Category Archives: Recovering

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.

Step 9… and 10

My name is still Katie and I am still a recovering evangelical. I have been attempting to work through my 9th and 10th steps, but let’s be real here: this shit is tough.

It has been two months since I posted step 8. I haven’t forgotten, but I have been busy. One child started school the other wanted to be homeschooled, we were sick (thankfully not Covid), harvest… and I am tired. But this was always in the side of my brain. Haunting me. Trying to free me.

Make a list of people you have wronged then go make amends. I am 35 years old, I know I have hurt, offended, and wronged many people. But the one person I kept trying to ignore, to get to those truly wounded people, was myself. I am truly wounded. Do we allow ourselves the time and space to examine our own wounds? What a mind-f&€k. That being said, if I have hurt you and have yet to make amends, I need to know so that I can do so and would appreciate a pm to begin the process. Because that is the truth here, forgiveness is a process. A day after day beginning again process.

So why was I ignoring myself? I am frustrated and hurt over my past self. This is my open letter to myself, an attempt to make amends and heal the person I am becoming out of the person I was.

Dear Me, You have grown so much and I am in awe of the you that you are. But you have done that in spite of my best efforts, because I have hindered you. When you had that small bell going off in your head, I silenced you by accepting the easy answers. When you were presented with uncomfortable circumstances, I responded with things that you never even believed deep down. I spoke badly of you instead of encouraging you. I allowed you to be less than because I was told you were. And when you experienced tough emotions, I told you to keep them bottled up.

Part of it was self preservation. Part of it was willful indoctrination. Part of it was a hunger to fit into a community that didn’t want me as I was. Or maybe I was too scared to show myself and defend myself as I was. Most of it was that I didn’t know how.

I didn’t know how to be you. To be free— as in actual freedom. Not that “freedom by way of subjugation” that was floating around masked as a sacred assembly. I didn’t know how to step into the strength that was in me. I didn’t know how to think critically outside of the prescribed theology. I was scared and wanted so desperately to belong.

I am so sorry I didn’t trust you more.

I am sorry I didn’t stand up for us more.

I am sorry I tried to squeeze us into that cookie cutter when it was obvious that I didn’t fit.

I am sorry I didn’t recognize or believe in your inherent worth.

I am sorry that I didn’t break those destructive patterns sooner.

You deserved better and I am actively working to be better… to be kind with you. Gentle and loving with you. Vulnerable with you. And honest with you.

With so much love and appreciation, ~Me

Growing up isn’t easy. Growing up and craving to belong to a gathering while always feeling like my nose is stuck to the outside of the glass window left me willing to do just about anything. But those are just excuses.

I am not on the outside. But I am also not on the inside either. I am happily walking down the street. Because what I have begun to see is that the spirit of God is in you and it is in me. Yes, you. Yes, me. I have been listening to Richard Rohr read “The Art of Letting Go,” and in it he describes that it may in fact be beneficial to stop using the term ‘God’ for 50 years. 50 whole years of no one using ‘God,’ and instead use the moniker ‘the Holy Mystery.’

I didn’t recognize this otherness as a part of myself until I became a parent. Before it was an in dwelling of the Holy Spirit that could only happen as a result of laying on of hands…. Which now makes me feel very uncomfortable. But each time I held my babies and stared into their beautiful eyes, I knew I was holding more than just flesh and bones, I was holding the ever continuing breath of this Holy Mystery.

I wish I had been kinder to myself and others when I was younger. I wish I exhibited more patience with my kids yesterday. This is by no means a case of “Hey, Katie has got life down pat! Look at how great she is doing!” Hell. No. But this does mean my eyes are continually catching more and more glimpses of myself fully alive and that in turn reveals another aspect to this great and glorious Mystery.

“The glory of God is man fully alive.” ~ credit given to St. Irenaeus

Songs that I have on repeat:

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: