1.27.07 from xgcw….do you identify?

note 7.25.08:  this is from a blog i started last year in 2007 for a group of “ex good christian women” friends.  it used to just be a private blog but when i started the carnival i shut it down & just put a few of the posts here.

okay, let’s just be honest, sometimes “the church” has messed with our heads. i am not saying all churches, all christians, all religious systems are screwed up because that would be too drastic (although, scale through all of the ones you know and notice how the statistics aren’t too good). there’s a subtle or sometimes direct message that the evangelical church in particular has passed on to us as women. i bought into it for many years. it did a number on my head and i am still recovering…i’ve come a long way but i have a long way to go.

here’s what the message said: good christian women stay home with their children. they cook, they clean, they take good care of themselves so that their husbands will love them properly. they submit to the “spiritual head of the family” no matter how bad their decisions are, they aren’t supposed to have strong opinions or be too loud. rocking the boat is never a good idea. meek and mild are the revered characteristics. if we’re married, our role is to take good care of our families and follow where our husbands lead. if he is unhappy, we need to pray harder, work harder, have more sex, pray for him, get our friends to pray for him, do something to make things better and make sure his needs are met. if we’re not married, our job is to work in the church nursery, go on a missions trip, and pray hard for a christian husband so that we can feel complete. if everyone in our house is doing well then we are doing our job properly. if they aren’t, then it’s up to us to make things right.

we are good at adjusting, covering, stuffing, protecting, hiding, pretending. but we’re not so good at healthy conflict, engaging, real intimacy, feeling, dreaming, and a variety of other things that might make us feel alive, free, or maybe even strong.

i come into contact with women all the time who are longing for something different. they are lonely. they are tired. they’ve tried praying and memorizing verses and going to Bible studies and volunteering in the nursery and at their kids schools. they’ve claimed scriptures for their husbands and read every book there is on the seven keys to an effective christian marriage. they did all the right things but somehow sensed that something was missing. they kept asking is this as good as it gets? others of my dear friends tried to be good wives, sacrificed their dreams and hearts and ended up divorced, left alone with little ones and wounded hearts and a church that doesn’t know quite what to do with them anymore. other single friends of mine just get tired of always being left out and “incomplete” because they don’t have a partner. some women i know don’t have as much christian baggage as me, they just are tired of living the status quo and are trying to learn to take some risks but often feel afraid. the secular world has way better examples of powerful, courageous women then the local church does.

and what happens when you are a good christian woman and you struggle… with an eating disorder no one knows about, a wayward child, a husband who has a porn addiction, an affair or abandons you, or with grief or loss, past sexual abuse and trauma that’s getting in the way of intimacy, an emotional affair or overspending or overeating or over-doing? here’s what we tend to do when we struggle: hide, pretend, spiritualize. why? because it’s too scary to be honest, too unsafe. people don’t know quite what to do with us when we’re not doing too well.

so here i am, in a place i never thought i’d be. an ex good christian woman. wreaking havoc on the norms that women are supposed to have in the church, encouraging women to get their voices, pursue their dreams, quit waiting for their husbands to lead them and live a passionate life for God no matter what other people tell them they can or can’t do. to seek change for their lives, quit doing the same old unhealthy thing in their relationships and learn a new way. to seek God’s love and approval instead of human’s. it’s been hard for me to make the shift. i still feel shame for feeling this way. even as i write this, i am wondering what person is going to say how unbiblical i am, how if i just knew my role and leaned into it i would have God’s perfect peace. you see, good christian women are filled with shame. shame for the things we do do, shame for the things we don’t do. and i was a great christian superwoman. i did it all, looked great on the outside, and was a wreck on the inside, full of shame, insecurities, and inadequate feelings. so here i am 13 years after i started realizing for the first time that this christian thing wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be and i feel less shame than i did last year for being me (although it’s still the thing i battle the most) i feel less alone than i ever have (i finally have real friends who never, ever tell me to just “pray harder and trust God more”), and less scared than yesterday to go for it because after all, life is short and i’m sick of living it stuck (even though it’s familiar).

all of the “ex good christian women” i know have one thing in common–a desire for something different and a willingness to take some kind of step on their own to rock the boat and raise their hand and say “this isn’t working anymore” OR they got pushed into it by a divorce or some shameful thing the church couldn’t deal with properly. either way, we’re all here, all in varying degrees, with a heart longing to experience Jesus’ real peace, real hope, real freedom in all it’s messiness, in all it’s beauty.

so my hope is that some of us can stay connected through this blog conversation, post your comments, your hearts, your story for others to be able to gather hope from. what part do you relate to about being an ex good christian woman? what do you long for? what is God showing you on your journey?

my dream for all of us for this new year is that we’ll somehow grow, move, change, look back on 2007 and say i lived a little more this year than i did the year before…

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

6 Comments

  • Well Kathy…I just picked a month between when I became an ex-good-christian-woman (I think my time in the ranks was very short-lived) and my ex-husband started looking for a “Godly” woman at on-line dating sites:) It appears as though the month of January 2007 was a good post to read for me.

