i have been thinking a lot about how much i’ve changed over the years.  there are so many things i used to think, believe, be so sure of, that i no longer embrace.   i’m thankful for where i was—in all its wackiness it did make me who i am today.  and i’m thankful i’m no longer there.  i know there are some that think i’ve gone off the deep end (or slipped right down the slope). but for me, it feels more solid than it sometimes seems.  i am sure i will continue to shift and change and things i think now may be different in a few years, too, but it feels like this direction is the right one for this place & time.  going down instead of up.  letting go instead of holding on.  open handed instead of close fisted.  listening instead of talking. loving instead of hating.  not knowing instead of being so darn sure.  so while i was hanging out on the boat on a beautiful-saturday-on-the-lake-with-my-family-this-weekend i pulled out a ratty piece of paper and wrote out some “i-used-to-but-now-i’s” off the top of my head.  it was kind of fun to do. here they are:

  • i used to feel the need for things to be black and white. now i really appreciate the gray.
  • i used to think reading the Bible brought me closer to God. now being with people makes me feel closest.
  • i used to think something was wrong and ungodly about me because i wasn’t “meek and mild and submissive” as a christian woman. now i feel more free to be me.
  • i used to think i had the market cornered on God. now i realize the only thing i had the market cornered on was arrogance.
  • i used to think people could pull themselves up by their bootstraps & change their lives with enough prayer and hard work. now i see how truly complicated poverty, mental illness, and a host of other problems really are.
  • i used to think what pastors, preachers, and other people-who-wrote-and-spoke-from-the-front was for sure true. now i chalk it up as just their opinion (and tell others to do the same with me!)
  • i used to think that if i talked about God enough & my kids could regurgitate enough scripture verses i’d be a good parent. now i see our actions are far more important than words.
  • i used to think words could change a person’s life. now i think presence does.
  • i used to think who i was in my worst moment was who i really was. now i am trying to embrace myself as a living paradox filled with a lot of worsts and a lot of bests.
  • i used to think the christian life was one of ascent & i kept feeling like a loser because i couldn’t get there. now i think it looks more like descent & it takes away the pressure.
  • i used to think people on social services were lazy. now i see how arrogant, classist, and disrespectful that is to my beautiful brothers & sisters who have no other choice for all kinds of wacky reasons.
  • i used to think i could easily be led astray by people who didn’t know or follow Jesus the way that i did. now i realize they are the ones who have brought me closer to Jesus in the end.
  • i used to think i couldn’t really change anything in the world, that the only thing i could do was pray. now i realize that it’s my responsibility to speak out, act out, and stand up for issues of injustice on behalf of the oppressed with more than just words.
  • i used to think reading the Bible more was the goal. now i think living the Bible is more the idea.
  • i used to think i was supposed to be set apart from other people.  now i realize there is no them and us.
  • i used to think that individual spirituality & a “personal relationship with God” was enough. now i see how much our faith is integrated with living life with other people.
  • i used to never even notice the lack of women and underrepresented groups in church leadership. now i can see and smell it from a mile away.
  • i used to call myself a born-again evangelical christian. now i call myself a woman-who-is-trying-to-follow-the-ways-of-Jesus-and-learn-to-love-and-be-loved.
  • i used to think it was my God-given responsibility to share “the truth.” now i feel pretty confident that grace does a lot more good.
  • i used to think that success was moving to the top.  now i am seeing that moving to the bottom is where it’s at.
  • i used to think the kingdom of God was really really narrow. now i think it’s bigger than i ever imagined.
  • i used to dream of what could be when it comes to “the church”. now i am seeing it happen right before my very eyes.

what are some of your “i used to…but now i’s?” i’d love to hear!

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.


  • Your blog posts continue to resonate with my soul…

    Amazing! Thank you for being an inspiriation to fellow pastors!

  • I used to think that all Christians were judgmental and unwilling to really listen with regards to matters of the heart, and now I know you . . . and a few others like you . . . and I’m finding faith again . . . very slowly . . .

  • Christian life as descent . . . huh. Christian life as following Jesus . . . and what did Jesus do? Where did he go? He came DOWN to live among us. Never thought of it quite like that before.

  • Kathy,

    This is awesome. I’m going to copy them and put them on my blog, with due credit and links to you, of course.

    Sometimes I just hate being a Christian. Maybe a better way of saying that is sometimes I hate not fitting into the institutional church and not finding an alternative in my area.

    Your list reminds me of why I still have hope and still long for something different.

    Pax vobiscum.

  • What a great list, Kathy! Okay, I’ll add one more: I used to think it was so important to know what was “right.” Now I know that love is never wrong. What a relief, huh?!

