tender faith stories, handle with care.

our faith stories are tender

Can you say “vulnerability hangover?” Brene Brown talks about them and at The Refuge we joke about them, and let me just tell you–I have a big fat one right now.

When I first saw the clip online from my conversation on The Work of the People, I could feel it in my stomach. That knot, that uh-oh feeling, that oh-my-goodness-what-have-I-done-by-sharing-so-much-so-publicly about one of the most tender places in my life, my faith? It’s scary enough to put it in print, but there’s something even more raw about it coming directly out of my mouth and heart directly, in real life, to whoever hits “Play.”

It stirred up a lot of thoughts & feelings, but the primary things rattling around in my head seemed to be along the lines of:

What will ____ and ______ and ______ think of me now?

How can I still be a pastor?

What in the $(#&!^!^ was I thinking? 

Then I take a breath and remember–it’s just the truth.

It’s just my truth.

It’s just my story.

And really, telling it is a strange but good spiritual practice–it heals, it reveals, it transforms, it stretches.  For me, it draws me closer to God in all kinds of simple & sweet & kind-of-weird ways.

But more than just me-feeling-all-exposed, I have been struck with a really important reminder this week, something I “know” but can easily forget–our faith stories are one of the most tender, vulnerable parts about us.

When we talk about our faith journey, we’re talking about our souls.

The depths of our hearts.

Core parts of our identity.

Places that are tender & fragile & raw & sincere and really hard to put words to.

I know why people are hesitant to share the truth of what they’re struggling with related to faith out loud.

There are so few spaces and places to put it out there without being met with blank stares or scripturizing or fixing or advice or “i’ll-pray-for-you’s” or”you’re-in-danger’s.”

Yeah, sharing our faith stories is incredibly vulnerable.

Many people don’t understand, often in our closest circles–family, friends, leaders.

Every time we gain the courage to share what’s going on inside of us related to faith and put it out on the table, we are taking a risk.  

We risk losing respect, positions, trust, connection, church, jobs, and a long-list-of-other-things that looks different for each of our unique circumstances.

I have had some friends tell me that they have been nervous to even share about the release of Faith Shift on their Facebook walls because they knew it would expose some of their journey to friends-of-a-more-conservative-persuasion and they might lose friends or have to explain themselves in a way they weren’t up for.

It’s easy to say, “just own your story and move on” and I do believe that’s ultimately true. But when you’re on the edges of it, when there’s a lot on the line, when we’re not-really-sure-which-way-the-conversation-could-go, when we’re tired & fragile & aren’t ready to defend ourselves, it’s much more complicated than that.

That’s all I really wanted to say today.

Our faith stories are so beautiful, so brave, so tender. 

If you’re hearing one–please handle it with care. Listen well. Honor it, respect it, and don’t try to fix a thing.

If you’re trying to share one–just know you’re in good company in the tenderness and you’re really, really brave. It takes a lot of guts to be spiritually honest, to share our true struggles, doubts, questions, and transforming theologies despite the potential fallout. Some people might not be able to handle it, but I truly believe God and some other safe people can.

I love another thing Brene Brown says, too: “Owning our story can be hard, but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it.”

Our faith stories are unfolding, evolving, ever-changing.  Where we are today is maybe not where we’ll be in 3 months or 6 months or a year.  We can’t wait until they’re all figured out until we share them out loud–because they’ll never be figured all the way out.

No matter where we’re at, it’s our tender, fragile, beautiful, strong, messy, unique, holy story.

Let’s keep handling them with care.  

Thank you for taking good care of mine; I’m really grateful.

Have a great weekend.

peace, kathy

//

ps: two other quick things to share that are out there this week related to Faith Shift:

  • I wrote a post for On Faith called 4 Reasons It’s Okay to Lose Faith. Yeah, losing faith doesn’t have to mean losing it all.
  • I also was in an online livestream conversation for Convergent Book’s new Make Room series about Re-thinking Church with some other pastors & friends. The audio was jacked up at the beginning and I dropped off several times (right before the question on vulnerability & church, too, ha ha) but lots of interesting, challenging, and hopeful perspectives about church.

