Just Beyond Myself

“So, I thought writing out my moral inventory was ugly hard,” I said as I finished contemplating my fourth step.

“Oh? Why is that?” asked the 12 Step Program.

“Well, because I have done some really horrible… I am so ashamed,” I quietly replied.

“Now take that list—“

“And burn it? Absolutely!” I said enthusiastically.

The Program gave me the side eye, “Nope, share it.”

“Great idea— Wait! WHAT?”

Hello. My name is Katie and I am a recovering Evangelical Christian. I am working out my Fifth Step: Share with God, yourself, and another person the exact nature of your wrongs.

I have done some stuff for which I am ashamed. Anyone else? Anyone at all? Sigh. That is the way it feels. Or that I have worn my masks so well, that people weren’t able to see the hurt and scared human being… it feels that way too.

Last month, I listened to Dr. Edith Eger on a podcast say, “There is no freedom without responsibility— that’s anarchy.” Part of taking responsibility for my actions was bringing them into the light. So I treated this as a time for confession. Part of me was excited to experience a rich part of a religious tradition that was absolutely lost in the evangelical movement. The other part… mortified.

I pondered going through it with my therapist. He canceled last minute. I very briefly considered my mom— sorry Mom, I couldn’t do it. I thought maybe I could anonymously throw myself at the mercy of the Catholic confessional. But I decided that I wanted to use this moment to attempt to be really brave, experience real vulnerability. So I approached a person that knew me (or the person thought they did… confession really lays a person out bare) and asked the pastor of the church I attend.

I will not lie and say it was easy or that I wasn’t a puffy, snotty mess or wasn’t scared about the pastor’s reaction. This was difficult. You know that nightmare where you are late for school, can’t get into your locker, surrounded by people then realize you are naked? This was nothing like that. This is the nightmare within the nightmare. The one where those things you have kept safe and secret, even though they are eating you alive with shame and guilt, are now being put on display by your very own hands. It was the nightmare where you wished you were just running around naked, because for someone reason… that might actually be easier.

So I started my story at the beginning and kept going until the very end, present day. And with tears running down my cheeks, I asked, “What kind of person does that make me?”

And the response I was given, “Human.”

Another person saw all of the shitty stuff I had done in the past 35 years and gave me the gift of acceptance. Neither one of us liked or were proud of my actions or thoughts, but, by sharing them and accepting that I did indeed do those things, I stopped fighting them i.e. acceptance does not equate approval. Which is what I think this step is actually about: not just making a list of all we regret and are guilty of, but accepting all we have been so we can move forward to become someone freer; allowing another person to catch us as we crumple so they can help us stand back up.

Here is the catch though: I believe we can only experience actual acceptance when we are willing to open ourselves up and put down the glamours for an hour or two. It means maybe not taking down the walls, but lowering the drawbridge and crossing the moat for one person to see how muddy, bloody and bruised we actually are.

While sitting there I embraced myself in the moment. I tried to be as fully present as I could. Checked in with my fidgeting thumbs, listened to the words coming out of my mouth, made as much eye contact as I could bear with Pastor, felt the roaring of my heart and when I took a breath, I listened for a still small voice. I never heard a voice— I can hear your sigh of relief from here everyone. But there was a fullness to that office that went beyond the two humans in it. A holy otherness.

I can’t say that this step is for everyone. I wish I could say that everyone that does this is going to find a safe person. I was only 67% sure that this would be safe for me, and the pastor is a human who I am sure have their own mess of stuff to work through. I won’t say that everything feels hunky-dory now or that it has solved any problems.

But I will confess this: It felt really good to feel sunshine in my spirit for a few hours. And that interior castle complete with moat? When I turned to go back in, I abruptly realized it was a lot more hovel-cave like than I would care to admit… so I left the door open.


Thoughts. Comments. Questions. All are welcome.


My Step 5 Playlist

Resources that I found beneficial:

Knitters

Tension transferred
from body to the yarn, 
as heartbeat paces
to the rhythm of needles,
knitting a rosary of sorts,
bead for stitch,   
   …by stitch,
knit one,purl one.
Allowing the mind
to weave its way gently,
through the skein 
of thoughts that come
…in the evenings.
Unraveling the day.
Unwinding.
Knit one,
…purl one,
…yarn over.
Settling.
Integrating,
   Stitch by stitch
making a garment,
…something to wear,
   …that will cover
      shoulders or head, hands or feet.
Yarn over, increase, the language of faith.
Knit two together, the language of unity.
Knit one, purl one,
a fingered prayer that covers a life.

