This month’s synchroblog is centered on our faith stories. everyone’s got one. I feel like I tell mine here all of the time, but the truth is that usually it is just little snippets of it,and and there is something about saying out loud–here’s where I was, and here’s where I am now.
Everyone’s got a story.
After major faith shifts, there usually are quite the dramas. Filled with inspiration, pain, hope, tragedy, broken dreams, bizarro feelings of “how in the $*#^!%&#@! did I end up here after all of that?” Sometimes I say my life should be called a “dramady”, which is a drama + a comedy combined. Follow me around for a day or two, you’d know what I mean.
When I look back on my faith over the past 30+ years, it seems like there are some different chapters, and they all are a mix of drama and comedy (even though sometimes the laughter came later). Here they are, decades and decades in 5 chapters:
My Faith Story
- The simple innocence years – I was not raised in a christian home, but somehow I got hold of a bible and started reading the gospel of john when I was in elementary school. I can’t really explain it, but I was just always in to Jesus. Like a moth drawn to a flame, I loved the wild and craziness of His interactions with people. I had no words for it, no theological framework, no ecclesiology, just a deep sense that Jesus was someone worth following. Somehow I ended up in vacation bible school with a friend and accepted Jesus into my heart, but I still lived in my nutty house with an alcoholic step-father and tons of weird stuff that kept me in a place that’s best described as divided–happy and put-together on the outside and lonely and a mess on the inside. But I thought Jesus was cool.
- The “please God, please God, please God forgive me years” – in high school, my boyfriend’s family were “born again” right before my very eyes. They were on-fire for Jesus ,and I started going to an evangelical-y community church with rocking music and good preaching. I immediately got sucked into the Chuck Smith vortex. I liked going, but then I had an abortion, we broke up, and my life, which was already divided, became even more of a disaster on the inside (even though no one could tell). I begged God for forgiveness over and over again for my decision, but never felt it. Locked up and tormented is the best way to describe how I felt. the next year, I ended up at Pepperdine University on a really good scholarship and became a crazy person, working harder and smarter and graduating in 3 years, determined to prove to God and the world that I was worth something after all. This driven-ness was a recipe for disaster in the evangelical world, because performance is so highly praised.
- The work-my-ass-off-for-God years. My last year of college, I started dating my husband, Jose. he had a “go to church no matter what on Sundays, even after partying all night” mentality, so I went with him. I was definitely “all in” this time, and gave my whole heart to the churches we began attending after we were married. I studied the bible, went to groups, served like a crazy person, and was a stereotypical good christian woman for a chunk of years – like really good. we were on the evangelical fast-track–fun, cute kids, all-the-right-moves. In a wild turn of events that changed the course of history for me, I ended up in a women’s group when my daughter (who’s now 20) was just born and began for the first time to talk about the real feelings I was struggling with inside. I shared how I was working so hard to desperately try to feel better about myself. It was like the floodgates opened and big things transformed in my faith. I could be more honest about how I actually felt about God, myself, and other people. It was freaky and freeing.
- The slowly-becoming-more-of-an-outsider years. the 3 years I was in that group in San Diego ruined me. Once I got a taste of healing and honesty, I could never turn back. After we moved to Colorado, I became passionate to infuse honesty into the churches we were part of. The deep resistance to it still surprises me, but I also get it. So much of faith has become about performance–doing the right things, saying the right things, believing the right things. When I started mixing that up, I was no longer the golden girl; I was more like the “uh oh, here-she-goes-again-talking-about-feelings-girl.” I began to not fit in, to become an outsider, to be in groups where I wanted to stand up and scream. I began making little covert groups that were talking about real things, real life, and real faith struggles; they were usually under the radar because they weren’t acceptable in the mainstream. I started meeting more people on the fringes who are far more likely to be honest.
- The uh-oh-it’s-all-tumbling-down years. After a hard and painful experience on a mega church staff, my faith was completely rocked. Being that mistreated by powerful Christians when I was seeing lives radically changed through the recovery ministry I was part of about did me in. I began to wonder why I in the #*@^!^ I gave myself to this system to begin with, I had already been taking some jenga pieces out of my faith, but the whole tower began to tumble, and I began deconstructing everything I once believed. Spiritual vertigo is the best word for it, and I let myself be angry for the first time in my life. I tried to walk away from Jesus, I really did. I came from a family that was very open to other world religions, and I looked again. “Is there something in there I am missing; maybe there’s something better over there.” And while I highly value different faiths, I just couldn’t shake Jesus. Not the Jesus of Christianity as a religion, but the Jesus in the gospels who turns the world on its head and helps us understand that what makes sense, doesn’t, and what doesn’t make sense is the better way. His path of love, hope, honesty, mercy, justice, equality, and freedom just felt like one I needed to keep walking on even when other Christians would tell me I wasn’t quite one anymore.
- The nut-case-for-healing-community years. Yeah, that’s the one I am in now. Over the years, I have come to realize that I have lost beliefs, not faith. They sometimes get tangled up. As I shed theological doctrine that didn’t really do me much good anyway, I found that what’s left is enough, and over time a much free-er, wilder, weirder faith has been resurrected. I am sometimes in a double-bind because those in my old Christian circles think I’m off the deep end, and those who have deconstructed everything think I’m deluded to still be part of “church.” I keep trying to own my own story and truth and maintain my integrity, and all I can say is–God does some pretty wild and amazing things through healing community. Seeing dignity restored is enough for me.
This is a much longer blog post than I had hoped, but it’s hard to summarize 30 years in 1,000 words. It was kind of a fun exercise, re-considering this dramedy called faith, and I’m thankful for each movement in its own way.
I am guessing you’ve got some pretty interesting chapters, too. i wonder what you’d call them?
by Kathy Escobar