Category Archives: Recovering

Boundaries.

Are. Hard.

I have experienced things in the past 16 years of life that I never anticipated growing up in my very protected Midwestern home. Those aspects of my life, who I am, what I have endured, I have accepted. Little me would not recognize old me’s identity and liberty.

But what the heck does that have to do with boundaries? Well, on the surface not much. But I only began changing my perception of myself 11 or so years ago. So, 25 solid years established really deep brain paths, but 11 years is a good start on new ones.

I used to think that to be a good Christian was to give people what ever they needed emotionally. No matter the cost to myself. Do you need to talk? Do you need a hug? Someone to just sit with you? Do you need me to do the talking? Do you need me to open up about something? And those are not bad things. I do not regret giving of myself like that and will continue to for whoever needs it, whenever they need it.

But that original understanding wasn’t complete. Because I too am a person deserving of a safe space. Or we could write that truth as this: Because I too am a person. You are a person.

Now, I don’t really strive to be a “good Christian,” I love Jesus… but that label and all it misrepresents more often than not leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t care if your are white or black, straight or part of the beautiful LGTBQIA community. In a committed relationship with one or you are more fluid and are with many. I see your color, your community, your situation, I see your joy, pain, grief, and I hold it close to my heart. Or maybe that is what it means to be a “good Christian.”

What I have realized this month is that my boundaries come into play when I ask for space in turn, for someone to care for me and that request is denied or belittled over and over again. It is usually like a giant red flag is thrown and I see it for the first time along with seven others flags already in the field. My boundaries help me to communicate, usually to myself, that I need to step back no matter if it is because of myself, someone else, or the situation requires it. This gives me the space to evaluate and reevaluate (probably multiple times) what is going on inside of me.

So here is my philosophy on empathy, compassion and the practice of holding space for people. We as people create an area for ourselves in our thoughts and the deepest parts of our soul where we ponder… cherish… protect those things that effect us the most whether positive or negative. We guard them, place boundaries around them. When we are overflowing with the bubbly feel goods, we naturally bring people into the joy to celebrate with us. When our being is crumbling because of trauma or sorrow or mental desperation, we ask people into the space to hold the line for us. Usually, I think, we are both scenarios at the same time to some extent. In that place we are simply ourselves and it is holy. Authentic. Unmasked.

Simplified down, my understanding of compassion is that at its core, it is genuine, about you, concern; empathy is compassion in gentle action. Now add that to the concept of the sacred self in you and that of the sacred in others. And here, what we have now created, is the space we hold for each other. It is hard because it requires vulnerability and openness. It is hard because it isn’t always accepted. It is hard to be the one asking if people want to come in and it is hard to be willing to come.

What is the point of humanity if not to find those people with whom we can simply be? What is the point if we can’t be that person for others? Nothing quite hurts like a expressing a need for someone to catch you in your brokenness and you hit concert. But there is also no place that is more reassuring than to be caught when you need it most. We can examine the reverse of that as well. There is nothing like trying to support someone and miss the mark, having them walk away from you and know they are more hurt than before. But there is no greater assurance of purpose than to be that safe shoulder for another.

During the last month specifically, I have come to realize that my space is as sacred as others. But I have also realized that I do not voice my boundaries very well, mainly because I have ignored all the other red flags on the field until I am overwhelmed. I now understand that I rarely use boundaries to keep people out, rather I use them to give myself the time to figure out what isn’t working in me and why. Once I understand though, I attempt to open the gates again.

Is it a perfect? Psssh. Please. Heck no, but damn it, I am proud of the trying.


A quick note. The concept of boundaries and safety need to be clearly understood. At no time, while working through my understanding of my boundaries was I physically in danger or emotionally beyond carelessness and unintentional neglect. If you or someone is experiencing physical abuse or emotional manipulation/abuse of any kind, you need to find professional help in maintaining your boundaries. Because you are a person.

Recognition

Four years ago, late at night, I was sitting in a comfy chair in my brother’s living room while he sat at the desk. He had just turned on some beautiful music and said he loved the artist, Joni Mitchell. I replied and said that I wasn’t familiar with her or the song. This sparked unbelief in him and embarrassment in me.

Fast forward to a few days ago, I intentionally turned on Joni for the first time since that occurrence. As I listened to song after song, I realized I knew Joni Mitchell without knowing it was Joni Mitchell. And what an interesting concept that is.

