little pockets of freedom.

little pockets of freedomwe’ve been talking a lot about wounds from the church at the refuge in preparation for our walking wounded gathering, which is this upcoming weekend in denver.  i am really looking forward to it & oh do we have some fun stuff planned!  we still have a little bit of room if you want to come & haven’t registered yet, do it today.

as we’ve been preparing for it, it is has been interesting how much has been stirred up for me about church.

as you all know, i love the church.  it would have been so easy for me to throw in the towel a long time ago if i had only based things on my experience with “the system.”  but the truth is that God’s people–together in some way, shape or form, living out the ways of Jesus in real & tangible ways–is sewn into my skin in ways that i don’t think i will ever be able to shake.

at the same time, as much as i love the church, i also hate what it has done–and continues to do–to so many people.  i can’t stand the way it limits people. i can’t stand the way it serves itself. i can’t stand the way it excludes. i can’t stand the way it reflects the powers of the world instead of the beatitudes-infused-kingdom-of-God. i can’t stand the way it puts programs over people.

my dear friend barb murphy is the founder and director of cans for hope, a grassroots ministry dedicated to raising money to help women heal from sexual abuse & sex trafficking.  i heard her speak this past weekend at a ministry event & she shared something very powerful. she said “the things we can’t stand, we are called to fix.”

the things we can’t stand, we are called to fix.

out of almost everything related to “church” the one thing i can’t stand the most is how it limits freedom i always say that the church of Jesus Christ should be the free-est, least oppressed, most inclusive, most grace-filled place on earth.  yet, as we all know, it has the reputation for being the opposite.  instead of being a pocket of freedom, many churches are pockets of oppression. limiting half of the population from leading freely. keeping God safely tucked into a man-shaped box.  keeping gifts squelched and in the hands of the clergy.  spending resources on perpetuating a system that has nothing to do with community & changed lives & healing & transformation and everything to do with mortgages & strategic growth.  constantly giving into the gravitational pull toward comfort and making sure the powerful-people-who-give stay happy.  assuming people only love God “their” way instead of lots of other wild & beautiful & untraditional ways.

this past saturday evening we talked about gender inequality and the church, and i left so sad (not because of the conversation, my daughter being on the panel sharing freely about this issue will inspire me for a long time!).  my sadness came when i intersected yet again with the reality that on the whole “the church” is a terrible reflection of freedom when it comes to this huge issue of gender injustice.  the world, with all of its cultural bias against the dignity of women, is actually much further along when it comes to embracing and valuing women than the followers of Jesus Christ are.

in the same way i think churches should just be little pockets of love, i think that pockets of love aren’t really possible without first being a pocket of freedom.

where all people have dignity & incredible value.

where no one is oppressed or silenced or considered less-than because of their gender or race or economic status or educational status or theology or any other things that usually keep people over or under another.

where questions are valued & doubt is honored because we trust in a God who can handle it.

where God is not contained by the limits of man’s teaching.

where each person’s gifts, no matter how big or small, have a chance to be expressed.

where men & women are seen as equals and sit next to each other as brothers & sisters & friends.

so that’s why i’m still in “church.”  because the thing i can’t stand, i’m called to fix.

i can’t fix the whole big system.  i know i can’t.

but i can refuse to participate in systems that knowingly perpetuate oppression.  that’s a small & important place to start.  it’s lonely at first, when we make a stand toward freedom, but it’s so worth it later.

and most importantly i can play my small part in fixing the little systems i am part of.

i can help create little pockets of freedom.  for me, these are my family, the refuge & the different groups i am part of & the relationships that i am in.  none of these are perfect; they are each made up of imperfect human beings, young & old ones, and i know everyone in them doesn’t feel fully free or fully loved all of the time.  i don’t, either.  we live this side of heaven so i don’t expect that.  but regardless of our shortcomings,  it’s still possible to play our small part in participating in creating the kingdom of God now by making spaces for freedom.  real Jesus-infused freedom.

Jesus “sets the oppressed free” (luke 4:18) & i’m pretty sure this isn’t what he had in mind:


i’m also reminded again of what toni morrison says:  “the function of our freedom is to free someone else.”

i hope that we can all bravely step into our freedom & quit letting man-made systems limit us.  then, i hope we can use this God-given freedom to free someone else.

and someone else. and someone else.

yeah, a lot of little pockets of freedom, over time, can actually create big ones.

God help us play our small part in creating little pockets of freedom, a reflection of your kingdom in the here & now.

* * * * *

a few other things:

  • thanks david hayward at for the awesome cartoon.
  • i think this is an awesome addition to the list of questions from the downward mobility synchroblog post last week.  thanks jeff! // read it here:  being loved or being used.  
  • i’m doing a down we go workshop this afternoon at soularize.  if you’re there, come say hi!






Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • Outstanding piece! I am sharing it on Facebook and would like to re-post on my blog if that is okay.

  • I love the Toni Morrison quote; ashamed that i hadn’t heard it before.
    This is a ‘print it out so I can underline bits of it’ type post 🙂

  • This whole conversation has been a really good one, and it *is* totally overwhelming to look at the big picture. Sometimes when I lose perspective (often)I think of all of the grieving children out there and feel so very overwhelmed. It can feel like that too in the big wide world of church, too…

    However, in terms of the equation of freedom + refuge = change, I have a couple of thoughts… :)I can bring up people who used to hang out in the shadows of our gatherings, who now intentionally intersect with the conversations and life. Choosing to be seen, and to be heard. I can point to someone that finally a safe pocket for minimizing deeply intense pain from two decades ago. Freedom to actually feel and believe love in the most vulnerable moments, and feeling on more solid ground. There are so many, who know, deep in their bones, that there are people who love them, who won’t leave, and who, by the very reationship, can help heal wounds left from empty places in their expriences. No, we sure can’t fix the system, but there is sure a ton less lonliness in our pocket of the world. 🙂

    • i love that imagery of “used to hang out in the shadows but now intentionally intersect…choosing to be seen, and to be heard.” oh that is so pretty. and yes, what a privilege to see it up close and personal. i love our little wild pocket of freedom 🙂

    • oh we missed you! and yes, we need to figure out a plan to bridge the gap across the way, my dear. let’s keep working on that one! peace and hope over the hills…

  • Little pockets of freedom – a great list. This is the way the body of Christ should look. If it looks like something else, it probably is.

    In my distant past I uncomfortably sat on church boards and remember the discussions of how the church could “enhance the worship experience”, which meant find better musicians, better lighting, comfier seating and so on. People who wanted to share their talent (singing, art or whatever) , but who were considered sub-par, were banned.

    I am reminded of Brennan Manning’s story of the peasant who said that God was very fond of him. May we see others as God sees them, not according to the fickle ways in which we value people.

    • great line: “if it looks like something else, it probably is…” my friend, you are a prophet. and a servant. thank you for who you are. i’m so glad you are somehow part of this beautiful little pocket of freedom from afar. i am grateful.

  • Also, as your post alludes, sometimes, for those who have been badly hurt by religion, it can take a long time in that pocket of freedom before they begin to trust that it is for real. I have recently found one, but my trust is slow in coming and I am finding tender spots where I thought I had healed….but so far…they just keep loving me.

    • i am so glad your trust is slowly coming but it is indeed terrifying. i thought about that a lot this weekend for walking wounded and how much guts it takes to even consider trusting again after being so hurt. and that probably each of us will always have tender spots, scary spots, trigger spots that will in different ways, at different times, in different ways, need God’s healing…thanks for sharing.


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