Mary Herbert   2/2021

This poem was written after a discussion with my sister.  I have no idea how knitting became a part of that time, but we talked about what we have knitted, that we liked knitting with quality yarn and that my daughter had renewed my interest in knitting.  I mentioned that I had observed women knitting in a train station and they seemed so relaxed and that I’d noticed that just watching them knit was relaxing.  Then she began wondering what happened when knitters got “in the zone”.  It made me wonder as well.

Sacred Moment

Six and standing silent,
there beside my bed,
watching me sleep,
willing me to wake,
wanting me to see.

Startled by presence,
seeing him, I smile.
…Can I snuggle or
do I sneak back 
to sleep alone…
the question in the air.

I lift the covers like
the wing of a hen
and slowly gather
these pajamas close in.
And as his breathing slows
I wander in my mind
and wonder where we’ll go,
and wonder if he will lead me,
and where
we go
from here.

1/23/21

We went up to visit my daughter at the end of 2020.  We’d had recovered from Covid, and wanted to be around family.  One morning I woke to my grandson standing silently next to my bed with his “snuggly” in hand.  As I lifted the covers I had a sense of the sacredness of that moment.  As I have reflected back on the moment I had the desire to crawl under a divine wing and just be.  I thought about how the Scriptures say a “child shall lead them” and realized this child had led me to this sacred desire to draw in close to the divine and it made me think about how a child’s life changes a parent’s and grandparent’s life.  I was aware of the deep love I have for this child, for all my grandchildren, for my children.  They have each changed my life and led me to different places within myself.

Step 4

Hi, my name is Katie and I am a recovering Evangelical Christian. Lord, have mercy. Step 4: Make a fearless and searching moral inventory. I mean… deep breath out. Can we just repeat step 3 or something?

I can think of about, quite literally, a thousand different things that I would rather have done than this and I would rather list them in great detail. Why? Because coming face to face with the ugly side of our humanity… my humanity was gut wrenching. Or maybe it is just me who has shame… pain… fear. If so that is okay too, definitely going to make this a bit more uncomfortable though.

But this really isn’t the place to enumerate my sins and thankfully not even the time. Sorry to disappoint, that is next month. But for this task, I did the step in two parts. The first 4 weeks, I did a personal moral inventory. The last day, I spent scratching the dust on top of the surface of the moral inventory of the evangelical church/church as a whole.

Why did I split it like that? Aren’t I trying to shake off the chains of The Holy Rolling Church? Well yes, but how can I do that if I am not willing to subject myself to an even more intensive self scrutinization? Speck… meet log. In my eye…. brain… heart. And again, this isn’t about changing a certain denomination, this is about me and how I am changing. I don’t want to be right, I want to get it right.

So uh, making a searching and fearless moral inventory. Yeah. Not great for the ego. We live in the day of social media, fast albeit unverified answers, and a considerable amount of self-righteousness. I have witnessed it in my children, teenagers, college students, myself, people in their 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and gasp… 90’s. Part of why we have become so polarizing, and now this is only my personal theory, is because we have started to believe the glamour we put on for everyone. If I am speaking from a place of believed moral superiority, I of course have the authority, divine right, the angelic halo required to guiltlessly point fingers at the rest of humanity.

At the end of the day, the figurative make up is supposed to come off. Yet I think what we have begun to do, is just cake on a new days worth until we have come to this point where we don’t even know what we look like anymore. It isn’t that we have forgotten what all we have done, but maybe that we have forgotten, minimized the pain it caused others. And we simply begin to plaster on a new layer many times while searching for someone who has done something worse to assuage our own guilt.

Don’t think that is true? Two words: Democrats and Republicans. Two more: Liberal and Conservative. Two more: Christian and Muslim. Two more: Old and young. Two more: Catholic and Protestant. Two more: City and Country. We look at others and point out what they are doing to the point of ignoring what we ourselves are doing/have done. And it is easy for others to see the hypocrisy we live, because our foundation is so dry and cracked it is apparent that something is being covered up. So the circle continues, we point at them… they point at us.

We actually have blemishes, biases, scars, and brokenness. We have hurt ourselves. We have hurt others. We have lied, hidden the truth. …. correction. I have blemishes, biases, scars, and brokenness. I have hurt myself. I have hurt others. I have lied. I have hidden the truth. I have hated. The pain I have caused is real.

Dr. Edith Eger, in an interview, said, “There is no freedom without responsibility. That’s anarchy.” This is the first step for me in taking responsibility, but this is also the place where I begin to receive real freedom. I don’t want inner anarchy, I want real peace. This requires I take responsibility for my actions, and this in turn helps me to live more compassionately— more compassion towards myself and more compassion for others.

