I Wish I Had this Nine Years Ago

Nine years ago I posted a status on Facebook that, when I reread it on Monday, broke my heart.

Nine years ago I posted a status on Facebook that, when I reread it on Monday, broke my heart.

You know that Facebook feature called “Memories” that shows you what happened on this date back on such-and-such year? Here was my post from April 27th, 2011:

Like most memories from nine years back, I had entirely forgotten about this. Yet as soon as I read it I had all sorts of feels.

Out of context, I imagine for you it probably just looks like a random declaration of my (now antiquated) beliefs about Jesus. But here’s the context.

At the time I was working for an evangelical megachurch and in the midst of some rather significant shifts around my religious beliefs, very much outgrowing my old clothes of conservative Christianity. It was a season of far more questions than answers, where many of the ideas I used to cherish and propagate felt more and more foreign.

Yet it was happening in a context that wasn’t safe for theological exploration.

Prior to the post above I recall sharing another post which inadvertently stirred up the church’s most outspoken theological watchdogs. In it, I mentioned that “penal substitutionary atonement” was just one of a handful of theories, over the past 2000 years, that theologians have suggested as a way to try and wrap our heads around what happened on the cross and why.

But for most evangelical Christians there is only ONE way to think about the cross. To even suggest Christians throughout time (actually most of them) have believed differently about the cross is tantamount to heresy.

Which brings us back to the above post, in which (if memory serves me) I was attempting to appease those in the church who were literally calling the lead pastor with “concerns that the church no longer believed Jesus died for our sins.” I think I was overstating what I actually believed, but I was scared and felt stuck between telling people what they wanted to hear and being true to my own self.

And that’s why this Memory broke my heart. Because I was reminded of that season in my life when I couldn’t breathe, suffocating under the external pressure to conform, to toe the line and make the donors happy… meanwhile bursting on the inside with new ideas and questions and curiosities, but unable to tell a soul without the gatekeepers claws coming out.

As I mentioned in my first book, such a misalignment of my internal convictions with my external reality was killing me.

Nine years ago I wish I had a community that welcomed questions and doubts.
Nine years ago I wish I had a community open to inquiry and not threatened by study.
Nine years ago I wish I had the safety of my supervisors to allow me to grow.
Nine years ago I wish I had a church that loved me for me, not for how my talents helped them feel good by reinforcing what they already believed.

Nine years ago I wish I didn’t feel so alone.

(Nine years ago, I also wish I had the maturity to know what was wise to post online and what wasn’t… but that’s for another day)

And if I couldn’t have all that in person, nine years ago I wish I had a book like The Shift.

Because then I might’ve felt lighter about the fact that my beliefs were evolving.
Because then I might’ve felt less stupid for admitting I don’t believe what I used to.
Because then I might’ve felt seen, understood, and okay.

Today, I’m eternally grateful for my faith community (which is why I dedicated the book to them) because they know, and expect, and welcome my continued growth and transformation.

They enjoy (or at least tolerate, ;) my questions and wonderings.
They give me space for my uncertainties, while I give them space for theirs.

I no longer need to dance around major donor’s panic that I’m not theologically aligned with them on every.

The freedom and lightness I feel at Sojourn Grace Collective?
I wouldn’t dared dream could exist nine years ago.

One of the reasons I wrote The Shift was to try and reach those who’ve either experienced what I described above or are experiencing it right now.

Because when you feel suffocated and alone, you end up Vaguebooking to try and calm down the anxieties of the “concerned” Christians around you.

And that’s not good for anybody.

Instead, may I offer you The Shift, so that you might feel seen, loved, cared for, and entirely not alone.