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.

7 Comments

  • Thanks for doing the interview Kathy. It’s so important to have models of vulnerable truth-tellers out there, and especially valuable to share that the vulnerability continues after the fact! It’s all part of the process, and those of us who need to see it modeled are eternally and deeply grateful. You rock. Xoxox

    Reply
  • Yep, right there with you. Sharing about your book wasn’t something I did lightly! You have made me braver, dear and amazing friend. Having stuffed my story for so long and now learning to be open, I have to say that the terror that comes with truth is so much lighter than the slow, painful suffocation of hiding. I’m so grateful for how you’ve led me in learning that. And, you know what, for every friend who says they’ll pray for me or informs me after hearing my story that they thought they noticed something dead in my eyes and now they know it was my spirit and faith (yep, that happened) five other people are released to be honest and own their shifts too – so, totally worth it.

    Reply
  • Kathy,
    Your story is my story. On staff. Big, conservative church. Loved it, then didn’t love it. Pain, suffering, honesty, exclusion, exit. And, then more loneliness and shifting. I related to every word of that video and your blog has been such a comfort and companion for me over the past few years. Thank you for being brave enough to so publicly walk along side other faith shifters.

    I also shared your video with a couple of my therapy clients and they listened to it over and over again. It is so soothing and healing to hear others tell your story back to you. Especially when it feels like your therapist is the only other person who gets it!

    Thank you for being a soul friend from afar. Thank you for your courage. Thank you for telling your story so well and including us in the telling.

    Reply
  • I just watched the clip, Kathy. First time I’d heard you (in speaking) talk much about your shift… very well put. I appreciate your diplomacy… and not surprised by it. It is so easy, especially when still “young” in a major shift (which you no longer are), to use negative labels re. our prior paradigms or “systems” as you well put it. You did say a couple things that some might take as negative, such as “rigid”. But I think we should not entirely avoid such terms, if they do fit and are not said in anger or to be mean… as yours were not.

    To use the Integral color scheme, people in the Tier 1 strata of red/amber/orange think that we in (hopefully) Tier 2 of green/aqua and higher do not believe in anything being “better” or “superior to” anything else. This may be true of some “postmodern” people, but not those who’ve played in the postmodern “playground” a while and thought things through carefully.

    But when we (rightly, I believe) try to share that there is a “more advanced” or even (God forbid) “superior” way of seeing the world, God, the Bible, spirituality, etc. than that of Tier 1 (because we’ve gone there, personally), it tends to just sound like “loss of faith” or “heresy” (which it IS, per dictionary def. of orthodoxy), etc. It IS, understandably, very threatening to existence in Tier 1. I’m a big believer that we must somehow begin to find more and better ways to create glimpses into the perspectives and experiences of Tier 2 consciousness. I’m working at it a bit myself, but have lots to learn and need to be more around people who are also trying to articulate and demonstrate the same thing.

    And taking on and “winning” this challenge is crucial for the future of both Christianity and cultural harmony and progress, I’m convinced. Ken Wilber is right to emphasize that religions (Christianity mainly, in the Western world) are the great POTENTIAL “conveyor belt” to help people and their systems (including churches and societal governance) move up a bit faster in stages than the “default” rate of maturation. If we move no faster than default I’m not sure the planet or orderly society will survive (tho I’m far from panicked or anxious… basically optimistic).

    Reply
  • “Our faith stories are unfolding, evolving, ever-changing.”

    When this realisation hit me, I found it incredibly freeing. I didn’t need to have the clearly defined, world-without-end answers I’d been taught to expect. I am happy these days to let it be known that what I share today is a reflection of where I am (right here and right now) in my faith journey. I no longer need to fear whether I’ve got it right, just be open to God’s quiet whispers of ‘where to next’. Liberating and exciting 🙂

    Reply

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