less good, more free.

blog less good more freesince i have gained some distance from when i was a “good-christian woman” i can look back at at it as kind of funny in some ways. yeah, even though the difference might seem funny sometimes, i don’t want to ever be mean about it. it’s real and making fun of it can hurt. sure,  a lot of christian stuff might have become more fashionable and hip on the outside over the years but underneath the surface are deep roots about what it means to be a “good christian woman, wife, mother.” there’s a lot of baggage with it!  i remember the days where i worked my tail off trying to be good enough, faithful enough, godly enough, you-name-it-enough, even though all of the teachings being given around me would never say that was what they hoped to foster.

the good christian woman culture is strong, pulling an awful lot of women to imbalanced submission & keeping-the-peace-at-all-costs & doing what it takes to appear stronger and better than we really are.

i recognize these kinds of labels sound stereotypical, but my point is to bring to light that a lot of christian women haven’t been granted the kind of freedom i think Jesus gives us.  we’ve been silenced, tamed, and expected to serve men instead of God.  we’ve been cut off from our hearts.  we’ve been valued for working ourselves to the bone in the background while those in the forefront have all of the power.  we’ve been taught to keep our true passions in a box for fear that we’d appear selfish or not sacrificial enough.  we’ve been led to believe that we can’t trust our hearts or opinions because of eve’s sin.  we’ve been given the company kool-aid to drink and told that God thinks it tastes good.

we learned to split ourselves into two people–what’s on the inside & what’s on the outside.  we have been taught to be “good” instead of free.  

it’s really hard to live with, and Jesus wants peace and unity for us, in us.

to me, that’s the essence of ex-good-christian-woman-hoodhealing this split and becoming one person instead of two.  it’s becoming less good and more free.  

this goes for men, too.  and we need to remember–when we get in touch with what’s on the inside and begin to make tangible shifts on the outside to become more whole, look out!  the status quo does not like to be rocked.  deep down well-behaved is honored far more than Jesus’ call to freedom.  “appearing to be good” is outwardly valued far more than “ex-good.”

when i started to become one person instead of two, sharing with others what i was really thinking & feeling, a lot of other women began to say the same things out loud, too.

“i thought i was the only one who felt this way.”

“i feel guilty for wanting more.”

“i’m so freaking tired of pretending.”

“i don’t know what i really believe anymore.”

“i dream about living this life behind and starting a new one.”  

“i feel stuck.”

not all the women i know think and feel these things, but a lot do–especially those from a more conservative evangelical persuasion.

the problem isn’t the feelings.  the problem is that we don’t have a safe space to talk about them.  while thousands  of women are signing up for the next beth moore bible study at their church, thousands more are realizing there’s no place for them to go anymore.

they’re done pretending but they don’t know where to be real.   they’re tired of trying to be good and long to be more free.  

i have no perfect solutions that don’t involve almost completely blowing up the current church system, ha ha! but i do know there are little pockets of love & freedom popping up all over the place, and that makes me happy–women & men gathered in weird and awesome ways to help heal this split and encourage each other become less divided, more free.

one small pocket of freedom my friend phyllis mathis & i recently created is a new 4 week class at liveitothefull.com as part of some new venues for healing–it’s called the ex-good-christian-women’s-club-online.  our hope is that women could have a safe place to work at becoming one person instead of two, less good & more free.    we’re going to talk about four movements–“ex” & the land of transition, “good” & all of the baggage centered on what that means, “christian” & our shifting faith, and “woman” & the ways we can embrace who we are as awesome women meant for more than we’ve maybe let ourselves believe.   it starts october 1st & would love to have you (or anyone else you know) join us.  i

meanwhile, no matter where each of us are at, here’s my hopelet’s keep working on becoming one person instead of two, less good & more free, no matter the costs.

our life–the kind of life i think Jesus always had in mind for us, the wild and crazy life of living free & whole & passionate as women & men created in the image of God–depends on it.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

20 Comments

  • Yay! That’s what I say to that.I think you have touched on something big.great writting kathy.love love love it!

