rebuilding after deconstructing: 5. celebrating what was

blog celebrating what wasoh i wish some of you could have seen me years ago.  i was the best-christian-good-girl-ever!  it would make you laugh (or cry).  and as much as i can’t believe that was me, i keep learning how important it is to honor that stage of my faith as a very important part of my story.  instead of rejecting it and being mad at myself for some of the things i believed & the ways i behaved, i am learning to honor and celebrate it.

it was part of the process.

as we continue to move toward greater hope & life & freedom in our faith, it’s really important to not dismiss or reject or remain bitter about the past but instead find ways to celebrate what was as we actively move toward what is and what could be. (one side note:  when spiritual abuse was part of the equation, we aren’t supposed to celebrate that. that is in another category completely).  i’m talking about parts of our journey that we have since moved past but deserve to be honored somehow so we can not be-so-pissed-off-about-them-all-the-time.

for me, here are some things that i want to respect, honor, and celebrate from my past:

i learned so much about the Bible during those years.  almost all of the scriptures that i know & love & still bring me hope come from those times of intense learning and study.

i gained respect for rules, boundaries, and what it meant to submit to some kind of authority. i wasn’t raised like that, and even though some of it was wacky, the basics of having a structure & framework for living was what i needed in my early adult years. 

i discovered what gathering regularly with other people looked & felt like. i had never been part of any consistent groups before i became a christian and started going to bible studies and small groups.   it instilled in me a deep desire for intention and community.  

the comfort of being with others-who-believed-just-like-me was really healing, especially when i  desperately needed to feel more secure and protected because of my family of origin.  it helped me when i needed it most.  now, i don’t need that kind of security anymore.  

i made a lot of amazing friends along the way.  some of them think i’ve gone off the deep end but many others still love me and we remain connected despite differing practices & beliefs. 

some of our good-christian-parenting-practices weren’t all bad.  in fact, i am grateful for many of them.  (yes, we were growing kids God’s way-ers; sarah & megan, i know you’re cringing right now!)  of course, i am in a totally different place now but the truth is that a few things from that season were good and have helped jose and i in parenting all these kids.  

the inspiration helped me for a while.   during that season, the wow-factor drew me in & stirred my soul & made me want to connect with God. even though it out-wore its welcome, it had its place.  

there are others, but those are a few off the top of my head.

another way to frame this is to consider a gratitude list related to what was. do what works for you, how works for you, but it does seem like gratitude heals.

i could reframe a few of mine to say:  “i’m grateful for what i learned about the Bible during those years” or “i am grateful for boundaries, rules, and structures that i needed during that season of my life.”

this step  of “celebrating what was” isn’t about looking at the past through rose-colored-glasses or stirring up false memories to feel better about things or forcing ourselves to go where we just can’t go.  please don’t feel pressure to do this right now if you’re just not ready & you find yourself feeling icky about it.    

it’s about remembering that where we were was part of our story.  these experiences shaped and formed us into who we are today. good, bad, or ugly, these things were part of our faith journey with God and where we are today.  this practice is a little like “discovering what remains”instead of always thinking of all of the negative-things-we-wish-weren’t-part-of-our-experience, it’s about focusing on the good.  it’s about honoring the past for what it was, and the good parts that it did indeed bring to our faith, our growth, our development as people.

it helps to celebrate what was so we can leave it behind in a better place as we begin to nurture and enjoy what is and what could be.   

what might you need to celebrate about “what was”?

* * * * *

tomorrow: igniting passion

also, my blog friend lisa delay is hosting a series related to spiritual guidance for blogging.  she asked me to participate and here’s what i shared:  be yourself. everyone else is taken.  really, it’s not just for blogging but for all of us.  how can we become more comfortable in our own skin?  that will be the work of our lives, and for me, blogging is just one way to work on it.  check it out at her site.











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.


  • Sooo much wisdom here Kathy. That has been my lesson too: leaving behind critique in favor of what God is building. The hard part is that time of deconstructing can be helpful. it’s just extremely messy and problematic!

    • yeah, it is a tricky and hard process and my experience has been that those who aren’t in it really want people to “get over it quick” so don’t honor the messiness of the process. there’s so much pressure not to hurt, not to believe-differently-than-the-crowd, to not leave the fold. i think this is a hard step, to just honor the past for what it was and respect some of its good part. we can respect them without wanting to be there anymore 🙂 thanks for reading and sharing. whoa, that well behaved women post struck a chord! that was so fun.