    I did try to be a good christian woman. I found a spiritual mentor, I co-led a teen-age girl’s small group for 1 year, I participated in a weekly bible study for 5 years, I tried to find a way to connect with other women in my church whose whole conversation did not focus on their 2 year old’s potty training. I did try.

    I was honest at times, but then my honesty took a turn for the nearest hiding place. I heard other people struggle with the same things my “ex” and I did, and I took these things as normal. I tried to make everything look great on the outside while I wilted away on the inside. I hid our problems from others. I tried to do nice things for him. I “made” him go with me to a “His Needs Her Needs” class.

    I long to let go of my guilt, my shame, forgive myself, forgive him, be honest, get a job that I actually love…even if it’s harder than this one.

    I have difficulty today attributing the things that I am learning on my journey to God. I know he is behind them, but I prefer to focus on the physical presense of others today. On this journey I am learning that it’s okay to make mistakes, even if you make them over and over again. I am learning that I have to be real or I will find no fulfillment in life. I am learning that I have abandonment issues that I’d like to work on. I am learning that therapy is not a curse, but a blessing. I am learning that everyone has problems, it’s just that some people choose to address their issues and others ignore them. I am learning not to put anyone on a pedestal. I need equal relationships or in the end I will feel let down.

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  • What part do I relate to the most about being a good ex-christian woman? Man – I could write a book on how I tried both ways – deliberately being a ‘bad girl’ through my late teens into mid-twenties – being extra-super-religiously-spiritual in my mid-thirties into my forties.

    Twenties – I thought I was beyond being a good Christian – too much had happened and the church was bogus. But deep down, I still longed for that sense of belonging….

    Forties – threw myself into church with everything I had. Really. I cut off friendships – even familial relationships. For this freakin’ church – trying to be a good Christian. Hmm… but because I never married – I never fit in. The reasons I never married no one wanted to hear about. Really, I think they are afraid of the real…

    Now, I am finally beginning to see what freedom is really about. The best part about not being a good Christian? I am learning to quit trying so hard to be good – and just be…

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  • lisa & katherine – hey, i forgot about this post, these sort of got lost in the shuffle to the carnival blog so it was good to hear from you both here. i hope to write more about the whole ex good christian woman thing in the months to come. you guys both so get it!

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  • “quit waiting for their husbands to lead them and live a passionate life for God”

    This so resonates with me. I am by far the way more assertive and passionate one in my marriage. For the bulk of our marriage, I quelched that because I didn’t know how my dh could be the “head of our household” with me in the way. 😉 God really is working on remoulding my misunderstandings. After all, He is the one who fearfully and wonderfully made me. He also fearfully and wonderfully made my dh and created a relationship that dances beautifully when I step out of the way and let the Holy Spirit lead.

    P.S. My dh loves the “real” me more than anything I ever strived to be outside of that. 🙂

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  • jenn – thanks for commenting on this and for sharing the cool things God is doing as you just lean into being the real you…beautiful!

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  • Wooohoooo!!! Preach it, sister!! 🙂 Wow, this just encouraged me so much. Yeah…I think what resonated the most with me is how much shame there is about being a woman in the church. I mean, sadly, that shame is clothed with language that says how much the church’s worldview “honors” women. We so often believe all that language, and really believe that picture of what we are supposed to be, and we just don’t understand why we hurt so much. Our voices are taken away, and we are taught to bury our talents (hmmm…sounds a little unbiblical), or at least to use them underground :), and all the while we are told how much blessing this is going to bring us. It’s crazy-making! But this post just felt so, so freeing to me. Thanks!

    By the way, have you read Sue Monk Kidd’s Dance of the Dissident Daughter? I’m slowly reading it. It talks a lot about this process of realizing how much we have been personally hurt by the typical church’s view and treatment of women. Very thought provoking.

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