    Reply
    • I could have written any or all of the above comments and I am as near to tears and a full heart of thankfulness because my faith had all but eroded and I’ve been “awakening” for some time now (thankfully a lot via David Hayward’s new website and his genuine love and compassion for those who have been dealt a bad hand in the church)….I could even this morning, after reading Kathy’s blog, even glimpse a taste of the god who once was my closest and most trusted companion in my life. I miss him, and even more despite my traumatic experiences at the hands of a very sick church/cult I am journeying exactly as Karen, and so many other ladies here in the comments have posted. I want that journey to flourish and become the woman that has been closed in and hiding away the “real me” for too long. Pease how can I be included in this class or participate in any further discussion on this topic. I so need to exercise my freedom and become…and your photo of a butterfly confirms for me it is time to think and be the beautiful woman I was always intended to be. This is not the first time in my life that I am embarking on this journey of self discovery but as I advance in years and am in precarious health about to celebrate my 64th birthday, I know with certainty that this blog entry came my way via a spirit of knowing…maybe even from the god I once knew. So….can you get the details of how to participate in this discussion available to me. I am in the UK and reckon the discussion takes place via webcam on a shared link….and is there a registration cost for this most wonderful experience? I am blessed this day…..

      Reply
      • hey jacquie, i love david’s new project and i am so encouraged by everything he writes and shares. i am glad you found your way here, too, and somehow found this post the encouragement you needed. would love to have you be part of the class, too! all of the details are here: http://liveittothefull.com/courses/xgcwc/. email me if you have any questions.

        Reply
  • Hmm – i left a comment here but it doesn’t seem to have turned up? Oh dear. Gotta love those computer clitches or me not knowing my way around!

    Comment was along the lines of identifying with with was mentieond about being a “good woman” except in my case a “nice guy”. Tired of it, longing to be free etc. Guys too having the “imballenced submission” altough it comes in the form more of comments about behaviour. “Guilty of the good old sin of pride”, “I have real concerns about your insensitivty to others” “I feel like you are attacking me” or my personal favourite “men are in positions of power and God rebukes men in the first instance” are the little “gems” that I have been on the receiving end of to name a few.

    The upshot tho is that I have known a strengthening in the Lord for enduring such things. Wasn’t this what Jesus spoke of with prophets being without honour in their own families and towns?

    I used to think it was just guys that had this kind of issue with church. Church gives me the impression with being mostly populated with women of caterign more for women than men. Though recent expereinces with women I know and the site here show me that our difficulties are not dissimilar.

    Perhaps if we join together, strengthen each other in the Lord and have the courage to speak out and act, then we can bring about change in this church culture that we talk of that produces “good” or “nice” people but people that are held back fomr living the full lives that Christ came for.

    Reply
    • thanks so much adam. i never saw that other comment so sorry it slid into internet la la land somehow? i really appreciate what you are saying and this comes out every time i write about this, how men are stuck in the same trap, different twist. it’s so dangerous. i really like what you said about how the culture producing people who are “good” or “nice” but not free & full & passionate. i am glad you are here and really appreciate your input and story.

      Reply
      • Hey Kathy,

        Thank you – your reply has encouraged me. I wonder – are we
        speaking out in such a way that secretly a lot / most people feel about church anyway or know somethign isn’t quite right but haven’t go the insight to know wht it is or what do to about it. So floks conform under this lumbering semi- functional huddle?

        My hope is that thought
        mutual encouragement we can share the peace and strength we have in the Lord – I thik you mentioned is as wounded but free?

        Yes I did write a
        rather more lengthy reply sharing some personal stuff. I m a masterd student at bible college. what I have found there is a principle who identifies with the kind fo thing we have tlked about, thought is able to be in church comminties, ableit out od “duty” as he puts it – him feeling he is on the margins too.

        I shared some of my expreince at
        devotions today. The person asked me if I want to b part of Christian fellowship and my answer to his shock was at this pint in time – NO! I have been in 5 different church where I have left under difficult circumstances. 3 pastors have said I am either prophetically gifted or prophetically annointed – well that may be. The latest exit came from a situation with soeone in leadership where they were clearly using God’s name in vain and claimin to be prophetic in doing so and what followed.

        So yes – it is similar trap and dangerous for men as for what you are saying about women. We have to believe that in there God is using it for good thought – right? And, dare I say those of us who re willing to speak up for waht is right and tke the courage to do so may have a higher caling than you averge pew filler and might not see the full reward for doing so in this life?

        Thanks again for your mail. It
        means a lot to know that I am not alone and that I can also be an encouragement to others in this.

        God Bless

        Adam

        Reply
      • Hello Kathy,

        Thought I would share something with you.

        I was having a chat in college today along the lines of what we have been talking about. One lecturer talked about being creative and that being not what a lot of people like in the church, preferring things the way they are. And in the light of that, for me finding a sense of belonging in groups outside of the church.