Thoughts. Comments. Questions. All are welcome.


Music that spoke to me this month:

What did I meditate on?

  • Luke 7:36-50
  • Luke 24:36-39

Step 3…

Hi my name is Katie and I am a recovering Evangelical Christian who is working out her third step. I have come to a place where I submit my will and life to God as we understand him to be.

It is so nice to know you are here. For the record, I write this and, before posting it, I read it out loud to you. As though you could actually hear me. If that worries you, please refer back to Step 2 where I have already confessed a bit of insanity. This is my meeting, you are a part of it no matter what you are recovering from. This is also your meeting, I … we are here for you.

This month has been a rough step and I am certain that it is a step I shall repeat over and over again. Handing my will and life over to God as we understand him, not easy and for several reasons.

Reason1: I am angry with God. As in “stand up and need space” kind of angry. As in coming back to the table with: “God! What the ducking hell were you thinking….” As in “God!!! Why won’t you do something??? Anything?? Your inaction is destroying me!” That kind of anger. That kind of hurt. It is hard to figure out who God is when my emotions are screaming about who I am. I am feeling scared, I am hurting… disappointed… frustrated… powerless. And the one who could change it all in a moment, has not. Why? What does that tell me about God? What does that tell me about me?

But it has also been difficult because when we operate on the idea that the Bible is the only standard of truth, or as it is commonly known as sole scriptura, we confine ourselves to the personal interpretations of each. And who is to say who is right? Who is wrong? When a person tells us, “God told me…” there is no accountability to the accuracy of it. If I have found one thing to be true in the Bible, it is that no matter how crazy the claim, there has got to be a 85% chance of finding a sentence that can back it up.

Much of the struggle is this idea of basing my identity on what the Bible says and what that, in turn, says about the God who inspired it. It would be different, easier if the Bible spoke in generalities, but it doesn’t. It is in fact very clear and extremely vocal on how a woman is to be if you take it at face value. For example:

  • Titus 2:3-5. (Really the whole chapter)
  • 1 Timothy 2:8-15.
  • 1 Peter 3:1-7.

Those verses listed above, if taken as they are, will paint a picture of a mysogenistic, patriarchal God every single time. And my experiences with many men have reinforced those beliefs, not because they were accurate… but because I accepted them without true examination.

In my memory, men and women both have accepted it or maybe just didn’t think to question it. The box started big enough when I was little, left me room to grow; but then it started to feel snug. And by the time I was 16, I began to realize that the mold was too small. I was too much and, many times the reverse, I was not enough. But what I am coming to understand is that when the Christian box is constructed plank by plank with sentences out of context of history, understanding of intention, and the nature of God… the box will lie about who God actually is. Which is why it is extremely difficult to build an accurate understanding of who God is based solely off of Scripture.

And yet, for everyone of those verses and personal life experiences, there is another set of verses that paints a very different picture with context to back it up. Esther spoke her mind. Ruth pursued a man to his bed. Sarah laughed at God. Debrah had a profession outside of the home as a judge. Martha was a stressed out house wife. Mary couldn’t be bothered by housework. Eve was made in the image of God. The woman at the well. The woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears. So my experiences with men have shown me one way of looking at God, but the Gospels portrait of Jesus and so many of the women actuated named in the Bible provide a radically different picture.

So, who is God? Pssshh. Ask me in fifty years, maybe I will have a better understanding. But there are a couple things that I have found to be consistently true in my life thus far:

  • “God is near to the broken hearted.” Psalm 34:18 When I was yelled at when I asked what it meant to love or during each of the diabetic seizures I witnessed and provided first support for or when I miscarried… God was near.
  • “Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.” “Where there is charity and love, God is also.” It is both a Gregorian chant and a book by Leo Tolstoy (“Where Love Is, God Is”). When I think back to moments where I have been my most honestly loving, giving, and free of judgement, God was evidently there. But I have also seen the reverse of that, when love and true charity have been given to me… I have witnessed God.
  • God is crazy creative. Look at the human body, the range of emotions we experience, the beauty and function of a tree… it is everywhere.
  • And finally, in my life, God has been untamed safety. God has been many things, but the prevalent sense is that God is safe in that he is love, extends grace, always listening, and breaks with the broken. But God is also untamed. I have half a grain of sands worth of understanding of the Lord, the rest is unknown. The mystery is like a fire. I step close to understand it and receive its heat, but it also consumes.

So this is who I submit my life and will to. This God that is so full of love compassion that it overflows into creativity, this God that makes himself known in the love and charity we give to others, this God that is security and mystery all in one.


My song list that helped me with my contemplations and meditations. Don’t judge.