To recognize a person by their voice and that which is dear to them. This isn’t new, those that are blind or deaf live a version of this every single day. Can you know a person without knowing their face? Can you recognize a person without knowing their name? Can a person be known even if they cannot be heard?

So why can’t we apply this to faith?

I think we have given God quite the ego. The need to be praised and recognized on a daily basis in a certain manner and by a certain name. To be known and be proven right. Does that make any sense??? Why would God need us to defend her? I think the ego is ours but we impart in unintentionally to the God we serve. Brené Brown and Richard Rohr speak about this very thing on two of her recent podcasts, Unlocking Us.

We treat God as though we have him figured out. As though we understand the parameters of what she likes and how she likes it. But if we are only just beginning to grasp the expanse of our own galaxy, how can we think that all there is to know about God is contained in one compilation of poetry, oral history put to paper, parables, wisdom teachings, prophecy, and letters?

And here is the best proof I can offer up that God is bigger than the book:

Jehovah.

Period. One word. One name. Translated it means: Lord. The Existing One. And if you take the word apart, it means ““to become” or specifically “to become known” – this denotes a God who reveals Himself unceasingly.”

For so long, Christians have treated the Bible as though it contained all of God. When the very name God was most known by, speaks to the very nature of how unrestrainable he is, I think it needs to be foremost in our brains to be open and accepting, attentive to the holy all around us. No more could a Christian hold back the tide, than the Bible could God.

The kids and I have been listening to the audiobook “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum. I went to an Evangelical youth camp where this movie was used to show that without Jesus you can only have the appearance of intelligence, courage, or love and that too often people choose to go to those who appear to have the power to change others. But I think a different allegory can be found in this tale. Too often we look for a God we can understand and take apart. One that doesn’t pull the wool over our eyes, but I think we do a good enough job of that ourselves. We want validation and certification of what we already possess. My oldest was frustrated by the fact that Oz didn’t actually give the weary travelers anything, because they already had it. He knew it. Oz knew it. But Oz gave them the validation they needed. So here are the characters as I see them: people = the band of mighty travelers, Oz = the church.

That’s probably enough blasphemy for today.

Naaaaah. Two last thoughts.

I wonder if this is one of the reasons in the 23rd Psalm we are given the image of a shepherd that leads us by still waters. Because it is a wonderful tool for reflection. Literal and figurative. Because if we are willing to look for that holy Shepherd, we will find those holy moments where we realize who we are. And thereby realize who God actually is. It is circular.

But that also makes me wonder if the purpose of 1st Corinthians is so that we see ourselves through the eyes of Christ and therefore see Christ with our eyes. The whole chapter really could be applied in that manner, but I am thinking specifically of verses 11 & 12, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.”

As a child, my understanding of Christ and my place in this world was both simple and simply complex. That Jesus loved me was enough. And it is. But now my understanding of Jesus is much more complex as is that of myself. And we see in a mirror dimly to see our reflection and catch a glimpse of the Great Unknown as he continues to reveal a new characteristic. And maybe that is the point. To be known.

What does it mean?

Deconstruction.

Such a scary word. And you know what? It should be. Because when we take something apart, we can be pretty near certain that it won’t go back together the same way. Not if you are honest about it.

That. That right there is what is really scary about taking apart your beliefs. It requires honesty with yourself. In todays society of filters, seeming perfection, or complete avoidance, being honest with ourselves is hard, uncomfortable, and a rarity. It is easier to accept church tradition, teaching and/or doctrine (TTDs) than it is to look at it naked, away from the pressure, hype, and lights.

I am NOT saying that all TTDs are wrong or unhealthy, I’m not saying that. I am saying that the unexamined faith, isn’t really faith… that’s just drinking the Kool-Aid and we all know how that story ended.

Example: Easter. David Hayward, the Naked Pastor, posted on Facebook, “We say the grave could not contain him but believe our theology can.” And Oofta, that has been so relevant this month for me. My church history and tradition told me that Jesus came to die for me. Because I have sinned and sin equals death thereby he died for me. This can also be known as substitutionary atonement. And for the first 30 years of my life, I ignored the little beep in my brain. All of this comes back every Easter season full force. This season I began to really ask the questions out loud.

