Category Archives: Recovering

Step 7

I am in the last half of a year of concentrated recovery of faith. a year of so many questions. Questions about who I was, am, want to be. Questions about who God was and is and is yet to be. Questions about what the collective Church was… is… and maybe could be… will be. And what do I have to show for it? Ironically, a lot more questions, but also a lot more peace.

This month I took a look at what triggers a reaction in me, then I had dessert and began reading three very interesting books. Dessert was necessary, triggers are very uncomfortable and frustrating embodiments of what is happening within us mentally and spiritually. Reading the books began as joyful and inspiring, but quickly morphed into intolerable. As in ‘heart racing, breath holding, need to break and go for a walk to regain composure’ kind of discomfort. I took breaks to do dishes and clean— does this tell you how uncomfortable this was??

“The Power of Love,” by Bishop Michael Curry, “Eat This Book,” by Eugene Peterson, and “Inspired,” by Rachel Held Evans. Wonderful books. Challenging books. Horrible books. All of which points to the fact that they are books that were indeed worth the read. Each of them challenged me to partake of Scripture again. Which sounds wonderful, and it is, but it is also scary.

Why is it scary to approach a book that I would once upon a time spend hours a day in? Because I used to accept the easy answers about the seriously questionable parts of this Holy Script, like a Hello Kitty bandaid on a seven inch wide stab wound. Because I am now even more aware of how that book has been used to hurt people for hundreds of years. Because that book is so tied up in current politics. Because the Church has become so divisive and uses its own Scriptures to to be so.

In Inspired, I was introduced to the practice of midrash. Evans quotes Wilda Gafney, “Midrash interprets not only the text before the reader, but also the text behind and beyond the text and the text between the lines of the text. In rabbinic thinking, each letter and the spaces between the letters are available for interpretive work.” (If you would like an excellent example of midrash, read the children’s book “Miriam at the River,” by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Khoa Lee. Seriously, go to your library and just sit and read it. Like now.) In very basic terms, midrash seems to be this idea of entering Scripture. Pick a text, read it a couple times then close your eyes, imagine the smells… the textures… the sounds…. Then watch what is happening in that passage and also inside of you. Every book ever written is an invitation to participate in a grand adventure, but if the words stay on the page, the journey never begins. Midrash is our formal invitation into Scripture.

But Eugene Peterson wrote and elaborated on Isaiah 31:4 and the word ‘growl.’ In the Hebrew it is hagah and is “usually translated as “meditate”… But Isaiah uses this word to refer to a lion growling over his prey the way my dog worried a bone. Hagah is a word that our Hebrew ancestors used frequently for reading the kind of writing that deals with our souls.” If we watch a lion or a dog chewing on a bone, there is a determination to wring out the very last morsel of joy and nutrition that they possibly can. If midrash is us entering Scripture then hagah is Scripture entering us.

Do you begin to see how that is both very enticing and terrifying in the same breath? When the words that we are challenged to partake of and be a part of are the very same words that were preached to slaves to keep them enslaved… these words were used to lead crusades… Spanish Inquisition anyone? How about forced assimilation/conversion of Native Americans in Canada? Or how about how when it is used to persecute the LGTBQ community? When Scripture is used to justify racism embedded in our culture?

But what midrash and hagah have taught me is that we aren’t to take the Bible and just accept it because it is “the Bible.” No, we are to sink our teeth into it and tear it apart. Wrestle with it— like Jacob with the Angel. Embody the struggle within it and acknowledge the struggle within ourselves. I think that is part of what Bishop Curry was saying when he reminded us, “Jesus said in Matthew’s gospel, “The scribe who is fit for the Kingdom goes into their treasure box and pulls out something old that becomes something new.””

These songs have been on repeat in my brain. Give a listen.

Step 6

Hi, my name is Katie and I am working through the sixth step of my program: I am ready to have God remove my character defects.

Step 5 was both terrifying and amazing. It felt transformative. Mountain peak and depths of hell all in one. Yet coming to Step 6 felt like every doubt and question of worth rolled up and filled with exhaustion, quarrels, and an extra dollop of ‘give up.’ Step five looked at who I was… step six is looking at who I am becoming.

But upon actually beginning this step, it felt more like acceptance. Actually that isn’t correct. It felt like recovering. Not recovery— but recovering. The first five steps helped me to break down and really see much of the brokenness around/in/of my faith and the spirituality I had engrained into my soul. This step was a break from that as I took a moment to recover. To absorb the change… and begin to believe it.

If I go about my usual work out routine. Scratch that. Let’s imagine, for a moment, I have a regular workout routine: walk two miles, jog two miles, half hour of light weight lifting. That is fairly simple, it will take maybe 24 hours to provide the muscles adequate time to rest and grow. Now if I decide to suddenly run 22 miles and weight lift for two hours, both things my body and brain are completely unprepared to do… it will take a couple weeks for my body to recover.

This, what I am doing, is both doubling the. mileage and weight achieved the day before and continuing on. And it is hard and it feels incredibly lonely and like I am fucking it up. So this month is recovering. Giving my head time to breathe, my soul time to process, my spirit time to actually believe the changes I am challenging myself with are possible. That means laying on the floor and staring at the ceiling. Sitting by the river. Listening to a song on repeat and crying each time. Spending time taking deep breathes. Finding a safe massage therapist and getting a massage… or three. Visiting some of the people that are necessary for my soul.

But how does that connect with God removing character defects? Maybe it doesn’t or maybe it goes back thousands years to one of the greatest defects of all time: our unwillingness to recognize that God leads us into places and seasons of rest— physically, emotionally, spiritually—for the simple purpose of rest.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures…

He leads me beside still waters…

He restores my soul…

You prepare a table before me…

You anoint my head with oil…

Excerpts from Psalm 23 (ESV)

There is something interesting in the 23 Psalm which I think shows a transition in the author which in turn illustrates an opportunity for us. The first three verses the author is talking to us, but in the next two verses we disappear as the author shifts their attention to God. To me it illustrates the difference between knowing about what has been prepared for us and participating in that very thing.

Here are couple songs have meant a lot to me the past couple of weeks.

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.