if you’re one of those people who are healing from church & faith shifts, you know how raw and weird the process can be. rebuilding after deconstructing addresses some of this, but i wanted to add a few more posts to the series over the next few months because there are so many layers to this process. one thing that is really apparent to me is that we have to take extra good care of ourselves when we are in the midst of these kinds of painful shifts.
here are a few suggestions to consider (after me learning the hard way what is and isn’t a good idea):
1. be careful what we read. it’s a little like “don’t go online looking for medical advice” because it’s a sure way to create a ton of anxiety and make ourselves crazy. choose wisely, which blogs and books you read. i do not allow myself to go on certain websites, period, because if i do, i start to go a little nuts.
2. grief is weird. it comes in waves and can be really unpredictable. allowing ourselves to roll with it instead of resist feelings helps a lot. it’s important to respect that different interactions will trigger unexpected painful feelings. it’s not a sign that we are stupid; i can sometimes do just fine and then hear a story about something at a church and a weird wave of grief sweeps in again. it’s freaky but now i’m learning to roll with it better.
3. it’s okay to “just say no” to certain events. in fact, it’s often a necessity! it’s hard when friends are still part of the systems we left, but that doesn’t mean we have to keep torturing ourselves. i have been invited to parties & weddings & events where i knew i would be surrounded with too many unsafe people for my liking and i just didn’t go. it was such a wise decision. sure, i had to push through a few things because they were really special but on the whole, i really evaluate whether or not it’s a good idea for my soul. usually, it’s not.
4. we don’t have to justify our anger or sadness to anyone. these are our feelings, not anyone else’s. everyone processes pain differently. many people are afraid of emotions like anger & sadness and will do anything possible to shut it down in themselves & others, too. one of the things that gives us the most trouble in the healing process is feeling guilty about how we are feeling. learning to let go of trying to explain it or justify it or defend it helps.
5. “our souls are not in mortal danger” – my friend & partner in walking wounded: hope for those hurt by church, phyllis mathis says this often and it is so good to remember. if we can take the eternal damnation of our souls off the table and somehow trust that God is with us in this process, deepening and strengthening us some how, some way, it makes all the difference.
6. find ways to laugh. it really is the best medicine. and often our only hope to keep healing.
7. some relationships won’t make it through the transition. they just wont. i was hoping to hold on to a few of them, but what i realized over time is when the fundamental shift happens in the lens on how we view God & church & the world, we lose a lot of what we used to have in common. it’s okay. i am sad about some of the losses but also trying to celebrate what was and accept that certain friendships had their season, and that season is over. i thank God i knew some of these people, and it’s awkward when we see each other, but accepting this reality has helped me a lot (although i totally still hate those awkward moments).
8. make time for safe, life-giving relationships. even if you don’t really have the time, find it. it’s so important to create space to be with people who “get it”, safe spaces to freely share what’s really going on in our heads and not have to worry about defending anything.
9. the serenity prayer. seriously, it is such a beautiful prayer and so helpful. to accept the things we can’t change & gain courage to change the things we can & honor hardship as a pathway to peace are really important truths. my favorite line is: “accept this sinful world as it is, not as i would have it”. when it comes to church stuff, that brings me great hope.
10. people might leave, circumstances might change, but God will never leave us or stop loving us. i really believe this with every fabric of my being. maybe in some weird way that’s the only thing we need to have left in our faith to survive.
what else would you add?
my bonus one: #11. swearing can help. sometimes, they’re really the right words, specially if you have tried to be “good” for way too long!
* * * * *
a few other things:
i have a couple of other blogs out there in the blog-o-sphere this week. for someone who definitely doesn’t like the word “missional” i used it a lot this week! both of these guest posts were centered around that topic:
- missional pastoring head rattles on my dear friend and fellow-pastor-of-a-wild-community phil shepherd’s whiskeypreacher.com.
- we need more stories like these… on chris chappotin’s blog series “what’s missing in missional”
i wanted to let you know that phyllis mathis is hosting a 4 week online class starting july 9th for those of you who would like to do some intentional work on becoming more whole, more free. she is so wise & this is going to be a really helpful month for those who are part! early bird pricing before monday june 25th.
and speaking of wise & amazing friends, check out deborah loyd’s new blog that just launched yesterday. she’s a brilliant pastor & teacher and there’s so much to learn from her! she rocks, and her voice is so needed out here.