen to you. You should fear wrath and moving beyond Divine will.
As you can imagine fear hovered heavy and thick over my life for a long time. I think it came in with the darkness and refused to leave until I found whole places again.
But I was always covered.
When you grow up with such a rehearsed faith it can be difficult to recognize it as toxic, release it, and take up what is lovely, pure, holy, whole, and true. Finding the whole places meant I had to stop dwelling in unhealthy heart and soul places. It meant releasing relationships, faith environment, the Christian goodie bags, and belief patterns which didn’t leave room for abundant freedom.
It meant taking up truer themes about myself. The life themes not defined by others.
I found sacred space beneath mushroom tops, flower petals, and green cathedral forest canopies. I encountered it while floating on my back in the deep end of the community pool. The water muffling the sound around me. With my eyes set on the sky above I suspended and hovered feeling the covering water gives and life gives merely by refusing to die and choosing to live.
The tiny sacred, ordinary moments became the symbols of living a covered-uncovered life. Being held, being known, being cherished, being heard, being seen by the Divine shaped not by the words of man behind a pulpit, or the gathering of women praying prayers.
The fear receded and the courage came when I chose to live and went about living.
Are you missing this series? Sign up for to receive post updates in your email inbox – in the box below this post.
Please join our Private Facebook Group – Conversations From the Front Porch.
- Also a highly recommended book for those shifting faith (Affiliate LINK) – Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe Is Coming Apart
Finally this is part 20 from a series on Shifting Faith – Confronting My Church Wounds.
You can find the rest of the series 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”
- 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.
- A missing post is my life as a mother of five living with an Autoimmune disease
- 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
- First They Came For Ann Voskamp