tender faith stories, handle with care.

kathyescobar faith shifts, healing, spiritual formation 7 Comments

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.