  • An attitude of gratitude is actually good for our health. It even lowers blood pressure. I’ve tried it and it works.

    Our lists our very different. I learned lots of things I was not intended to learn from the church. I was always the one who, like Toto, was looking behind the curtain and discovering that the Wizard was something other than advertised.

    For me, I have gratitude for those I met along the way. We journeyed together through some dry and barren lands. I have gratitude that I have passed through that place into a better place. Yeah, I would have preferred a better route, but perhaps another route would have taken me to a place I really did not want to be.

    • yeah, everyone’s lists and journeys are so different. if we can come up with only 1 or 2, that’s plenty. i think the same thing–what would i be like now if i had taken a different route and been more free from the beginning? no idea, but i have a feeling maybe not as passionate about these things as i am now. it was all somehow part of the journey, as weird as it was.

  • Hmm…this is a good practice. Even when I don’t always feel like acknowledging it. 🙂

    I am grateful that I was told about Jesus. It’s funny, I have realized recently that, because of the familial abuse and the religious tow-the-line teachings, from a very early age (2 or 3 years old), I started living a double life. One that everyone saw – and one that no one saw. It made for some distressing disconnects. My therapist says it’s a miracle I’m not schizophrenic. I agree, it is God’s doing completely. 🙂

    When I went back into church after 20 years away (left when I was 16), I chose a cultish church – it was comfortable and familiar, but I am grateful for the time I spent during those years studying the Bible. I don’t think anyone will ever be able to tell me something is in there that isn’t again. I am grateful for the friendship that developed in the heart of the exit from that cult. It is the deepest friendship I’ve had, still. I am grateful that Jesus never let go of me. Ever. And from that, my relationship with him is deeper and stronger than it ever was before. Even when I freak out and doubt my own faith. Hmm… and this one may not sit well with some, but I am grateful for the abuse because it has taught me to question EVERYTHING, And that is not a bad thing.

    • thanks jeanette, for sharing your list. whoa, that’s a big one at the end & i would never in a million years ask someone to be grateful for any form of abuse but what is indeed important is that we each have our own story and ways of finding healing and new wisdom from our experiences. i am glad that somehow in your process healing and hope and new-eyes-to-see-so-much have emerged from such ugly and hard things. that’s resurrection.

      • I would never ask anyone (including) myself to be grateful for abuse, either. The only ones who ever told me I should be grateful for it were the abusers.

        The perspective I have came from being asked if I ever thought about how my life would have turned out if things had been different, i.e., love and nurture instead of abuse. I never really have. And in thinking about what I would change, I can’t honestly say there is anything about my childhood or even 20s or even the time in the cult that I would really want a redo on, even the stuff that I regret (I know that sounds contradictory, but…).

        Something that I think Martha Beck said in Finding Your Own North Star that it is a helpful exercise to find something good in your present and walk backward from it through the steps in life that brought it to you. In that light, the most beautiful things in my life would not have been without my having walked that path I did to get there. I am NOT saying that bad things are preordained from God or any of that BS. But he is truly an expert at taking the ugly things in life and turning them to our profit.

        I really can’t comprehend what my life would look like without the things I’ve walked through. But I suspect I would not now him and be known by him the way I do and am.

        I think that asking someone who’s been through an abusive childhood what their life would have been like without the abuse is kind of like asking someone in the first three stages on the spiritual chart what it’s like to be on the other side of the wall. It doesn’t really compute – there’s no frame of reference.

  • This is very difficult for me because I’m a pessimist by nature. But let’s have a go:

    1. I got a lot of material for my blog. (
    2. I met some great people.
    3. My wife and I bonded over our shared beliefs.

    I wouldn’t say I’m at the point of celebrating though.

    If my life were a story that I were reading, I would say “why did the protagonist suddenly decide to become a conservative evangelical Christian in his early twenties? It doesn’t seem consistent with his previous behavior.” And then I might put the book down.

    • yeah, i knew this one was going to be really tough for some. and there’s that really fine line about not feeling like we had to celebrate the crappy stuff. that is most definitely not what i’m saying, but it’s really about making peace with some of the past and respecting a few good things. your #1 made me laugh, i’m going to add that to my list 🙂 but hey, it’s true!

  • I’m grateful for that sermon on Acts 29 back in ’95 or so. I’d never read Acts 29; I didn’t even realize it existed until that sermon, and I’ve dwelled on it ever since. (Still haven’t read it, though.)