        Well, was at a commissioning service tonight for students at the college I go to. The speaker there talked in the light of Acts 17 of being creative and bold, having ideas etc. Tal about powerful! The very things I have been trying to do in church that has got me into trouble being encouraged! I turned round the lecturer who had I been talking with over lunch who just so happened to be sitting next to me and said that was interesting in the light of the conversation we had previously today and he said “just what I was thinking!” Flippin heck – if that is not from God I don’t know what is!

        May you and your readers who are the “wounded and free” have similar empowerment and encouragement in the Lord to do the things of him!

        God Bless

        Adam

        Reply
  • it’s becoming less good and more free.

    SO GOOD!

    Love that you are launching an online class about this. I will help spread the word!

    I tried for a long while to be a godly Christian woman. When I became a Christ follower at age 18, my mom gave me a gift subscription to a magazine called Today’s Christian Woman (anybody remember it?) Each issue had a glossy cover photo of a woman with impeccable hair, skin, teeth and stylish business clothes. Today’s Christian Woman looked like an executive secretary, and her story was always one of conquered flaws and soaring spirituality. I wanted to be like her so bad. But I was disadvantaged from the start : heredity gave me bad skin, bad teeth, dull hair and my socioeconomic upbringing kept me in blue jeans and tshirts. But I knew if I prayed harder, served more and really embraced a submissive spirit that I would eventually bloom into a godly, stylish Christian woman with a story of victorious living.

    It took about twenty years for me to accept that it wasn’t gonna happen!

    I have so much more to say about this…and I have at my blog and in my book….yet there is a deep cavern of even more good christian woman emulation that needs to be detoxed from my soul. Reading your blog is so helpful and having women like you (today’s REAL Christian Women!!!) inspires me to be my authentic self instead of a divided woman.

    Love you and miss you!!

    Reply
    • ditto, i sure wish you could come hang out for theology camp in person! but so glad your legacy is living on here and grateful for your continued inspiration to keep moving toward freedom. detox is such a good word for al of this. it really goes along with what sam said, too. love and mss you, too!

      Reply
  • This line hits on such a true issue: “they’re done pretending but don’t know how to be real.” i love the idea of your project as well. thanks for all you do.

    Reply
  • This is so good Kathy! Even though I am, for the most part, past the “being good” phase, it is still so easy to fall into – those ruts are really deep! The freedom that comes from being honest and real is far greater that the rewards of being “good” and “looking nice” on the outside.

    Reply
    • yes, those ruts are deep! every time i am faced with saying “no” or standing up for myself or allowing myself to get angry, etc. there’s always some lingering thing that says “uh oh, i don’t think that you’re allowed to do that..” so good to keep practicing honesty!

      Reply
  • As I was reading this post, I was thinking “the only way to really get away from this stuff is to remove ourselves from the systems that teach us these things”. My wife and I found it necessary to totally remove ourselves from all those systems, especially those that teach anything but complete equality for men and women and complete acceptance of all people, including and especially LGBTs.

    The “religious” folks trapped in those systems have their own agendas. Thankfully we’re no longer part of their agendas. Yes, it can be difficult to find safe places, but we have found some. As you might guess, Kathy, they’re not inside any building that has a sign out front that says “church”. Based on my visits to The Refuge and my contacts with you, I am very suspicious that The Refuge would be a safe place if we lived nearby, as would be the Escobars.

    Whatever one calls the games the church folks play, we don’t play those games any more. We’re here with the people, just being one of them and loving each other. Oh yes, Jesus does show up, most often in some very unexpected ways and places.

    Reply
    • thanks sam. i really like that reminder, certain systems perpetuate certain things and we need to become wiser and more cautious about what they are. the pull is strong. when everyone else is doing it it’s hard not to join in. but it is so true, as we get further and further away from unhealthy systems so much healing can happen. i wish you lived closer!

      Reply
  • Oh this is so good. . . and so hard to do! I’m smack in the middle of transitioning away from good girl behavior and trying to heal that split personality, but oh my word, the shame that happens the more I speak up, step away from what is comfortable, challenge myself and others. I will look into that class of yours. such a needed gift you are offering!

    Reply
    • oh shame pisses me off, how it’s such a reflex for so many of us. i totally get it and that distance that it lasts keep getting shorter and shorter. i think that’s what healing really is. would love to have you be part! it’s going to be a fun one!

      Reply
    • thanks, tammy. i think you’d dig the group, no idea if you have time right now but just know we’d love to have you. 4 weeks, no set times.

      Reply

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