  • Kathy – A beautiful and comprehensive list that attests to God’s mysterious and wonderful ways.

    I used to think that I had to organize and control everything i could. Now I see that I need to find ways to draw people in and give it away.

    I used to think I had to try to fix people. Now I try to love them.

    I used to think I had to try to fix myself. Now I try to accept God’s love and pass it on.

  • i really resonate with: “i used to think who i was in my worst moment was who i really was. now i am trying to embrace myself as a living paradox filled with a lot of worsts and a lot of bests.”

    here’s my personal additions:

    “i used to think i had control. now i am positive that only God is in control.”

    “i used to think nobody else gets angry like i do. now i think everyone gets angry and there are better ways to deal with it.”

  • Awesome!
    Here’s one of mine:
    I used to think the things I did only had significance if they were done in a Church or with Church group.
    Now I see how little significance those things had and the biggest impact I can make in the world is trying to be aware of need and trying to do a little good.

  • you are all the reason i love this crazy blog! thanks for your feedback & contributions…

    mark – oh i am so glad that we met from afar and look forward to going down under one of these days! i would love to see up close some of the beauty that is happening there. oh we’d have fun.

    brian – thanks, it is lovely to see. it is fun that our paths crossed out here and we have become friends. it’s weird how that happens, isn’t it?

    jamie – yeah. btw, sure wish you were at voca femina last eve. stacy rocked. it was so beautiful. let’s do a phoenix one?

    sara – thanks for taking time to comment. yeah, it’s so interesting how none of the books at the christian bookstore say much about that, eh? the 10 steps to going down doesn’t really sell 🙂

    tracy – beauty

    glenn – i love your contributions…and your heart

    blueorchid – oh i can’t wait to hear! thinking of you & hope you can glance down once in a while at this list and remember you’re not crazy.

    marcus – so great to hear from you here. that is one of my favs, too. i loved the 2 that you added. thanks.

    jim – love it! love what can happen when we get out of the bubble. hope i get to see you guys soon…sending love from CO where stacy can tell you summer is 80 degrees & cool breeze in the eves 🙂 also, i just heard about your laundry love project. okay that’s so beautiful.

  • Hmm… I relate to every one of yours…here’s one I realized recently.

    I used to think anger was a sin, a pride issue, and I asked God fervently to kill my pride so that what people did would not hurt or anger me. Now I realize that anger is a valuable tool and what I was actually asking God to do was take away my ability to feel pain – to make me an emotionless zombie. Thankfully, He didn’t answer that one. 🙂

  • I used to hide and suppress what I thought the kingdom of God might really be. Now I seek to live an authentic life and let my thoughts, fears, and questions be present on the outside of my skin.

  • Slight variation to Glenn’s:
    I used to think everything needed to be controlled now I realize that was propaganda to keep me (and many others) in line and silent.
    Great list–including the additions.

  • yes, many of these definately resonate with me as well. many i am still in the process of learning. jim’s comment really stood out to me as well. sometimes i feel like i’m a puzzle piece that doesn’t fit in the mold of church and ministry anymore. it is good to be reminded that what i do doesn’t have to have those words attached to it to be valuable and worthy of doing. thank you!!

  • i love the christian people in my life… but sometimes i feel trapped by them and Christianity and it feels judgement-filled-close minded-guilt building – confusing and discouraging

    and tonight I perfectly needed this post to restore some light for me

    thankyou again 🙂

    i love it, i relate so much with some many of these.

    I use to think ‘maturing’ as a christian, meant I would get over the ‘big’ sins and start working on the ‘little’ sins in a refining manner, big working my way down to small to ‘perfection’

    now I think the ‘little’ things are the big things, and the ‘big’ things, often are not big at all

    I use to think that the more I studied, and thought, and sought, the more I’d understand and the clearer it all would become

    Now I think it becomes more mysterious the more I seek, less black and white and less obvious… but in between the confusion sometimes its way more beautiful

  • Love it!

    I used to think that my *job* as a believer was to see every person as a person in desperate need of just the right words to be saved from the fiery wrath. I know see people in need of other life saving virtues of real love, hope, and community.

    I used to not even think, but settle, that my status as a woman meant that I could hope for my gifts to be used for *just* childrens and youth ministry. Now I see more possibilities..

    I used to think that the highlights of my Christian experience were in college, when my faith felt really alive to me.. Now, I see the best is yet to come. 😀

  • Right on!!

    Think about this – If Jesus was God with us and we are the Body of Christ, then why do some folks sit inside a building among people they barely know and pray and sing that God will come into their midst?

    If we are the Body of Christ, how does God intend to reveal Himself to those who never go inside that building?