    I’m grateful for That Guy. The one who showed up on a chopper every week when the men in the congregation wore suits and ties. He was my confirmation mentor. I have no idea what I was supposed to learn, but he taught me his example and I have never forgotten it.

    I’m grateful for those books that nobody else seemed to notice. I read those and… didn’t learn much; it’s easy to drown in theology when you’re 15. But I never stopped reading, even after I walked away from church, even when it devolved into castles made of sand. More than most other stuff, the church library made the difference between deconstruction and just destruction.

    When that sandcastle faith collapsed, there were pieces to find and pick up. That’s worth being thankful for. God knows there are too many people who can’t say as much.

    There’s no going back to the past, but without its legacy there’d be no going forward either.

    • thanks so much for sharing edo. i loved the line about “that guy”. awesome. “there’s no going back to the past, but without its legacy there’d be no going forward either.” so good!

  • I like your list, Kathy.

    I’m grateful for the lessons in paying attention to the needs and concerns of others. Before, my feminism was more selfish. While spending some years as a complementarian, I learned to be sensitive to the ways men can be made to feel marginalized. Of course, advocating for men can be called “masculinism,” which has the potential to become just as selfish as the worst caricatures of feminism. When I realized that, I was free to advocate for women again — without forgetting to advocate for men, too.

    The thing about going through spiritual abuse… at least it shows you that God DOES give you the strength to put Him first… even if it’s by doing something He never asked you to do. I don’t know if that makes any sense. But I believe God somehow values our feeble attempts (e.g., legalism, spiritual gymnastics) to obey Him, even when we totally misunderstand what He’s asking us to do.

    • thanks so much for sharing. i, too, am grateful that God is a God of grace. peace.

  • Sorry, you lost me at GKGW, lol. The one thing that I treasure the most is how much I know the Bible and how many verses I have memorized. It was fun when I did it and they have stayed with me forever.

    • i knew that truth was risky, ha ha. i know a lot of us out there are scared to admit it so i thought i’d just be brave and say it 🙂

  • My early faith was lived out in an impoverished, rural community. Sorting through the baggage I picked up there are also gems. “People are more important than things” and “You share what you have” were at the bedrock of that community. I’ve also seen some really genuine love and faith throughout my experience. It helps me now to have grace for people who are ideologically opposite me, because I know a lot of them, I know their stories, and I know many have deeply generous and sincere spirits – so there’s love there, even if there isn’t common ground.
    I imagine the rules and restrictions helped me avoid a lot of trouble and heartache. Just knowing myself and what I would have been drawn to, I’m not so sure the mask and the 50 foot iron wall that I lived behind during my adolescence was an entirely bad idea!

    • thanks, daisha. i love how you are walking through these posts here. so cool. i love those two statements “people are more important than things” and “you share what you have.” such good lessons, and also awesome to honor that some of the restrictions actually kept you safe! i really like celebrating what was, i think it’s really helpful.

  • Whoa, not sure I’m exactly ready for this one, but here goes…
    ~I can celebrate that God brought me through many rough periods in my life, both personally and in the church. I am thankful that I have grown spiritually and emotionally as a result.
    ~I can empathize with others because of the difficult road I have traveled and I am grateful the Lord was able to use that in my counseling ministry.
    ~I am thankful that hours and hours of bible study has taught me to know why I believe what I believe. I no longer take anyones word for gospel truth, I do as the Bereans do, and have learned to back things up with scripture.
    ~I can celebrate the God-given courage that I experienced which enabled me to take a stand for His truth. I am learning to take men/women from their man-made pedestals and rely on God alone.
    ~I have built a small number of meaningful relationships with fellow believers as a result of our shared pain. Thank you, Jesus.
    The next two are excruciatingly difficult to celebrate because I miss them more than I can express, but I WILL FOREVER appreciate the time the Lord gave me, I can’t imagine life without them:
    ~I can celebrate the Lord’s gifting me with a desire for music, I will never regret the time spent as worship leader and part of the worship team.
    ~Lastly, I treasure the time I spent basking in the Presence of the Holy Spirit.
    Thanks, Kathy — that nearly wasn’t as difficult as I thought it might be. It was refreshing to reflect on the positive instead of the negative for a change. Very therapeutic…

  • Just followed the link to this post today, Kathy…and one of the things I wished I could go back almost 16 years ago is to NOT take the Growing Kids God’s Way class at church. UGH! Ruined so many things…those seeds have grown into monstrosities that are choking the life out of our family. :^(


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