Category Archives: Recovering

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:

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.

And she admits insanity.

Hi, my name is Katie and I am in step two of my program: I believe there is a higher power that can help return me to sanity.

And this is where you either run away nervously, rightfully so at that, or say, “Hi Katie.”

When I began the work this month, it kept feeling empty. Ya know? Like, I know I am not actually clinically insane. But as I began to process what I was asking of myself, I started to question if that was verifiably true or not. Then I noticed how timely that this self-examination fell in December/January. So let’s look back shall we?

  • In the USA, it was an election year. And to say it was a very strenuous, anxiety filled race to fill the Senate, House, and White House with your personal preference… would be putting it on the extremely mild side.
  • Globally, we are in the midst of a pandemic that has directly infected almost 90 million people. 90,000,000 people. 1,800,000 of those never recovered and that number continues to climb. We will be dealing with the trauma of this for a very long time to say the least. Also, humanity aside, things aren’t, uh, looking great for the earth right now— environmentally speaking. So…. Oofta.
  • Personally, I am a mother of two active, young children in the middle of a dangerous pandemic, crazy politicians seeking re-election or election wanting my vote, dissecting my belief system and it feels like the world is ending. Yeah, not… uh, not doing too great over here if I am being honest.

It has been rough out here in reality, but this is where my personal insanity lies frustrated, battered, and still determined to prove itself. From the meager work I have done, I think my insanity is based on control i.e. responsibility. Not a need for control, but voices of the past telling me, through so many misrepresentations of healthy living as well as distortions of healthy spirituality, that a real person and/or Christian has it all together and that I too must try to do the ducking impossible. (My autocorrect changes uncouth language to ducking, enjoy the humor as I have simply embraced the joy of it.)

Now, part of this is based on family history. Having a mother that wrestled with anemia while at the same time having a father who struggled with a sliding degree of mental illness, my way of bringing wholeness was to bring less to the table. Be less so the family as a whole didn’t have to deal with more. That isn’t to say I was mute, unloved, or didn’t have space to solve what was important to me— I was and did. But I also spent too much time internally yelling, “I am here!!!” It taught me to put on the brave face and get the work done. Except the dishes, I still despise washing dishes. Was this my parents fault? I certainly don’t blame them. They did the best they could in the situation they were in. Could they have done better? With my brothers, yes, but since I am practically perfect…

Add to that the message church life taught me and it was like we were signaling directly to Control Central that I could be a promising candidate for key-note speaker at the next convention. I don’t think I could count the times I went to church and heard messages about coming to God as you are. Which is great and true, in fact there is a wonderful, old hymn that sings, “Just as I am without one plea.” It is so beautiful! That is until the seats and pews begin to be filled with people that all look the same… say the same thing… do the same thing— and I am not speaking liturgically. A Christian says this, votes only this way, governs the morality of the nation a certain way… and it goes on and ducking on. Nothing is questioned or when it is, you get called to the proverbial principle’s office. I look back and can see how I embraced this and warred with it at the same time, and I am exhausted with it.

To this day, I fight the pressure to control myself. Don’t yell, remain calm, if you don’t have the answers find them, hide your real thoughts, pick which questions are safe to ask of which person, people are watching, your needs are not necessarily needs, you can get by without, and hold the cards close to the breast. Sure, there is wisdom in some of those things, but feeling the need to conceal every thought, blemish, and emotion leaves a person feeling rather hollow and perpetually tense.

But if I believe there is a high power that can return me to sanity… And if sanity is opposite of insanity…

Then does that mean God wants to bring me to a place where I can be free to be imperfectly me? I am not talking about the cliche phrase of ‘God bringing us to a place of brokenness.’ But rather a space of wholeness by way of acceptance and love of my limited-ness?

The place where the weight of the nation is not actually on my shoulders or where the burden of the Church is not resting on my lungs— I cannot fix what is broken, I can only change me. Even as I typed those words, my mind is squawking on a giant megaphone, “But what about…?” The peacemaker in me is writhing, but this truth stands. I will still use my voice, ask questions—probably even more now, and attempt to bring diverse unity; but the souls of 7 billion people do not rest on me. I cannot be responsible for an entire nation, only myself. And my kids, until they move out. And my husband, sheesh.

If you have ever watched the Disney film “Toy Story,” you might remember the scene where Woody flips out on Buzz and screams, “YOU ARE A TOY!” It takes a bit more time before Buzz accepts this truth, but I am to the point where I do. I AM A HUMAN! And it is in this space of acceptance of what that means, that I feel the warmth of love surrounding me.

In “Living Buddha, Living Christ,” Thich Naht Hanh wrote my favorite quote of all time, “Where there is understanding, compassion is born.” I understand myself a bit better and the compassion that is trickling forth for myself is a healing balm. This is what I am meant to be: human. Not responsible for all of creation: simply human.


“Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.” ~ Abraham Joshua Heschel, “The Insecurity of Freedom”

I admit I am powerless.

Step 1. Deep breath in. Slowly let it out. I admit I am powerless over and against evangelical religion (Really, all religion. ) and that my life has become unmanageable. That seems messy and unclear. I am powerless over the system that programmed me to believe certain things were possible or that certain things weren’t real.

As one who likes to have a plan and some semblance of control, this step was…is really tough. But after comprising what felt like a very long list of 21 areas where I am in fact powerless, it is also incredibly freeing. The list of that which I actually have power over is incredibly short. And here in lay the two things with which I wrestle: myself and the self I was programmed to become. And they are so intertwined, it is like looking into my stash of leftover yarn. Who the hell knows where one leaves off and another begins?

What I have since come to understand is that the only person I have power over is me. And actually I will rephrase that: What I have come to understand is that I only have power to myself. There is a vast difference between ‘power over’ and ‘power to;’ and, according to Brené Brown, the most simplified difference is this: one places more importance on being right than getting it right while the other is the reverse.

And there is the power struggle: what religion tells me is x, y, and z. But I am q, p, and a. As much as I like being right, I want to get me right. My faith. My person. My mind. My relationships. And this system was/is more interested in being right… and I no longer am.

In doing the work of the these beginning pages, I have come to realize that I don’t want power over, to, or with evangelical Christianity. I appreciate what it was to and for me in my youth, but now having stepped back and walked circumspectly around it, it isn’t what I believed it to be.

So how do I continue with this first step, what does that even mean? And the answer? I am not entirely sure. I do know I am laying to rest an old identity that served me for a time. I know I have a long road a head of me as I wrestle with shame, fear, and decades worth of yarn stash style mental wiring.

As I spent time reflecting over what I have learned this past month, this is what I began to visualize: There are two metal folding chairs with one seat filled and the other offered to me. I can walk away, sit or stand.


A great companion read to Step 1 has been the book “The Gift of Being Yourself,” by David G. Benner.