  • Why did it have the be so violent a death? If the point is victory over death, couldn’t this have been achieved by dying absolutely any other way and coming back again?
  • Was the point of Christ’s entire life those three days? Or was it really about life and how he lived and, since being human, he experienced death?
  • At the time of Christ, I had done nothing wrong. How was it my sins, my wrongs that put him on that tree? How can you atone for what has not even happened??? How does that answer mesh with free will? Pre-destination?
  • What kind of father or mother knowingly sends their child to a gruesome, horrible execution? That goes against every single instinct in my body— instincts that are God given. It doesn’t make me feel better that Abraham was willing to do so to Isaac. “I love you so much. Would you be willing to go die for these people I created?” Uh…. What? No… I would go so my kid didn’t have to. But then you have the mess of the Trinity being three at one time, so technically, maybe? I wonder how much of my previous military approach to scripture affects my view of Scripture? How much has it effected my view of God?

Deconstruction looks like this ⬆️. Maybe those are simplistic questions and probably, quite common. I’m not saying I’m original or that this is my idea. This is just my approach.

Honest answers to those questions are hard. And many of them, I don’t know. I don’t need to know all the answers, but the mystery and wonder are increasing the more I ask and challenge. The God I believe in is good and kind. Much of what I see in Easter doesn’t mesh with the simple, easy answers that are cheaply given in rote.

In Easter, I see victory in compassion over cruelty and love over hatred. I see a moment where the Christ shared in the suffering around him to the point of allowing himself to be crucified. I see women so desperate for answers they hang around a tomb, asking any who come close. I see men racing with hope. I see Jesus. Ending his ministry as he began it. One on one with the people he loved. I am reminded of the song “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie.

Cause love’s such an old fashioned word

And love dares you to care for

The people on the edge of the night

And love (people on streets) dares you to change our way of

Caring about ourselves

This is our last dance

This is our last dance

This is ourselves under pressure

Bowie, D., Mercury, F., Deacon, J., Roger , T., May, B., “Under Pressure”, single released in 1981.

The people that followed Jesus only to see him die a vicious death, they were in a trauma induced forced deconstruction. Those hours that felt like years between seeing him take his last breath and miraculously appear to them individually in precious moments, were long and filled with every thought, question, and probably the realization that they had come full circle. The people on the edge. The broken, the weary, the desperate. Me. You.


I would love to hear your faith questions. I won’t have answers to them, but… we feel less alone when we ask questions out loud together.

Step 12 A challenge

Step 12. My name is Katie, I am a recovering evangelical and this one is for you. Yeah, and your friends.

One year and one month ago, I started this journey knowing I needed to understand who I believed God to be, how did that God see me or what did said God expect of me, and what in me needed to change. Did I check all those boxes? Nope. Did the last year change my life regardless? Yep. Do I think you should take a year to examine your faith and spiritual foundation? Hell yes and here is why: I firmly believe that a faith that cannot be examined or questioned or doubted, is not a faith worth having. No matter what religion or denomination within said religion you proscribe to.

But this is scary. Because being raised as an evangelical Christian I felt like I had to have all the answers or at least act like it, and when I didn’t, use the sanctimonious “Sometimes God says yes, no, or wait” or “You just have to have faith that God….” or if you were really daring, “I don’t know,” while really actually having a fool proof belief. And aren’t those really signs?? Consider Jesus who spent so much time asking questions, trying to teach his own disciples to ask questions. And when they did ask questions, Jesus gave super clear and not at all murky answers. Sarcasm… that was… you get it. I don’t have all the answers, but I am asking all the questions.

This is dangerous. As Richard Rohr wrote in his book about Francis of Assisi, Eager to Love, “Perhaps that is why so many religious, formally moral people, do not seem to be attractive or happy to us. To do a moral or virtuous thing however, with the right energy, is what I would call beautiful morality. Yet, it will often be judged by the same kind of people who accused Jesus. This is precisely the vulnerability of the faith position and why it takes the darkness of faith to be faithful. In other words, you must be open to the possibility that you are wrong.” I could be wrong!!! I probably am in practice if not in thought— just ask my husband, kids, siblings, in laws. My theology is shaky at best and a quivering mess at worst. But to put down all the laws and the rituals, that haven’t brought me one stitch of life or actual joy, and to pick up the single plan of loving people as they need it where they are, and by doing so love God, I have begun to feel as though I am actually standing on a firm foundation.