    Why do some folks think they need to go inside that building to find God? Why do other folks think that is the last place they would find God?

    Have you ever heard that song somebody’s gonna write – “Lookin’ For God In All The Wrong Places”?

    If you are the body of Christ, then bless me and our world with your presence.

    If you’re not, then feel free to spend as much time as you like pursuing religion and studying and arguing about how many angels can sit on the head of a pin or why women should submit or why poor people should pull themselves up by their bootstraps, what the proper method for baptism is, why some people should be rebaptized or whatever your soapbox is.

  • ah, this has been a fun one, so many amazing contributions everyone. thanks.

    katherine – great addition. i am so with you on how distorted & confusing the anger thing can get as a christian…

    mary – yes! yes!

    minnow – i like your variation. propaganda is a very good word…

    davida – yes, i loved that one, too, for that exact reason. words or institutions don’t need to be present to have our contributions “count” but somehow we got in our head that was how it worked. how beautiful to break free of that!

    tiffany – i’m glad you checked in and got a little light…love yours…

    stacy – lovely. your hope gives me more…

    sam – dig all of your thoughts here. it’s funny when i read them i just chuckled and was like “we really have messed a lot of this up haven’t we? with this whole idea of 4 walls and ingrown eyeballs and safe & comfortable & clear & defined on what’s in and what’s out.” i am thankful to not live there anymore, too. peace.

  • Great list!

    Thank you. I just might post a copy on my site as well…

    And Gary’s comment “Sometimes I just hate being a Christian. Maybe a better way of saying that is sometimes I hate not fitting into the institutional church and not finding an alternative in my area.” describes exactly how we felt after church this morning…

  • I used to think these things as well… but turning them upside down I am discovering the first will be last. I love living in this ordered disordered world of ours.

  • AMEN! These things all resonate as much more “WWJD?” than some things I was raised under in the chuurch.
    This 1 I pray my ex-husband will one day gracefully grow into…
    “i used to think it was my God-given responsibility to share ‘the truth.’ now i feel pretty confident that grace does a lot more good.”
    Sincerely, I desire to see more each day the ways I need to grow in Grace.

  • This is a great list.

    I used to think that Christians should be rich and successful. Now, I see that money is worth nothing.

    I used to think that Christians shouldn’t drink, smoke, or swear. Now, I don’t even care.

    I used to think I was better than other people who don’t live up to my standards. Now, I just think I am better than people who think they are better than people… (yeah, I’m still working on that one)

  • Sheesh Girl! After stumbling across your blog from an emergant village tweet tonight and reading two of your posts I’d think we were twins separated at birth. Wow. Srsly. the power of story. Thank you.

    “Oh well for him who breaks his dream with the blow that ends the strife; and waking knows the peace that flows around the pain of life.” -George MacDonald 1858

  • I love your thoughts. I am passing this article to a few good friends. Even the shift key image was good. I am not reading many blogs or wrilting on my own very much, but the shift key caught my eye. I, too, have shifted a lot. Here are a few of my shifts. Not all people are poor because they are lazy. Being brown does not mean you are uneducated. My Bible is not my god. God is. Funny, but I get more pleasure from reading it than I used to now that I don’t use it to wound people or defend myself.

  • I used to have time to read blogs…. 🙂 I am having trouble keeping up with you!!!

    I used to think if I ignored God long enough He/She would leave me alone. The day I thought I heard God laughing and saying “Donna, you’ve got to be kidding me! I can wait you out forever…I have nothing but time!” made me realize how silly that was.

    I used to think that having fun was all that mattered. Now I’ve realized that people matter more.

    I used to think the pain inside would never go away. I’ve learned that it’s manageable and actually makes me a better person having it.

  • rainier – glad you liked it 🙂 i have heard many express that same feeling you felt last sunday, that’s for sure. sometimes it’s such a drag because it doesn’t feel like there are a lot of great options.

    mark r – unordered ordered & upside down right side up is the lovely of the kingdom isn’t it?

    bridgeout – thanks for stopping b…yeah, grace is a beautiful thing.

    adam – ha! your last one cracked me up, i’m still working on that one, too. thanks for your contributions 🙂

    mercytattoo – it is nice to meet you out here…beautiful words from george mcdonald. hope to hear from you again…

    laurie – i always love to hear from you…yeah, lots of wild and wonderful shifts. i am so thankful for the Bible, too. it’s so beautiful and challenging but the thing that feels so great to let go of is the need to be sure that i somehow am 100% certain this is what it says and means. i love its mystery and heart….

    donna – you are so funny. i love your additions, so great! sending lots of love from colorado….


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