This is challenging. Because it means you sit yourself down and actually begin to ask the questions. The big ones. “If God is love, is there really a hell?” “What about people who have never heard the gospel?” “Why is there pain?” “What the heck are those genocides in the OT about??” “Is God even real?” So much of the Christian life is about escaping pain and the hard things (ex: Come to Jesus, for his burden is light, he gives life, removes death, etc.), but that is counter intuitive because Jesus went toward the hurt. He moved towards pain, towards the broken, towards the really uncomfortable, smelly, scary, dark, difficult, heart breaking stuff of humanity of which he was a part.

But the sincerest reason I recommend examining what you actually believe in the deepest parts of your soul is this: because it changes how you see yourself and the people around you. It moves a person from us/them to we. It changes the immediate response of “Either/or” to “Yes! And…” It removes the focus from saving someone else to working on your own stuff. It changes how we approach people. It changes how we see other religions. It will change how you see yourself. I grew up with a mentality that I have to become so small so that Christ can increase. That I can do nothing apart from God. That everything I do is because of God. But these mentalities really do two things: make God extremely egotistical and the human worthless. But as I have spent time actively working against those thought processes in my brain, I have come to appreciate how far removed they are from the design of life set forth in narrative story in Genesis.

I want to leave this first year long journey with one final point, partially to justify my journey but also to encourage you to join me on it. In Matthew 15 Jesus tells us that he came to save the lost sheep of Israel. This tells me one thing: Those of us that grew up in organized religions, we are probably getting/doing it wrong. And you only have to look at every Reformation or revival to see it happening again and again. Thich Naht Hanh wrote, “People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth.” Examining what you actually believe, what you are mindfully practicing brings us out of the clouds and plants our feet into rich soil.


Music that brought me comfort or joy this month:

Step 11 : It is still pretty murky.

Hi. My name is Katie. I am a recovering Evangelical Christian who is working through her 11th step. Seeking God and God’s will for my life.

As someone who grew up in “Thus Says the Lord” culture, transition is a scary place. Where before I would be in this place of continual waiting and waiting and waiting for God to speak, now I am just waiting until I get my butt in gear. Before I could blame God for not liking their “path for my life,” now I am fully responsible for the choices I make. And that, as I said before for those of you in the back, is scary.

I have moved from the camp of Hyper Spirituality to the camp of Make It Your Ambition (… to lead a quiet life, mind your own business, work with your hands. 1Thess. 4:11). This was a move away from spiritualizing everything and everyone and to a place of letting people be who they are— as if they need my permission. I am working on me, and frankly, I am really coming to love the person I am. This is a miracle in and of itself. The guilt is slowly melting, because I am also giving myself permission to be who I am— as if I needed anybody else’s. And if I learned nothing else this month, this is the will of God for my life.

But I am also transitioning in parenthood. 1.0 is in school and 2.0 soon will be. Who am I apart from my kids? What do I really have to offer the world after 7 years out of the workforce? As you can see, this aspect of myself is still ripe with insecurity.

Who I think God is and how God sees me is transforming. How I look at the Bible and especially how I teach my babies anything from that book. How I interact with people of faith in every religion.

And being purposeful and mindful in these transitions is slow and hard and filled with a lot of doubt. But there is also space for a lot of grace here. For me. For you. For those fanatics. For those who couldn’t care less. And that grace, mixed with just a little bit of hope, is what I am holding on to.

Here is where I am. I am the child that remained at home while the prodigal child went out and did whatever he did. But instead of becoming… remaining resentful and bitter, I take the Father up on his offer. I leave too. And each time I call home, I am greeted with excitement and joy and so many questions.

In so many ways it reflects my journey as a human child as well as a mother. We grow. Physically, yes, but hopefully emotionally and spiritually as well. At some point that means leaving the roost, and if it is a healthy home, hopefully returning and each returning becomes more and more precious. And on the flip side, we have to let our children go and if, IF we are doing something right, they want to come back. There is a change in them each time those chicks return, but that is okay. That is healthy. But as my 1st grader runs to get on the bus every morning, part of me is going with him as I shout out, “I love you!!! You can do hard things!!! Learn all the things!!! Remember, I love you!!” He smiles and waves, and yes I do still tear up sometimes even though we have been doing this for three months now.